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The value of design in PR

Ask most designers who work for a PR agency what they’ve been asked to do this week. “Make this pretty” or “I’ve got a pitch at 2pm – I need a mock-up”. Worst of all, the dreaded: “I’ve got some data, can you do an infographic?” Designers normally come in right at the end of the process.

I could reel off a bunch of stats about how visuals can communicate a message quicker than words, but it ultimately comes down to the fact that PR means more than just press coverage. It’s social, it’s digital, it’s experiential – areas where visual execution is key to engaging people and communicating your message.

Pop “best PR campaigns 2015” into Google, and browse the various listicles on offer. Every single one of them – from a billboard which gives away free beer to the teeny tiny tickets around London to promote Antman – rely on a visual element to bring the story to life.

We all say we know PR isn’t just about media coverage. The industry has got a lot better at drawing from different backgrounds, like social media and digital marketing.

I’ve seen first-hand what happens when you hire designers, copywriters, journalists, SEOs and brand experts to work alongside people with experience in channels more traditionally linked with PR such as media relations and corporate comms. It leads to campaigns which are multichannel at their heart, rather than something with some pointless graphic chucked in at the end.

With the visual execution of a campaign so vital, why on earth would you wait until the end of a process to get designers involved? We all know what happens when you have too many cooks in the kitchen, but treating your design team as an arthouse simply isn’t going to get the most out of them.

Let’s take a look at one of the best pieces of PR from last year: “Probably the best poster in the world” from Carlsberg. The phrase “free beer” is one thing, but not only does this single image tell the story better, it achieves message cut-through in doing so.

All this is to say: the best campaigns have visual execution baked in from the start.

As an industry, we’ve finally moved past the point where we think it’s okay to bring the social media exec in at the end to get them to write some tweets. They’re now part of the creative process from the start, and designers should be too.

Article written by Paul Stollery, senior engagement manager at agency Hotwire PR

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