Everyone Wants Creativity in ...


Everyone perceives advertising agencies as creative.

Forget the football game. The Super Bowl delivers three hours of programming that essentially turns into a promo for creativity in the ad biz. As Exhibit A, check out the Budweiser Puppy Love ad which has had over 54 million views and counting.

People also categorize the digital shops under creativity. They’re the guys building wacky stuff like the Office Depot dancing elves.

But communications and specifically PR seem to rate a click above email marketing on the creativity scale.

The Holmes Report is doing its part to change this perception, conducting a study on creativity in PR (in cooperation with Now Go Create and H+K Strategies).

In perhaps the most damning stat, nearly 60 percent of those on the client side characterize creativity in the PR industry as “ordinary” or worse. Not even the perky nature of PR professionals can mask the fact that 50 percent of those on the agency side think the same thing.

The Holmes Report study- creativity in PR

You can’t address the issue until you recognize the issue. This strikes me as a “Houston, we have a problem” moment.

It also begs the question, how much do clients actually care about the behavior? We’ll come back this one in a moment.

Given the nebulous nature of creativity, it’s useful to define creativity with a PR frame. The Holmes study called out three areas, content creation/marketing, integrated ideas and storytelling as the big three in PR creativity.

Holmes Report study- pr storytelling digital marketing

Obviously, content creation and storytelling are sister activities that go hand in hand. What’s revealing about the Big Three is the need to communicate these compelling stories/content through integrated vehicles that transcend conventional earned media.

As a quick side note, it’s an affirmation for our holistic approach to campaigns as explained in “The Blending of Digital Marketing and PR.”

So we know how to describe creativity in PR.

We also know the PR profession falls short in this area.

Now, let’s drill into the “why.”

The best creativity in PR — the stuff that causes discomfort, if not fright — rarely sees the light of day in an actual campaign. Because this “zig when others zag” work only appears in the new-business process.

The Holmes Study captures the driver behind the zeal for creativity in new business. It shows that 73 percent of in-house professionals view the importance of creativity in hiring an agency as an 8, 9 or 10 (scale of 1 to 10).

Holmes Report study- pr storytelling digital marketing

In short, an agency must be creative to win new business, and often it’s the agency perceived as most creative who wins the day.

Unfortunately, the creativity in the new business process typically does not transport into execution. While there are a number of reasons this happens, it’s more revealing to highlight what doesn’t happen.

Clients don’t fire PR agencies for lack of creativity.

That’s the disconnect.

Yes, PR agencies as a collective whole still have work to do in honing their creative chops.

But if clients valued creativity as much on the execution side as they do in conducting agency reviews, it would accelerate the growth of creativity on the agency side.

No one likes being fired.

Note: This is my final post for 2014. Happy holidays to everyone!


  • Frank Strong

    What strikes me the most is that “content creation and marketing” need the most improvement, but “owned media” is at the bottom those list. These two go hand in hand — and that’s a big piece a lot PR folks miss amid that old allure of a headline.

    • hoffman

      I totally agree with you. I’m not sure why PR folks surveyed perceive content creation and owned media as two distinctly different areas. Thinking out loud, it could be that PR often doesn’t have responsibility for owned media (though that’s not we’re seeing from the agency side).

  • Frank Strong

    If not owning owned media, PR, comms and other folks better elbow their way to significantly influence it. The future depends on it. And based on my experience, PR won’t have to elbow much, nobody else wants it.

  • Leah Fein

    Creativity can be added everywhere PR, Storytelling and Content Marketing exist. The Holmes study scalls out three areas, content creation/marketing, integrated ideas and storytelling as the big three in PR creativity. Now, what’s the difference between paid, owned and earned media via the agency or PR side? Article via @markwschaefer on Twitter.


Leave a Reply