Best practice public relations is consistently characterised by three crucial elements – strategy, rigour and creativity. Rigour ensures intellect, muscle and consistency; creativity is where it starts, with solutions to challenges and answers for opportunities; whilst strategy is both the roadmap and the puppeteer, ensuring cute thinking and tactical skills are applied in a manner which optimises the capabilities of both.
You can actually practice pretty good – and sometimes even great – PR by applying just one or two of this power play triumvirate. Examples include:
- mind bending creativity applied to a product launch which captures the zeitgeist and transforms an opportunity into an occurrence which galvanises its target audience
- a consistent, professional but thoroughly dry approach to providing information to, and interacting with, a community impacted on by infrastructure development
- where multiple communication strands are woven together in a complex manner which also features customised messages and information on essentially the same topic to different target audiences.
But to achieve really great PR, and to do it consistently, you are far better offer to get strategy, rigour and creativity working together. You are taking an unnecessary risk by not applying this approach.
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An interesting paradox of creativity is that rarely does it manifest itself without taking a degree of risk. Creativity involves departing from the norm – the ‘shock of the new’ – and through doing this it can galvanise, alienate or bemuse. Well, at least you won’t die wondering, though the client may not be satisfied with such a summation of a campaign…
Science in public relations
Public relations is a social science. And just like physical sciences like physics, excellent results generally come from using educated creativity. How does this manifest itself in PR? Well, not that much different from materials or some other form of the physical sciences:
- You undertake research
- You postulate (i.e. you apply creative thinking)
- You test your postulations
- You refine your approach based on research
- You implement (using the best stratagem you can formulate)
- You succeed.
Undertaking some form of market research is, therefore, a necessity in public relations that is seeking to achieve the best possible result. Guess work doesn’t cut it.
Budgetary issues always make undertaking research an issue, but inexpensive forms of qual or quant research can be undertaken and, often, there will be existing research which can be used to help refine a creative approach to help make it more effective.
And of course, without undertaking some form of market research prior to a campaign beginning, you have absolutely no way known of identifying how effective the campaign is, including what elements it contains helped or didn’t help the campaign.
Whether in-house or in consultancy, research, benchmarking and evaluation are critically important steps in public relations. it’s one way of proving to senior management and/or clients the value of PR.
Creativity in PR
Here are three ways in which creativity can manifest itself in PR:
- Visuals – images, video, Prezi/PowerPoint presentations
- Concepts and the manner in which concepts engage target audiences.
Rigour in PR
Three ways in rigour manifests itself in PR are:
- Testing creativity before it is applied. This can occur through a pilot program or market research (a small and qual approach will often suffice)
- Staying within scope and budget in the application of creativity
- The consistency of application of the approach. Paradoxically, variations of application for different target audiences may also be appropriate. Are you tough enough to deal with this and do it consistently?
Characteristics and manifestations of taking a strategic approach to PR are many. The include aspects like the following:
- The timing of the roll out of the strategy and what tactical elements hit target audiences when
- Using 3rd parties to aid in organisational credibility
- Applying thought leadership to assist in positioning, differentiation and stakeholder relationship enhancement
- Forming and leveraging strategic alliances
- Making a decision on which aspects of an organisation, issue, product or service to focus upon
- How much different points of view on a organisation, issue, product or service are recognised and discussed by an organisation.
What about you – where have you applied rigour, creativity and/or strategy in a PR campaign? What worked for you and what didn’t work? Are any of these three elements poorly applied in PR, do you think? Why and where?
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