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Creativity in communications – nature or nurture?

I recently caught up with Launch PR founder Johnny Pitt to talk about what it takes to be creative in PR.

Is it nature or nurture?  What makes some people more creative than others?
Both.  100%.  We’re all born with a highly creative mind.  Some events influence it that you cannot control, especially at a young age.  But you can actively nourish and nurture it to become more creative, without question.  It needs ‘feeding’ all the time though;  so, I read everything and anything offline and online, I watch as much as I can – across all mediums.  I listen to as much, even if it’s my kids Spotify playlists (quite good btw).  I play as much as I can, again, even if its Minecraft.  I look at everything.  I question it.  I’m a curious person.  And I think that’s probably one thing that gets shaped earlier on in life – curiosity.  But it’s absolutely critical to being creative.  Key is not always to vocalise that curiosity though (otherwise you’ll probably get punched or locked up).  I simply reflect that it’s interesting and store it somewhere.  And then dredge it up during the creative process. 

I also visualise creative solutions, ahead of time.  I think the fashionable term is creative mindfulness or something like that.  I imagine the ambition, the scope, the desire, the outcome.  I paint the landscape well before.  And then (hopefully) fill it in during the creative process.  And you know then when you’ve come up with the thinking.  As it slots right in.  It takes time and effort though to do this, make no mistake.

And finally, I love people.  I think an interest in people, their welfare, what makes them tick is crucial to creativity.  I’ve always said good creative evokes emotion.  So, the fact I’m also responsible for a great bunch of people at Launch PR and The Creative Shootout helps! 

As something of a long-term creative, what process do you follow to consistently come up with ideas?
All the above.  Specifically though, prior to any creative session, I read as much about the subject BEFORE.  Online, offline.  I talk to people.  Then we have the creative session, which will produce some thinking of course.  From there it needs to soak, to mature.  You toss the ideas around, you link them to insight of course, and then keep turning them over.  All the time – at work, rest and play (if you’re me anyway).  And when it’s not coming, I get away, or get the creative group away.  Different environments.  Even a simple meeting room switch (if you’ve been hunkered up in a particular one).  Investing in the process helps – nice coffee and making people feel like you respect their time - all helps.  Invest in the process – time-wise and resource-wise.  However simple. 

Creativity can’t be done under pressure can it? How do you ensure you have a clear mind?
YES!  Check out The Creative Shootout

I’d advise that you need a creative lead under pressure.  Someone to go ‘yes / no’ at key junctures.  And if it’s ‘no’, move on quickly.  Too many Chiefs - and you’re stuffed. 

I also exercise a lot.  That helps free the mind.  Water is good, too.  You’re at your most creative when by water or in it. Did you know that?  That’s why showers help!  And hangovers aren’t great.  Well for me, anyway (see, not enough water involved!) 

What do you mean by that “creative moment”? 
It’s the eureka moment.  When all your personal preparation, insight and thinking comes together.  You know you have the idea.  BOOM!  I get such a buzz at that point.  It’s the fulfilment of a lot of hard work.  But you just know it. 

What do you do if you can’t come up with the right idea?
Work very hard at it.  Good creativity is hard work.  No substitute.  Gruelling, sometimes.  And of course it takes time.  I remember one brand creative taking four months to crack.  But when we cracked it, it was worth it.  Our thinking laid the bedrock for an eight year turnaround comms campaign that is still talked about today.  But there is no substitute for time and effort.

When you go into a pitch, do you always know if you’ve “nailed” it.
Yup.  You have a feeling.  It then comes down to chemistry … and indeed if another agency has as stronger feeling as you do! 

Is creativity as important in corporate comms as it is in consumer comms?
Sure is.  You could argue even more so; because there are more creative restrictions generally in the corporate environment, you often need to think wider and deeper. 

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