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September 30, 2014 / Stephanie Vermillion

Creativity: Beyond the Big Idea

Creativity: Beyond the Big IdeaCreativity is the buzzword of the decade.

Public relations professionals are encouraged (read: required) to think outside the box. And rightfully so. This kind of clever thinking brings forth standout ideas like Share a Coke or WestJet’s Christmas Miracle.

But, while those big ideas are usually the most talked about and appreciated, creativity can – and should – go well beyond a publicity stunt or national campaign.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the process of developing the next award-winning grand idea that we miss the little places where creativity could make our usual work less usual and those day-to-day deliverables shine.

Don’t settle with the template.

Consistency-wise, templates are great. They ensure everything you produce follows the same format and, especially for agencies, guarantee your works come across as unified to the client.

But templates can also kill creativity. Sometimes a news story would be better told with bullet points and visuals. In fact, sometimes a brand’s news would be best told via infographic or video, with few written words.

Now, I’m not saying you should always go against the company template and get yourself in trouble. Follow the template when it fits, but don’t be afraid to share a different idea with your reasoning behind it (that’s why they hired you!). And, most importantly, don’t let yourself get so stuck in template mode that you won’t even consider alternate storytelling forms at all.

Keep goals in mind.

Creating that big publicity stunt is fun. You get to make a big splash, and people recognize your work. But you should never implement a publicity stunt just for the sake of doing it. That’s when PR pros lose credibility, and when our work becomes considered less critical, more “fluffy.”

Like all effective PR work, the idea and tactics must be centered around your brand’s goal. Fortunately, strategic can also mean creative. If you’re trying to increase online sales, brainstorm a new Facebook campaign that includes the “offer” option, or use a creative pitch to land a big placement with a target online publication to drive site visits.

Sure, it probably won’t make national news, but that kind of creative, strategic thinking helps you prove your worth with valuable, measurable success.

Watch and learn from other creative pros.

Sometimes we get so stuck in our ways that we physically can’t think outside the box because we don’t realize it can be done a different way. That’s why you must monitor other PR professionals – not to steal their work, but to expand your horizons and help you see things in a different light.

I like to keep a bookmarks folder for standout industry work (remember, standout can be as simple as a new way to write a news release) so I can recall those ideas regularly. You can also look out for those industry awards to get a feel for the latest top-notch work. Within those award programs, it’s often the ideas that go beyond a big splash and have measurable success that win. Learn from those thinkers.

Here in the PR industry, we’re fortunate to be tasked with the incredibly fun task of thinking big and operating creatively. But don’t forget to think beyond the big, breakout idea. Sprinkle creativity into everything you do.

Although it may take time to get noticed (and it will get noticed, I promise!), stepping outside the box and living with a creative mindset day in, day out is good for your career, beneficial for your brand(s), and, in my opinion, just plain fun!

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