We Asked Today’s PR Influencers: What is #CreativePR?
This is post 1 of our 5-part #CreativePR blog series. Stay tuned for posts 2 – 5, which will look further into some of the tools, tactics, and strategies that innovative PR professionals are using today.
#CreativePR, the hashtag, caught our attention at last year’s PRSA conference when Deirdre Breakenridge, Jason Sprenger and Heather Whaling teamed up for their presentation, “Creative PR: Delivering Your Story From Narrative and Design to Measurement.” Twitter users at the panel got busy in a discussion around the theme, talking about new ways to add substance to conversations rather than simply “be heard,” how to demonstrate authenticity, and which apps and social platforms are on their radar. It’s clear that thinking outside the box in PR is a requirement for today’s PR professionals who want to stay competitive.
Our spring blog series will dive into this topic. This is the first of 5 pieces that will focus on a separate aspect of “Creative PR,” starting with a topic overview: What are we talking about when we talk about “Creative PR?” Here are a few definitions from the PR influencers who are putting the hasthag, and the practice, into action.
Rethink writing: Michelle Messenger Garrett
“Creative PR means thinking outside the box—so while I believe in using traditional tools like a press release or a media pitch, make sure you get a bit creative by constructing your written communications as follows:
- Start with visuals: Visuals are becoming increasingly important in PR. When you can, offer high resolution photos, videos or infographics. Sometimes, an image can even spark an idea for a story. So if imagery inspires you, start there.
- Be sure to include research/data to back up your claims: This can be your own or you can cite someone else’s. If you include numbers—such as time or money saved—or data that backs up your claims (e.g. “99 percent of doctors recommend getting a good night’s sleep for better health”), this makes the press release or story idea more credible.
- Add life using quotes: Some quotes sound “canned”—try to liven up your quotes by writing them the way a person would actually talk. A mentor of mine taught us to write executive quotes this way and it really does help in making them sound more real.
- Include customers: If you can include a quote from a customer or offer a customer to use as a reference, he or she can sing your praises, and again, strengthen the story.
It’s always better to have these pieces ready to go before you offer them, or prior to a reporter requesting them. Far too many press releases and pitches fail to include these points, which affects their impact—and chances of being read.”
Michelle Messenger Garrett is a public relations consultant, speaker and award-winning writer with more than 20 years of agency, corporate, startup and Silicon Valley experience. Her articles have been featured in Entrepreneur, Ragan’s PR Daily and Muck Rack, to name a few. In 2015, Garrett was named a Top 100 PR Influencer by Onalytica. She works with clients worldwide ranging from small businesses and startups to enterprises, assisting them in crafting and carrying out a PR strategy to help them get the word out, get noticed and lead to an increase in visibility, prospects and sales.
Take a giant step back: Rebekah Iliff
“Modern day PR is so much more than just crafting press releases, pitching journalists, and getting media hits. Today, in order to ‘win’, the best PR pros I’ve seen are willing to take a giant step back, apply critical thinking, and ask themselves: ‘Who do we want to reach, how do we best tell our story that isn’t self-serving, and how to we measure success?’ This train of thought is a highly creative process. It’s not a one-size fits all approach.
A good example I always cite is Saucony’s #FindYourStrong campaign. It’s a prime example of a highly customer-focused, niche message, metric-centric campaign.
Short story: The opposite of Creative PR is Lazy PR … the latter of which is basically doing the same ol’ thing over and over with very little upside. Those days are over.”
Rebekah Illif is the Chief Strategy Officer for AirPR, a technology platform to increase PR performance. Previously, she was the CEO of talkTECH Communications, one of the fastest growing tech PR firms in the country. She is currently a columnist for Mashable, Inc., and Entrepreneur, and her contributing writing can be seen in everything from Forbes to the Huffington Post. Additionally, Iliff frequently moderates and participates on panels at leading technology and business conferences, and she has presented at countless conferences on the future of PR and big data. She holds a B.A. in Philosophy from Loyola University Chicago, and an M.A. in Organizational Management and Applied Community Psychology from Antioch University at Los Angeles (AULA). @rebekahiliff
Create meaningful content: Deirdre Breakenridge
“Creative PR is moving your storytelling to new levels by creating and sharing more interactive and visual content. But, it’s not creative for the sake of creativity. On the contrary, it’s meaningful content to excite your audience with measurable impact. Here’s an example. For my podcast, Women Worldwide. rather than just sharing a link to each show through Twitter, we pull out our interview guests’ compelling quotes and place these quotes in tweets with a dedicated link to the show landing page. The quotes pique far more interest around our guests and their interviews. The result, on average, is a 50% increase in the retweets, clicks on the landing page link, and, best of all, podcast downloads.”
Deirdre Breakendridge is Chief Executive Officer of Pure Performance Communications, a strategic communications and technology consulting firm in the New York Metro area. A 20+ year veteran in PR and marketing, Breakenridge has counseled senior-level executives at Fortune 500 companies.
Reinvent old stories, have real conversations: Corina Manea
“A lot has been said about PR and creativity, and, if at first sight it may seem PR is all about being creative, #CreativePR is more than that. #CreativePR is found at the intersection of business goals, ideas, barriers, influences, metrics and talent. It’s the sum of art and science blended in a winning combination. When you tell your client’s story in unexpected innovative ways, when you find creative ways to use the resources at hand, that’s #CreativePR. It’s about reinvention, about telling old stories in new way—it’s anticipating trends, it’s about using unconventionality to deliver conventional messages.
And, as unbelievable as it might seem, #CreativePR is actually having real conversations with your community, being one of them, listening to them, being mindful and nurturing your relationship with them. In our fast-paced and overloaded-with-information world, that’s something often overlooked and treated lightly.”
Don’t settle for normal: Michael Smart
“#CreativePR is not settling for the normal news that the average brand would spew out about its product or service. Instead, you take that typical news and combine it with some other element nobody had yet associated with you. Then you have something remarkable to share. It’s like the world’s most popular ice cream flavor – they started with vanilla ice cream, mixed it with crumbled Oreos, and ended up with . . . cookies ‘n cream.
An example comes from B2B software, of all places. Instructure is a company that builds tools for online educators. They had squeezed all the news they could out of their sweet features like Facebook integrations and their industry-leading security audits (snoring yet?). So they knew they needed to combine their product news with something else, something special. They did that by building a free college-level course on their platform about . . . the most popular cable TV show of all time. They called it “Society, Science & Survival: Lessons from AMC’s The Walking Dead” and recruited respected college professors to teach it. Wouldn’t you love to pitch a story like that?
Instructure and their savvy agency reps at Method Communications killed it with their media relations outreach and landed 1,018 stories, more than a billion impressions, and drove 62,000 registrations for the course. And the impact of all that #CreativePR culminated four months ago when Instructure enjoyed a successful IPO on the New York Stock Exchange.”
Michael Smart is a media relations coach who has worked with companies like Aflac, GlaxoSmithKline, and Georgia Tech [and Instructure :)] to boost their positive media placements. He shares popular weekly media pitching tips with more than 8,000 subscribers.
Target the message: Jason Mollica
“Creative and PR go hand in hand. As communications pros, we are constantly thinking of new ways to assist clients in getting their message out to the media and public. We are in the age of being the storytellers and creative communicators, so our messages reach the proper audience(s) over the right channels.
Take a look at what Disney did with “Force Friday” in 2015. They had buzz on social, traditional media, and online and brick and mortar retail when they released a new line of Star Wars toys to tie in with the blockbuster movie, “The Force Awakens.” Disney knew where their audiences were and creatively hit the target.”
Jason Mollica is the president of JRMComm, a public relations and social media marketing consultancy. He combines knowledge of the broadcast news industry, traditional public relations expertise and today’s new and innovative social media tools.
See through a creative lens: Martin Waxman
“I believe creativity is essential to PR. I view creativity quite broadly and consider openness, curiosity, seeing things from a fresh POV, sharp, stylish writing, a must-listen-to story, an eye-catching photo or video, a quirky sense of humour, ideas big and small, all part of #CreativePR. And as professionals, we need to train ourselves to look at the world through a creative lens because that’s what gives our goals and business strategies their emotional spark and helps us connect with the people we’re trying to reach.
And here’s one more that’s semi-tweetable: When we write in corporate speak, that’s NEVER #CreativePR!”
Martin Waxman conducts social media training sessions and workshops, is a social media, digital and communications strategist and co-founder of three PR agencies. He teaches digital strategy at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies, writes a column for Marketing Magazine and is chair of PRSA Counselors Academy. He’s a former film and TV writer and author of two books of fiction.
Be different, but live to the brand promise: Gini Dietrich
“#CreativePR is something that is both remembered and drives real results. There are lots of “creative” PR campaigns (the Walmart bloggers who went from store-to-store on their bus comes to mind) that are remembered (that wasn’t remembered for being good), but doesn’t build to the organization’s revenue goals. #CreativePR has to be something that speaks to the brand’s audience and can’t help but be shared. Many times, you can’t create that kind of creativity. It sometimes just hits at the right time or builds on a trend.
I’m reminded in that case of when the economy was rough and the New Jersey Nets linked the unemployed with its sponsors. It’s a great idea, gives back to the community, builds the brand, and is memorable.
Another good #CreativePR campaign was when American Greetings “interviewed” women for a job only for them to find out the job they were interviewing for was that of excellent mom…in time for Mother’s Day. Tears abound!
The campaign has to be different enough from everyone else’s, but live to the brand promise. That’s when you’ll hit the jackpot.”
Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a digital marketing communications firm based in Chicago. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.
Stay tuned for the second post in our #CreativePR series next week!