Can PR be more creative than advertising?

In the new integrated world of marketing, the big idea can come as much as from PR as from advertising. But is the PR world prepared to offer the kind of insights needed for a true PR led campaign?

Break the PR template

Rimjhim Ray, co-founder and COO of Unmarketee feels that PR professionals’ first need to step away from the PR format. She says, “Bomb an available list of media properties with the news, conduct press conferences with spokespersons, get the 9 pm slot on TV. The PR profession has somehow become very templatized”

Ray says that in order to be truly creative with PR, “The first step is to get rid of the standard PR template. Think like an advertising pro does - it is not just enough to book the media properties. You have to get the mind share of the audience. How do you make news interesting? How can you make it interactive? How do you better use new media options like digital or social to create a buzz?”

Ray picks Smirnoff Experience- a dance party concept as her favourite PR led campaign for its strong community hooks and ability to get past the barrier of no liquor ads in India

Follow advertising principles

Ray also says PR can borrow a leaf from advertising which has evolved backed by a strong planning function delivering strong consumer insights. 

Ray says, “ But with PR the research cycle has been reduced. To deliver innovative, clutter breaking PR campaigns it is important to understand the target audience and tailor the campaigns accordingly. Plus, it is important PR pros are able to localize PR campaigns and create community hooks based on consumer insights.”

Research barriers in PR

Insightful research remains a challenge for PR.

PR consultancies are often short of resources for research or even enough people to delve deeper for insights. Veena Gidwani, strategic PR consultant & former CEO, Madison PR, points out that that, “ If a client has invested in research by the advertising agency, he feels that should be adequate for PR too.”

Tarunjeet Rattan, Tarunjeet Rattan, managing partner, Nucleus PR agrees that the lack of resources and talent combined with short timelines results in superfluous research and similar insights.

Rattan adds that, “Research needs to be factored in as an ongoing activity and not one that needs to be considered only at the pitch stage.”

Hemant Gaule, deputy dean of SCoRe feels that, “ Advertising frameworks tend to break down (client) problem statements and goals to much finer levels; and therefore advertisers are likelier to have a deeper insights into the business goals of clients. This makes their creativity better directed and impactful. Advertisers also research (and measure) their audiences' demographical and other aspects to incredible detail before drafting a strategy. This allows them to maximize the accuracy of their narrative, a tact that PR pros could adapt from their advertising counterparts.”

Aman Dhall feels PM’s ‘Digital India’ is one of the most effective PR campaigns

It continues to draw enough eyeballs for Modi globally.

Aman Dhall who heads PR for online financial marketplace  PolicyBazaar feels that there is no need to ape advertisers, “Unlike advertisers who can be creative in their storytelling, PR professionals should look beyond content and be creative in pitching their story ideas, approaching media and influencing external stakeholders. More than creative content, PR needs to focus on providing timely and relevant content for effective results.”

Yeishan Goel, CEO – THRS feels that given proper budgets, “In an ideal scenario, it would be great for PR firms to build a culture of research led campaigns and deputation of seasoned resources on all accounts with a better staffing ratio.”

Till that happens, Goel agrees with Dhall about concentrating on content delivery for creative PR work. Goel advises PR to get creative via story telling using digital PR, adding that, “Another area is the focus on creative advertorials that allow PR to include elements of advertising and blend them with traditional annoucements. These are more reachable goals in my opinion.”

Felix Baumgartner’s space jump for Red Bull is Yeishan Goel’s top creative PR campaign :

With the expanding defintion of creativity for PR, most experts feel that trying to do what advertisers do is a waste of time. What would work better for creative PR professionals is insights and timely content.

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