This is a guest post by Abigail Holmes, account executive at Corporate Ink.
Communications professionals tend to view marketing, advertising and public relations as clearly defined sectors, each with its own role and purpose within an organization’s larger business strategy. Advertising is tasked to sell, marketing to bring in revenue, and PR to manage the brand’s reputation.
But with the pervasiveness of digital, the lines between these disparate sectors of marketing have blurred, and campaigns have become more integrated, forcing PR professionals to become jack of all trades. Our job is no longer to simply manage a brand’s reputation, but to use all of the channels we have at our disposal – social media, traditional media interviews, contributed content, email marketing, etc. – to drive awareness, demand, revenue, sales and truly qualified leads for our clients. Selling, once solely the responsibility of salesmen, is now a big part of what we do every day – and more importantly, of how our success is measured.
Creative thinking: Lessons from David Ogilvy
David Ogilvy coined the term, “the Big Idea,” to represent the idea that gets noticed, is remembered, inspires action and positions a company as a leader in the market. In PR, this “big idea” is the pervasive overall theme on which an entire campaign is based. It can be supported by various components – a direct mail campaign that drives tangible leads, a media placement that gets people thinking, or a single tweet that is witty, funny and perfectly timed.
But in an always-on, content-saturated world, coming up with those supporting ideas can be challenging, and creating a unique campaign that breaks through the clutter is more difficult than ever before. Taking a page from David Ogilvy, here are 3 tried-and-true strategies every B2B PR professional can implement to get the creative juices flowing and come up with game-changing ideas that make their client stand out:
1. Laying the foundation for big ideas: Do your homework
Ogilvy believed big ideas come from your unconscious, but your unconscious must be informed – otherwise, you will suffer from what he deemed “irrelevant brilliance.”
It may seem like a no-brainer, but the more you know about your client and their space, the better equipped you are at coming up with a big idea and strong supporting campaign elements. To that end, interview the product engineers and sales teams and, whenever possible, customers, so you can understand customer pain points and favorite features, what buyers think of your client and their product and the language they use when talking about them. Then, thoroughly stalk your client’s competitors. Understanding the stories your client’s competitors are sharing and how customers view them in the market is just as critical as knowing your own client. How can you come up with a big idea that makes your client stand out if you don’t have a beat on what you’re up against?
2. You can’t teach yourself to be creative, but you can train yourself to think like a creative
Once you’ve stuffed your mind with the information you’ve gathered, noodle on it. Do something that gives your mind a break and allows the information to settle in your brain. If big ideas really do come from the unconscious, the eureka moment will come when you least expect it – on a walk, at the gym, in the shower, or watching a movie.
Advertising agencies have dedicated creative teams that use market research to come up with a big idea that ultimately becomes the focal point for a campaign. In PR, we don’t have the luxury of a dedicated creative team – we are often the research team, the creative team and the ones that take the lead on executing the campaign. There just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to focus on being creative. Incorporating this time to think freely will give you a better chance of coming up with a market-shaping campaign idea – without having to find the time outside of your already busy schedule.
3. Above all, spark emotion
Every great PR campaign spurs emotion – this is what impacts an audience’s perception and behavior. By making you feel something, the brand goes beyond the product and becomes a catalyst that compels you into action. When people feel smarter, more sophisticated, or better at their job due to a company’s PR campaign, they’re more apt to support you and your product.
Take GE’s Childlike Imagination campaign that capitalizes on the long-running “imagination at work” tagline through illustrating a child’s interpretation of what it’s like to have a parent who works for GE.
This campaign not only highlights what the company does, but what it stands for. By going beyond the product and creating a campaign based on how the company is powering the world through innovation, GE was able to solidify the company’s position as a leader and break through the noise of a content-saturated digital environment by making the audience feel a deeper connection to the brand.
David Ogilvy’s lessons may have been focused on advertising, but the premise translates well into the world of PR. By training ourselves to think like creatives and adopting Ogilvy’s tenets of a strong awareness campaign – being well informed, carving out time to be creative and sparking emotion in our target audience – we can re-position the PR sector as a generator of “big ideas” and use the supporting elements to drive leads that make an incredible impact on our clients’ business.
Abigail Holmes is an account executive at Corporate Ink, an integrated marketing and PR firm specializing in B2B tech markets. She leads in the development of integrated communications campaigns that cultivate awareness and drive demand. Before joining Corporate Ink, Abigail attended Wheaton College, where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Business and Economics. You can find Abigail on LinkedIn or Twitter.