Gini Dietrich

Bah Humbug! New Study Shows PR Industry Lacks Creativity

By: Gini Dietrich | December 4, 2012 | 
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Boy, it’s a tough time to be in PR.

First, the web (and particularly social media) has upended what the industry has done for more than 50 years, leaving us to scramble and fight for social, content, crisis, reputation management, influencer relations, and more.

Now a study by the Holmes Report, NowGoCreate, and Ketchum shows the industry is lacking in creativity, big ideas, resourcing, and creative talent.

Creativity in PR surveyed more than 650 PR professionals in 35 countries, including corporate and agency, to discover whether or not the PR industry is creative enough to successfully sway marketing budgets and develop game-changing ideas on a consistent basis.

The answer is a resounding no.

“I do feel we are not taking ownership of the fact that we have always been an ‘ideas’ industry — and are absolutely capable of breakthrough creative thinking,” said one executive at a U.S. PR firm. “Too many people in the field seem to be silo-ed in terms of what they feel they are allowed to do — versus advertising agencies that seem to approach their business as if they can take ownership of anything, and any discipline, they want.”

Break Down the Silos

Ahem. “Too many people in the field seem to be silo-ed.”

Never mind the fact that everyone in the industry should read Marketing in the Round to figure out how to break down those silos and how to take control of their own destinies when it comes to competing with advertising, marketing, search, web, and mobile.

We belong at the executive table, but it’s not going to happen as long as there is the perception that we can’t measure our efforts to true business results, we’re not creative, and we’re not big thinkers.

Last week, we took a hard look at the types of metrics (both soft and data-driven) we should be tracking in order to measure our efforts to business goals.

Now, combined with that, we need to prove our creative worth.

A Quick Story

When I worked on The Catfish Institute (don’t laugh; it was super fun!), our goal was to get catfish on the menu of white tablecloth restaurants. You see, catfish are bottom feeders and are known to be the most tasty when fried.

But when farm-raised, catfish not only eat from the top of the pond, they are a lovely white fish that take on the flavors in which they are prepared, making them fairly versatile for chefs.

In order to raise awareness and reach our goal, we invited up-and-coming chefs to participate in a cooking contest using, you guessed it, catfish.

It was Iron Chef before Iron Chef existed. And it worked.

Not only was it super fun work to do, we reached our goals. And then some. All because it was creative, it was fun, it was measurement-bound, and it had a clear vision.

Creativity for One; Creativity for All

This year, I’ve judged award entries for PRSA and for Ragan. I know creativity is out there, but it seems to be only among the clients with big budgets.

This is a problem.

Most of you went into PR because you hate math. Which means most of you are right-brained by nature. So why no creativity? It comes naturally to you, yet 60 percent of our clients are disappointed in our lack of creativity.

You don’t have to have big budgets or celebrity chefs or even a year-long campaign to be creative. But you do need to be reading the blogosphere, reading fiction, reading the news, and listening to podcasts and watching videos to have new ideas.

Sure, you might have a new and creative idea shot down by the client or by your boss. But that doesn’t mean to stop trying.

I challenge each of you to take a creative idea to your client or boss once a month. Can you do that?

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. 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.

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