There are plenty of outstanding creative ideas in PR campaigns as previous winners of PRmoment Awards prove creativity doesn’t just win awards, it captures audiences and helps to land new PR contracts. So how do you come up with a killer idea? Below are ten top tips.
1. Consider what really matters to your audience
Lewis Coe, senior designer at PR firm M&C Saatchi Talk: “The role of creativity isn't going anywhere; it is ever more important in a media environment where everyone has a voice and the list of services we provide to our clients is expanding. Selling products to customers alone is a thing of the past. However, as we become more involved, our customers also become savvier, and PR and activation faux pas are prevalent. Heavy-handed attempts to influence minds or wallets are now met with virtual eye-rolls on platforms like LinkedIn or X. Despite these challenges, brands must now serve as much more for their customers, taking on the roles of friends, mothers, and mentors, often in just six seconds or less. With low retention rates and decreasing watch times, our window of opportunity to tell stories is shrinking. Therefore, choosing the right content is crucial, as it must resonate with people and appeal to what truly matters to them which is why we strive to ‘deliver meaningful change’ whenever possible.”
2. Cultivate a diverse range of interests
Lewis Coe: “If I were to offer any top tips for inspiring creativity, it wouldn't be to frantically search for "Design Trends 2026," or trying work out if using serifs are still cool or not, but rather to cultivate a diverse range of hobbies and interests, spend time outdoors, and allow yourself moments to do nothing creative at all, as that's when the best ideas often start to show up.”
3. Look beyond PR
Dom Radcliffe, creative director at communications consultancy Here Be Dragons: “Stop thinking ‘in PR’ - Maybe this is obvious - or maybe not - but it works a charm. I think creative in PR is a glorious discipline because for you to be effective you have to wipe your mind every time you start a fresh brief. This is where the long bemoaned ‘float thing down Thames’ motif comes from - it-worked-last-time-perhaps-it’ll-work-again is no longer fit for purpose as a methodology because people’s lives are full of repetition now more than ever. You are held to ever higher standards of ‘freshness’, so I think the best tip is to look beyond our discipline and into other, stranger worlds - attack things from unexpected angles and make sure you’ve got a strategist who is bang on point regarding contemporary cultural touch points.”
4. Find a killer insight
Dave Turnbull, partner, creative planning at PR agency Tyto: “To butcher a Tyrion Lannister quote: ‘In a tough media environment, PR needs creativity like a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge’. I’m a big believer in insights sharpening focus and providing that creative spark. Something that makes you view a topic or challenge in a completely new way.
“The trick is knowing where to find them. It could be from an expert client, colleague, friend, even your favourite podcaster. A journalist’s hot take or catchy soundbite might open a world of new angles to you. Data can also be an invaluable goldmine of insights. Absorb as many knowledgeable and diverse perspectives as you can, and the insights will come.
“Ideas may follow pretty quickly once you find that killer insight. If they don’t, that’s when a rock-solid creative process proves invaluable.”
5. Build a robust creative process
Joe Thomas, creative comms director and trainer: “Build a proper process that your team can follow to get themselves out of creative holes - whether that's for creating or quality testing ideas. Comms teams have processes for every other aspect of their work, so why not ideation?
“Make sure your process knows when to focus on the ultimate audience of your campaign (eg, when discovering insights and deducing them into angles), and has a ruthless focus on what your target media actually needs when designing your activations. This means not wasting a brilliant idea by scrimping on photography, failing to include real people and third party voices in your story package, or not thinking properly about interesting broadcast locations.
“Never forget that doing is always better than saying. If in doubt, create stories where real people do real things that your world actually cares about. If you want to see what this looks like, read the news and work backwards.”
6. Evoke an emotion
Rachel Taylor, client services director at integrated marketing agency Tigerbond:: “A data-driven approach and persistence helps but it is always the creativity that makes a campaign stand out.
“In simple terms, creativity needs to evoke an emotion, be it hope to laughter or even fear. This cuts through the inertia, draws people in and encourages participation, from social media commentary to a friendly debate over a pint.”
7. Be inquisitive
Rachel Taylor: “When it comes to igniting creativity, insight definitely helps but so does talking to people outside your marcomms echo chamber - a partner or your grandma might share a creative spark that forms the basis of your campaign.
“Personally, advertising guru Sir John Hegarty resonates. He said creativity comes from tuning into what is happening around you. What do you see; what are you hearing? Remain inquisitive. There is a dizzying array of ‘stuff’ around us to spark creativity, but you have to train that muscle to spot it, see it, hear it.”
8. Step away
Stacey Hampton, senior PR manager at PR agency ilk Agency: “One of my favourite aspects of working in PR is the creativity of the sector and its ability to transform the dull and the dry into the exciting and engaging. So when it comes to finding inspiration for such creativity, one way that works is a change of scenery - something as simple as changing the four walls you're staring at can really help to get the creative juices flowing. Moving to a different space in the office, leaving your WFH desk for a local coffee shop or even taking a walk outside can be a great way to hit the reset button.”
9. Put a new twist on an old idea
Amy Stone, senior communications consultant at marketing and communications consultancy Hard Numbers: “If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, then the definition of creativity is the opposite: Doing different things that achieve consistent, impactful results. The impact of creativity is crucial to its role in PR, but true impact is hard to achieve. Creative campaigns need to have substance as well as style if they’re going to have cut through in the current media environment.
“’There’s no such thing as a new idea.’ This is my favourite quote to remember when I’m feeling creative pressure. It reminds me there are many great examples of creativity in PR and marketing to take inspiration from, and that it's okay to put a new twist on an old idea. In fact, reinventing a concept to make it relevant and relational to a new audience is how art evolves, and creativity in PR is no different.”
10. Be brave
Zoe Wilkins, senior account director at B2B agency BDB: “Some would say that creativity has always been a challenge, but especially so in trade, technical and industrial PR, where I specialise. In B2B, caution is the norm and many practitioners still rely purely on the facts to tell the story. But they don’t - this ‘safe’ content is dry, indistinctive, unengaging and ineffective.
“I encourage my clients to be brave - at least a little bit brave - with their PR. That in itself achieves cut-through and can take various forms. Having an opinion and voicing it, especially if it’s a bit contentious. Humanising wherever you can. Using humour. Our readers, listeners and viewers are professionals, but they’re also people... purchasers, patients, parents and passengers.
“Inspiration often comes to me when I’m not actively thinking about a story. But when I am, looking at other industries, involving colleagues who are detached from the project or deliberately placing myself in an unrelated environment can all spark great ideas.”
For further discussion of PR creativity, watch PRmoment’s creative review roundup of 2023 here.
And you still have time to enter PRmoment awards 2024 but be quick!
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