PR needs to park its tanks on the ad industry's lawn to win the battle of ideas

The talk of the need for greater creativity in the PR industry has become a little bit of an obsession for many of us since the Cannes Lions demonstrated how difficult winning our own category, against the best of the world's advertising and digital creative teams, truly is.

Fight the ad industry on its own terms, argues Richard Moss
Fight the ad industry on its own terms, argues Richard Moss

The last 18 months has seen countless statements from PR agencies announcing the creation of a new creative director position. 

Appointments are often made from the pool of home-grown industry talent; individuals with a skill for brainstorming, a natural flair for ideas and, increasingly, a portfolio of video content. 

But is this really enough? 

Has one dedicated ‘creative’ really got the firepower to outsmart the ten or twenty creative teams an average ad agency may have to deploy? 

Has home grown creative talent really got the training and crafts needed to build deeply engaging personalities for our client’s brands, that look and feel right?

Our industry has been built around the skill of advocacy; influencing and persuading third parties to support our cause. 

Still central to what we deliver today, these skills need to be supplemented with direct-to-audience approaches, in shared and bought forms, as online channels proliferate. 

This is where our shortcomings have begun to show.

How many of our staff have formal brand marketing or communications training and qualifications? 

How many have life-long experience in art direction, or a skill for copywriting?

In our cynical world, where nothing is taken at face value and the words of others often carry more weight than our own, the role of Public Relations has never been more important. 

Our clients need to join up their thinking and align the actions of the business with their words. 

They need to activate their advocates and form movements. They need to open hearts.

A recent research project conducted by Good Relations, talking to a nationally representative sample of over 12,000 adults about 120 brands, found the category leaders  - in consumers’ minds at least - led, not because of their rational delivery or benefits, but because of the way they made us feel. 

Indeed our planning team identified ten clear commonalities in the way they achieved this, albeit at varying levels of success, which is hearty reading for any public relations professional. 

In summary these brands:

1. Had a clear business purpose and personality

2. Were true to themselves (authentic)

3. Were totally consistent in their communications

4. Looked to surprise & delight at every touch-point

5. Got intimate with their stakeholders

6. Were great news generators 

7. Had fun

8. Showed they cared

9. Built partnerships 

10. Activated their advocates

These needs are undoubtedly best met by the public relations Industry. Delivering against them, however, requires more than a sticking-plaster approach to our industry. We need to overhaul it. 

We need more clear-thinking planning talent. We need more business savvy account management. 

But most of all we need to build our creative crafts to help our clients bring to life their business purpose and personality in a consistent and engaging way. 

In the last few months my agency has invested significantly in this talent, but it is just the start, for us and ultimately the industry.   

Richard Moss is the managing director of Good Relations

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