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Creativity need not be intricate design on the inside of a gum wrapper or hurling a bucket of paint against your ex-girlfriend’s family photos. You don’t have to age bread and – I don’t know – build the Brooklyn Bridge out of it.
The ‘C’ word is about improving an existing process or creating a new, more desirable one altogether. It’s wondering, “Isn’t there a quicker, more efficient way of doing this?” Or, “How can I get people that use X to switch to Y?” Most of have these thoughts pretty regularly, but rarely do we sit down and really try to answer them. Creativity, then, is as much about thinking about the “what” of an idea as it is about the “how,” or how you can take it out of the clouds and turn it into something tangible.
To this point, publicists should not simply be a thin wall between a client and the media, doubling as a soundboard and filter all at the same time. PR plans are not family heirlooms and therefore should not be passed down from “generation to generation,” or from client to client. Somewhere between a client’s sign-on date and a mounting workload, though, it’s not uncommon for a publicity or communications coordinator to lose his or her footing and fall victim to vicious, boring cycles of fruitless repetition.
Let’s avoid that.
Next time you stare at the wall waiting for someone to empathize with your disinterest of the monotonous workflow (and they won’t, by the way), chew over the following three questions to get the wheels turning and the wipers wiping. They’ll demand creativity and accountability, which isn’t a bad thing. Your best work, like your worst, is a reflection of you.
1. What is your client’s goal? Think back to when you first proposed your service, what did you promise? What did they expect and what was their concern with your achieving it? The next time you are about to send out a pitch or book a venue, think about why you are doing it. Are you attempting to gain mindshare over a top competitor or are you trying add a credential that may increase consumer confidence and, hopefully, drive sales? Depending on how you answer, you should direct your strategy and approach accordingly.
PR, in part, is a mode of transportation. You are responsible for bringing a company from point A to point B and choosing the medium. That means you need to know where point B is and how you will track your mileage. And, if you don’t know, find out.
2. What has and has not worked in the past? What do competitive graduate schools, employers, and parole boards all have in common? They all predict your future performance by your past behavior. They want to know that you have a record of accomplishing what is expected of you and that you play well with others. Same theory applies to PR campaigns. It’s unlikely that you have exhausted all of the modes of transportation and ways to reach a goal; there are just too many.
Do some digging. Speak with senior members at your company and at the client’s. Ask what past communications plan looked like and what was learned? Consider what has not been done, what you can capitalize on, and how you can integrate what you have been doing with what you haven’t been doing. If you hit some friction, that’s nothing a few small, early wins can’t fix.
3. What are you proud of? Imagine that you have an interview with your dream company next week. You’re seated around a table with three of company X’s finest and you pass out your resume detailing a laundry list of tasks you can perform with some level of competence. Rather than have you walk through your resume bullet-by-bullet, they push your paper to the side and ask, “What project are you most proud of?”
If you have not piloted a project or idea of your own, then you may have trouble answering them. If, up until now, all that was required of you was to connect the dots that someone else mapped out, then it is about time you sought out additional responsibility. You can be proud of an improvement that you made, a process that is still in effect today, or a campaign that won over an anxious client; but, you can’t be proud of anything you never really lead or put yourself into. Great ideas don’t just think themselves up on their own, and they certainly don’t see themselves through, and that’s why you the rewards is so great when you really implement creativity.
Vincent Barr wears a lot of hats. Not one of them has four corners.