I never wanted to be in PR when I first started work in a PR and ad agency. Advertising was cooler, with mad ideas, pretty pictures, sharp straplines, lots of drinking at work (it was 1998 or thereabouts) and lots of obscure creativity that only had to fight its way past the client to be used.
It was hard to be creative in PR I thought – as you had to not only get the ideas by the client, but then be used as news in someway after you’d convinced a journalist. Not an easy task.
It’s all changed now as, with social media, you can create the madness again and it will be used as: a. it’s somewhat expected and b. you create your own channels and aren’t restricted by someone else’s definition of ‘creative’ or ‘news’.
One thing that has always been relevant though is the need for whatever idea you create to inspire, educate or sell your client’s product or service, or simply raise positive awareness.
Good creative PR ideas are still hard to come by though. You often draw a blank if you have high standards (or just creative angst), trying to edge away from bought in celebrity, entertainment or pure staging. You want the idea to be simple and for people to just get it, print it, share it and take you up on it. You also want it to be extremely clever and to fill others with rage that they didn’t think of it first!
For me, I was truly inspired when judging a PR award recently – an idea called ‘Venison Ice Cream’ (Google it) was generated to push the hunting season in Scotland. I’m not mad keen on the idea of shooting Scottish beasties for fun, but the PR idea of crafting an ice cream to celebrate and encapsulate the idea was wondrous. I almost went for the blunderbuss myself when others suggested this wasn’t shortlistable – but good sense prevailed and the agency with the idea won.
So why is it good? It’s easy to explain to a journalist. It’s fun. It’s soooo simple. It works on many levels, linking with other aspects of the season. It’s memorable and it has a news hook, as it’s both interesting and an oxymoron.
So why am I writing this? We lost out on a huge pitch today as, on this occasion, the winning agency had better ideas. We didn’t come up with a ‘Venison Ice Cream’ idea, as we thought that a more straightforward, proven approach was required to drive steady footfall and sales for the client. We know our ideas would have worked, but creativity won on the day and I’m glad it did. It reminded me that my mouth, words and love of the media may have influenced my career direction, but it’s the ad man with his obscure ideas in me and the team that takes us the extra mile on occasion and gets us excited about what we do. He wasn’t there last week, but he will be back with a vengeance next week.