Is the Indian PR business ready for strategic creativity?

When speaking about creativity and communications, the first discipline that often comes to mind is advertising; the bedrock of creativity, videos that surprise you or make you laugh, great narratives that wow, and design that blows you away. 

Public relations however, has been the first port of call when it comes to managing crises and issues; but not always for creativity. Public relations has never been about quick-fire 30 second clips featured numerous times over weeks or months until the message sinks in. PR has instead focused on solid action plans that lead to results over a period of time, action plans that have built the reputation of individuals, organisations and nations.

The past decade has seen the emergence of super specialisations; all-purpose agencies of the past that have now evolved into specialist agencies focusing on OOH (out-of-home) advertising, creative, digital, media, social media, events and more. Each has carved out its own distinct niche.

Paradoxically, while agencies have become more specialised, there has been a merger of communications. Agencies are producing work that cannot be classified as purely advertising, public relations or media.

Programmes today must be creative, tell stories that induce conversations, engage with the stakeholders and have virility as one of its key elements. And this is the space that all agencies, irrespective of their niche, are looking to master and conquer.

Engagement has always been a part of public relations; and not just communication with consumers alone but connecting with multiple stakeholders that also includes community and government. The focus of a good public relations strategy has always been about engaging with any and many audiences.

It is time for public relations to put a solid stake in this space and be known for its creativity, and specifically strategic creativity. Strategic creativity is not about creativity for the sake of creativity but delivering out of the box thinking which breaks the clutter and focuses on in-depth research and insights, with clear end-goals in mind. The end goal could be a business objective or effecting policy change.

Having already been recognised among the most creative global campaigns for our “Save The Children” campaign, Weber Shandwick’s approach to strategic creativity is already in play.

Creativity need not always be flashy, epoch making or life changing. It can also be about subtle differences; press conferences done differently; out of the box photo-ops; or even pushing a clever topic or brand to trend on twitter. All this can be a part of a strategically creative approach. 

While attempting the unique or out of the ordinary, it’s always important to identify the relevance and purpose of the project. This can only emerge from good old research. In general, extensive research toward the causes of the issue could be the ideal starting point.

In the new world of communications, where barriers have come down and the playing field is very much level, PR has the opportunity to prove that creativity can be very much its domain and I look forward to seeing more public relations professionals and firms embrace strategic creativity with fresh vigor.

Atul Ahluwalia is Vice Chairman, Weber Shandwick India

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