Head to Head: Does the PR industry need more creatives?

In this series, Mumbrella invites the industry's most senior PR professionals to share their opposing views on the industry's biggest issues. This week, Edelman's Jamil Bhatti goes head to head with Access-dgc's CEO Nichola Patterson.

This week, debating whether or not the PR industry needs more creatives, Jamil Bhatti says creatives are no longer reserved for ad agencies and will put PR in an exciting place, while Nichola Patterson argues no, since creatives from outside the world of PR don’t understand what it takes to sell a story.

Yes, argues Jamil Bhatti, creative director, Edelman Australia:

Bhatti says creatives will “bolster our ranks” and put “us in exciting places”

“How can we hope to cut through without creative? We need people that can take the expected and twist it, turn it inside out and upside down to find disruptive, exciting, emotive and memorable answers to today’s evolving PR briefs.

The agency lines have been blurring for years, the old swim lanes are gone and we have the whole pool if we want it, but only if we can show our chops. PR agencies that are embracing creative, like Edelman, are building brands and creating ideas that connect across digital, social and earned media. So when budgets no longer stretch to the TVC, it means a creative lead agency isn’t reserved for ad agencies anymore and that’s when having creatives on our side, to bolster our ranks, puts us in an exciting place and on a par with the traditional adland agencies.

Whilst consumers have learnt to ignore and avoid broadcast messaging they are still open to a well-told story. A story with a truth, that resonates and connects. PR is the perfect place to create these stories from. It’s an industry all about the human face of brands, filled with people who are naturally creative, who think in stories and headlines. The perfect place to add creatives into the mix, their specific training in creative storytelling perfectly complemented by existing storytellers with an inbuilt sense of whether an audience will care enough to take notice and tell others.

As a young creative, I was taught to find a nugget of truth that you can hook a big idea, compelling story, arresting image or memorable slogan too. Then put it in the right place and it’ll connect with people. The only thing that has changed since then is where we place those ideas. It’s that shift of placement that made PR attractive to me and can make PR attractive to creatives.

But will any creative do? PR needs creatives that can leave behind big production budgets and media spends, confident in the power of their ideas alone in driving resonance. Creatives that have evolved from telling product stories to human stories. Creatives that understand earned isn’t a brave new world but a prerequisite for any comms. The next question then is, how do we make creatives jump ship?

That’s probably best left for another debate.”

PR needs “creative people who understand the news cycle, who understand what a story is and how it can be adapted to different publications”

No, argues Nichola Patterson, CEO, Acces-dgc:

“PR practitioners have always been creative. We’ve always had to come up with ideas enticing enough to convince publishers to run them. And we’ve always had to do it with a far smaller slice of the marketing budget than advertising creatives are used to working with.

Having worked with a number of the world’s best creatives, I cannot fault their brilliant thinking. But they have been trained in an environment where their concept is guaranteed to appear, no matter what, because the space has been bought. In PR, we have to constantly sell our concepts in order to give them a chance at appearing. This requires a different skill set and strategic approach from the outset.

What we do need is creative people who understand the news cycle, who understand what a story is and how it can be adapted to different publications (it’s not as simple as resizing an ad). People who understand the personal relationships we have with editors and gatekeepers and their particular quirks and styles. And creative people who understand it could all get bumped off the front page by Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un’s latest schoolyard spat.

So I would argue we don’t need more advertising creatives in our ranks. We need more PR-trained creatives (and more of the marketing budget certainly wouldn’t go astray).”


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