Creativity in PR – covid special report 2021

by | Jun 24, 2021

When the Chief Economist at the Bank of England voiced his concerns about remote working and its negative impact on creativity, one of the core skills for PR professionals across the UK was suddenly on the radar at the highest level.

Since then, a survey of 145,000 employees worldwide by workplace analysts Leesman found that 28% of people working from home had been unable to collaborate during lockdowns.

You don’t need me to tell you that collaboration is as much a part of the PR process as sticking a stamp on an envelope to a journalist. In fact, the profession has changed so much over the past few decades that most modern PR practices offer a full 360-degree creative service, or something close to it. Press releases and junkets have very much tumbled down the agenda.

Since 2012, I have been working with The Holmes Report (now Provoke Media) to conduct an annual survey into the state of creativity in PR. I have a long background in senior PR agency work – we’re rewinding the clock a few years – and since then have specialised in creativity, which is something I train people how to be better at here at Now Go Create.

Many of these people are in PR, and one of my goals is to help them see how they can unlock their creative potential and, in doing so, help future-proof their careers.

In 2018, we furloughed – for want of a better word – the survey, because there had been big changes in the previous years and we didn’t feel that there was anything standout to report.

Then of course, Covid. When businesses went into lockdown in March 2020, work that had been lined up weeks and months in advance disappeared by the minute. It was that dramatic – each new call coming in meant a month’s income falling out of the window.

Like most people, I pivoted and took things online – but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t extraordinarily challenging, especially with childcare thrown into the mix. However, as the dust began to settle, I knew the time was right to revisit the Creativity in PR report to take the pulse of creativity in PR once again – hence the Creativity in PR – covid special 2021 . The survey went online a few months ago, and this week we launched the results.

I had already seen during the pandemic that the PR profession was arguably as important as ever in helping governments, brands and individuals to communicate. PR of one form or another was and creativity in lockdown was behind some of the most amazing things that happened last year – such as Marcus Rashford getting the Government to fund free school meals. PR played a part in putting Zoom (and not Skype) into the national vocabulary. It had a hand – pun intended – in getting the British people to clap the nation’s carers.

Unsurprisingly, the results of the survey showed an industry that had taken the pandemic on the chin.

  • Almost 26% of PR agencies rated their work as “inspirational” right now; pre-Covid, only 13% did.
  • Crucially, their clients backed them up: only 8% of brands said that their PR agency’s work was “inspirational” pre-Covid; this figure rose to more than 18% for work done during the pandemic.
  • As a result, perhaps, brands say they are now 45% more likely to approach their PR agency for big creative ideas.

People who work in PR are natural adaptors. They have had to be – social media, digital marketing, full-service agencies; they’ve all played a part in redefining what PR is, and while many of our respondents painted a grim picture of loneliness, at-home struggles and professional upheaval, they have mostly pulled through. Creativity in covid has taken on a new importance and value in relation to creating work that is authentic and true to brand, and public values too.

“When you’re a thinker by day, you’re a thinker by night, too”.

PRs say they have been using their time at home to learn about interesting new things – and, evidently, come up with clever new PR ideas for their clients. They yearn to come back to the office because team brainstorms by Zoom aren’t that much fun (though some prefer it), and most miss those serendipitous workplace encounters that lead to something unexpected.

They’ll be back behind their desks soon enough. Things look like they are heading in the right direction, and in-office work – even if only in hybrid form – looks set to prevail in the coming months and years.

The pandemic has shown that, whatever comes next, PRs are ready. They’ve proved their value when they were needed most, and in doing so I would hope that they have managed to bag themselves a bigger seat at the table.

PR remains an essential part of the comms mix, and when every channel is in a state of flux, sometimes it’s the proven ones that we fall back on for maximum effect.

Read the full report here.

You might be interested in our new e-learning – 25 lessons online for you to take at your own pace and our other articles on creativity during lockdown.

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