When it comes to Public Relations and Communications, we all start out with the best of intentions. We envision ourselves looking at each new project with the creative flair that drew us to the industry in the first place.
But as deadlines loom, it can be tempting to take shortcuts. Here are some of the ways busy PR Managers cut corners, and kill creativity in the process.
Avoid these bad habits that are killing creativity in your department at all costs.
1. You’re overly focused on what your competitors are doing
Naturally, you’re going to be keeping an eye on trends in your industry, and know what your main competitors are up to. But when your Marketing or Public Relations team come to you with a new idea, and your first question is “How do our competitors do this?” you’re showing no confidence in your own team.
Look at the idea based on its merits. Defining whether an idea is good or not based on whether a competitor does it is lazy and demoralising; it shows a lack of faith in your people. A good idea is a good idea, whether your competitors are doing it yet or not.
Why are you waiting for your competitors to do it first, when you can and should be leading the way? As I pointed out recently in my A-Z for PR graduates, Nokia played it safe while Apple took chances. Have courage in your convictions.
2. You prefer routine and consistent to risk and creativity
“How did we do this last year?” is a question tired, overworked Marketing managers often ask. It’s a shortcut. Hiding behind the dubious benefit of consistency, Corporate Communications teams pump out almost identical press releases year after year when announcing new product launches, annual results or awards wins.
How many global organisations have you seen do this?
- Company X announces 110m first quarter profits
- Company X announces 250m half-year profits
- Company X announces 340m third quarter profits
It’s boring. No one wants to read it. It’s not even difficult to come up with something a bit more inspiring.
- Company X boasts 15% profit increase after exciting first-quarter product launches
- “This is just the beginning” says Company X CEO on 110m Q1 profits
- Rapid expansion in the Americas sees Q1 profits of 110m for Company X
That’s your job. Let me say this again: It does not matter how you did it last year. Quit taking shortcuts and come up with something new that will get people talking.
Who cares how we approached this last year? That was then.
Would an infographic work better than that block of text? Is there an Influencer we can quote to give this press release greater reach? Can we do more to get this story told than push it on to news wires?
3. You’ve asked 17 people to track their changes on the document
“Draft it, run it by me, I’ll give the SVP a look and then you just need the relevant department head and the legal team to get their thoughts. Then we can send it to the CEO, and could you copy my mother and my therapist on that too please?”
For major company announcements like your Annual Report, perhaps all these people truly need to be involved. But for most day-to-day PR activities, that’s way too many cooks spoiling the plot. The Legal team will tend to veto anything that breaks with the norm to be on the safe side, as will Compliance – even if it doesn’t go against any policies and procedures.
Department heads and SVPs will often start making changes just to feel involved, or as some kind of strange ego-trip (we’ve all seen it happen). Joe’s on annual leave this week, and Anne doesn’t work on Mondays, so now you need to push your release back by a week in order to get feedback you don’t accept.
Keep your approvals process as slimmed down as possible. Trust your employees not to do anything outrageous.
You hired the people on your team because of their expertise, their imagination, their ability to self-motivate – so give them the brief, then take a step back and watch the magic happen!