The Role of Creativity in Public Relations

The role of creativity in PR is the industry’s biggest challenge—its greatest barrier—and it is time to elevate the industry to alter this mindset. I had the great opportunity this year to serve as a jury member at Cannes Lions. During the festival, the central question that we debated for countless hours was: What is creativity?

Creativity is about collaboration

Creativity is the use of original ideas or imagination, and breeds when there is a collective mindset of collaboration among people, partners and the public at large—when PR professionals find ways to nurture an exciting environment and ecosystem where creativity is embedded in our work and becomes a way of life.

Creativity is about caring

We need to care about what the public wants and finds most important—not just in the context of branding or product categories. It is our role to understand what triggers conversations between our audiences and evaluate how brands can be part of the conversation in valuable ways.

Creativity is about a good engaging story, which has heart and soul and serves a higher purpose

We need to be the storytellers of today, imaginers of tomorrow and biographers of the products, brands and companies in which we have a stake.

The two campaigns featured at Cannes that best exemplified this idea, grabbed my attention the most and enthralled their audiences through happiness and hope were:

Honey Maid – “This is wholesome” – This campaign is about how Honey Maid, a breakfast cereal, created a conversation around #wholesome by telling an emotional and insightful story around new-age parenting and love. They effectively used a crisis to engage with the public and change behavior and attitudes toward the brand.

Autocomplete Truth – A powerful campaign by UN women that kick – This campaign started a conversation on gender equality across the world and eventually influenced policy decisions centered around the conversation.

Hill+Knowlton Strategies Mumbai did a beautiful campaign for GVK Mumbai airport where we positioned it as the “gateway to India.” Its 3.2 kilometer art walk represents the most beautiful art and culture of India through the ages. This display will attract more tourists than the Louvre in Paris in years to come.

Creativity, awards and commercial success are linked intrinsically

The stock of creativity is rising. We instinctively know this is good, but why?

The creative award winners at Cannes have seen enhanced stock prices as well as increases in sales and overall reputation. This has been validated by research on the brands that win creative awards. Therefore, brands and agencies need to care about whether their campaigns are creative enough to win awards.

I am inspired by the creativity and the power of ideas that our industry continues to imagine and develop. In this hard-nosed, fast-paced world of ours, it is ideas and ideals such as this—with heart, soul, and higher purpose—that create memorable conversations.

Creativity needs to belong to the PR industry. We have the power to create a meaningful dialogue and tell stories that touch people’s lives. This is our reality and this is our opportunity to reinvent ourselves. We need to own and celebrate creativity like never before and address and smash this “we are not the creative people” identity barrier.

We need to possess belief and confidence in ourselves to put creativity and caring for a larger purpose at the forefront of who we are and what we stand for.

Radhika Shapoorjee is President of Hill+Knowlton Strategies, South Asia

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