PRs: The PR Industry needs you

Last Friday, I had the privilege of moderating a talk by the judging panel from the D&AD PR Insights category with Simon Shaw, Chief Creative Officer at Hill & Knowlton and Gordon MacIntosh, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Hope & Glory.

This was the first time that PR had ever been included at the D&AD awards and I felt immeasurable pride that seemingly the industry was receiving recognition for the evolution of creativity in PR. Having spent the last decade both working alongside and handling communication for several digital/marketing/advertising/creative agencies who can’t comprehend the notion that a PR team could also strategically plan, execute and deliver a creative campaign, this felt a big step.

Some of the key learnings from the session included:

1. The most successful campaigns were based on a genuine insight

2. With over 200 entries in this category, a good way to stand out is to make an emotional impact, try raising a smile or putting a frog in the audience throats when viewing your work

3. A successful campaign doesn’t need the brand messaging splattered all over it — you can let the story tell the campaign and create resonance with the audience

4. Making friends with the editorial team at Buzzfeed is a very good idea

5. But last and definitely least, the video entries by PR agencies were lacking in the finesse and standard of quality by traditional adland. *smacks head on desk.*

Having felt for a long time that PR can be battered by negative perceptions from the wider creative industries, it’s frustrating to see that adlanders were still tipping the scales for the best entries in a PR category. There is no doubt that the genetic makeup of traditional agencies makes them predisposed to creating great adverts, so naturally they can make great advertisements of their own work. However, in an industry which is constantly berated about measurable results you’d think by now that PRfolk would have got their shit together to beautifully showcase and PR their own work.

If we are both entering the same categories, we have to assume that we are now doing similar work. We may have started as separate breeds of communication dogs but from where I am sitting (because I’m too lazy to get one of those efficient standing desks) we are all now mongrels and cross-breeds; with the same school uniforms and team kit bags of macbooks: creatives, strategists, account handlers, digital specialists and a Team Captain at our helm steering us across the cross-contaminated waters which includes a mix of social media, branded content, marketing strategies, loyalty schemes, influencers, events, experiential and copywriting.

But maybe I stand-alone in thinking we do similar work, because even the recent merge of Campaign magazine has seen Media Week, Marketing and Campaign squished into one title but PR Week still sits on its own? Maybe we aren’t included because we are so innovative in comparison that we can’t possibly fit into the same publication? I think it’s more likely there is still a lack of recognition for the work we can do and maybe this is our own fault.

I’m not sure how many entrants to the D&AD PR Insights category were from PR, but judging by the percentage of PRs present at the event I’d predict less than 25%. If we aren’t showcasing our evolving skill set and achievements against competitive industries now, how will we ever receive the creative recognition we deserve? We need to dispel the fluff myths that all PRs do is celebrity photoshoots or fancy parties with canapes that people will only lick for fear of weight gain. We need to be entering the creative awards, doing it well and not just within the parameters of the PR categories.

The PR teams are no longer the bolt-on agencies, we are beginning to pitch in a level playing field and winning. So let’s make sure as an industry we are demonstrating (and in a beautiful way) our own success stories. Someone in each PR shop needs to be responsible for PR-ing the PR.

Author of best-seller Hype Yourself. Founder of The Wern, PR & design for startups www.thewern.com. Speaker. Writer. PR expert.

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