Why awards matter to PR

The ever-shifting landscape has brought seismic changes to PR, and now creativity matters more than ever.

And although plenty would say creativity – and a job well done – is its own reward, the industry needs more formal recognition of its strides into that realm. 

In the three decades I’ve spent in the comms business, and even in the six years I’ve been specifically in public relations, so much has changed. PR used to be all about having, then selling, the idea. Then it evolved to be about telling the story in a compelling and believable way. 

Today it increasingly feels as if the focus of PR is doing. Creating, if you will.

However, the role of creative genius is becoming less central in the comms universe. It used to be about a creative god or maybe a team of creative gods (rarely goddesses, sadly) whose powers of divination and innovation were almost mystical. Now creativity is as sexy as ever, but it’s rooted in science: intelligence, data and, yes, also the unique seductive ways that data can be harnessed. 

Today’s best creative minds are using tools to ensure that they and their target audience truly connect. 
The industry’s most creative outcomes spring from collaborating. Everyone is co-creating and conspiring to conquer. It’s a co-operative approach to doing what we have always done: trying our best to invent wild desire. 

Central to creating that desire is doing something that breaks through the clutter, or breaks through the cover – hello, Caitlyn! – and captivates those who see it. It might be a place, a person, an idea/story/brand or just a great viral video. 

If a picture is worth a thousand words, sometimes a moving picture is worth a thousand more. (Although plenty of still images still speak – volumes – for themselves.)

Tremendous creative work has been done in the past year: Rogers & Cowan’s work with Caitlyn Jenner, the mainstreaming of Vice as it evolved from a fringe alternative publication into a must-read for the creative class, the packaging of Stanford University as the essential first stop to tech success, and the brilliant rise of Priscilla Chen, who is emerging as this generation’s Melinda Gates–in–training. 

I have a bit of an obsession with people and institutions that punch way above their weight, but the public relations work that went into all these transformations reflects formidable creativity. 

It is my hope that PR initiatives like these will be among the entries for this year’s Pencils—an inspiration for all of us to continue trying to collaborate on creative work that will rise to that standard.
 
Like everything, creativity in PR will continue to evolve – and we need to diversify (multicultural people, multidisciplinary minds, multigenerational offices) and dimensionalize everything (life has become 4D) – but taking stock of the industry to prepare for serving as a Pencil juror has me feeling pretty good about our creativity now. 

It also reminds me that creativity will matter more than ever in the coming years. 

The world’s 24/7, borderless comms landscape has given the good, the bad and the evil the same shot at hijacking the message.

The only way the good guys can win is by out-creating the others. 

Marian Salzman is CEO of Havas PR North America and the jury foreperson for the inaugural PR category at this week’s D&AD Awards

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