Last week, we talked about the idea that many of our bosses or clients think we’re not creative enough.

It created a lot of really good conversation about why we’re not creative enough, what being creative really means, and how to bring that back into the trade while remaining focused on measurable results.

Then Alex Wood sent me an article from an Australian media and entertainment online publication called, “Accountancy May Be a Profession, but PR is an Art.”

It’s an interesting piece in which author Graham Goodkind (awesome name!) talks about how art that looks like it took 30 minutes to create can be sold for $95,000. He goes on to say it’s amazing how artists can ask for what they think the piece is worth, and not base it on how long it took (or didn’t take) to create it. They quantify the input, rather than marveling at the output.

He then relates that idea to PR and says (rightfully so) a brilliantly executed campaign or a stroke of creative genius can turn around a brand.

And it’s true. Both of those things can, and do, happen.

But here’s the rub. He calls for PR to stand as an art form and thinks we should put the “professional stuff on the back burner if we want to get back on track.”

The Back Burner

For far too long, PR has been seen as a little bit black magic. You know if it works and you know if you’re missing it, but you don’t know how it comes together. Which is why we’ve always been seen as a nice to have and not a true investment in the growth of an organization.

When it comes time to cut budgets because of a failing economy or declining profits, PR is almost always the first line item to go.

We lament, we cry, we stress, we wring our hands. But if the professional stuff is put on the back burner and we focus only on the art of the profession, we will always seen as an expense (and a big one) rather than an investment.

Whenever I talk to prospects, they always say to me, “The other firms I’m talking to have told me it’s a $5,000 per month retainer and they can’t promise me any results.”

I hear that all the time. So when we come in with non-retainer based billing and measurable results, they raise an eyebrow at us. Some really like the idea and others think we’re trying to pull something over them because we don’t sound and look like our competitors.

Can We Have Both?

But the industry has to go to measurable results combined with creativity.

Goodkind goes on to say he heard about an agency who was getting rid of the daily newspapers, as a sign of what’s to come.

He says:

But the ritual of skimming through the daily papers, picking up on the zeitgeist, getting ideas, and then going to clients with ways to commandeer the news agenda to their advantage is really fundamental to the art of PR.

I don’t disagree. Last week, in the blog post about creativity, I called for the same: Read as much as you can because that’s where the creative ideas happen.

But you have to be able to tie those ideas back to the things that matter to the executive suite. We’ll never be able to commandeer money for creative ideas in the business world. We may have a piece of the art world in us, but we also have a piece of the business world.

The true art is combining them to become an investment, rather than an expense.

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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