Is media coverage the biggest hurdle for creativity in PR?

If the PR function has to move further up the business value chain, demonstrating actionable creativity is one of the key ways to do so.

The question is, what constitutes creativity in PR. Should you use the advertising campaign lens, a marketing lens, a media lens or a content lens? We asked PR practitioners how do they define creativity and what resources do they need to be creative at work.

Data is the foundation of creativity in PR

In January this year, Weber Shandwick India introduced #CreativeSandbox to drive discussions around creativity.

Karan Bhandari, executive vice president - integrated media strategy, Weber Shandwick India says what they have discovered through these discussions is that "Data and creativity go hand in hand.  Data can lead to an insight or confirm a hypothesis – it has, therefore, become an integral part of the creative process."

Bhandari explains that in order to take full advantage of data, "PR professionals should have more access to relevant data. Training on interpreting and using data effectively could  also help."

Broadening the definition of creativity in PR

Some of the PR practitioners PRmoment spoke to said the beauty of creativity in communications is that it can be found in any industry.

Tilak Chowdhury, head corporate marketing, communications and member: Team HR & CSR committee, Egis India Consulting Engineering Pvt.Ltd. says he has found creativity in the work done by his engineering firm.

Chowdhury says, "Creativity is connecting two or more seemingly disconnected things and developing something that's smarter, easier and valuable. PR is no different. We are consulting engineers and our solutions are usually creative which is why clients hire us. I can think of an example from my personal experience. We are working on two railway stations with a brief to make the stations compared to airports. So these stations will not just help passengers travel by train but will also make their travel a fun experience. In short a combination of station and entertainment park."

Chowdhury concludes that "Creativity is not the responsibility of an individual or vertical. Everyone can be creative and it is the lack of this thinking that is the biggest hurdle today, I feel, in PR."

Ajay Muliyil, partner,  Ogilvy agrees saying, "Keep aside the thought that it's a PR idea or a digital or an advertising idea; this will severely limit the outcome. Creativity has no boundaries, and it should be treated as such. Boring as it may sound, most profound ideas are extremely 'simple' at the core. Most importantly they have a strong 'emotional' component to it. If the intended recipient (i.e, your clients' target customer and their key stakeholders) of your so-called "big creative idea" aren't really moved by your idea, it's futile. It's worthwhile to run a litmus test with a sample group, observe how they are responding to your idea, before undertaking a full-blown campaign."

The media's role in creativity 

For other PR professionals, creativity means ensuring one of its main stakeholders, the media takes a bite of their pitch.

Mayuk Moulick, PR executive at Pepper Interactive Communications says, "The biggest idea of creativity in PR lies in finding the uniqueness of the brand you are working on. For media, this uniqueness reflects the way your brand is adding some value to its respective industry."

Moulick also believes that "Secondly, there is a requirement of digital data analytic tools which are required in order to highlight your brand's contribution more factually. I truly find that for today's media, rational reasoning is directly proportional to creativity."

Vivek Sood, director, Regional Public Relations Pvt. Ltd. has an interesting take on creativity. He says PR professionals can only be creative once they embrace the energy and curiosity of today's startup professionals. Sood believes only that level of drive will push creativity in the PR profession.

Sood adds that one big barrier to this, "You have to involve media in all your ideas. And I feel this is a big hindrance for any idea to make it big."

Poonam Mahajan, founder and director, Apexx Media (Brand Creators) opines, "I believe the PR strategy process has to be the key responsibility area of every level, from PR executive to manager and Director. There should be training, research, workshops organized internally in the agencies so that the team’s mind is channelized towards being more creative in terms of pitch, press release, campaign, and strategy not only towards coverage."

Mahajan admits that "I am very well aware of the challenges yet I would urge that everyone to stop following the race of numbers of coverage, rather we should be more focused on developing a brand story. The media coverage will follow as a result."

Standardizing the creative process

While there is no doubt that data need to form the base of any insights for creativity. Piyush Sharma, account manager, On Purpose suggests that "A centralized database to keep client files and media information at fingertips to decrease procedural time would be very handy."

Sharma adds, " A platform that allows media tracking tools for professionals without too much technical competence would be useful. Something that uses a combination of pattern-based phrase and keyword search, to analyze and predict media, as well as news trends, could become extremely useful for young PR professionals."

Sharma concludes by pinpointing the role of mentoring in creativity saying, " A digital connection platform for mentors and mentees based on mutual interests could be very beneficial to members of the professional community across seniority level for professional growth and networking."