The communication industry has been dominated by the latest buzzwords for many years. Businesses and individuals have devoted endless hours to mastering the newest tech, in a race to call themselves experts in the competitive digital world.
But in becoming focused on processes and tools, they may have lost sight of the one element that underpins the communication discipline in its entirety. The landscape may chop and change, but the bedrock of all good campaigns, professionals, and businesses remains constant. It’s time to put creativity back on the map.
Earlier this year, I organized a five-day accelerator programme for communication professionals. The vision was to bring together global influencers in the PR and communication industry to share their insight with mid to senior-level professionals in a uniquely immersive, interactive way. Through customer development and research, we identified three key themes that the event would address: digital engagement; measurement and evaluation; and personal and business development and leadership. These were the three areas delegates said they needed help, support, and advice to master.
But there was one unidentified theme that emerged above all others as the single most important element of any communication professional, campaign or business. And this was creativity.
From planning communication strategies, measuring the value of PR, mastering innovation in a brave new digital world, and climbing the career ladder, creativity is the one thing all communicators need to succeed. Data is great to have, and in our increasingly digital world, we’ve come to rely on data to tell the story and prove our points. But if data isn’t used to enhance and fuel creativity, it isn’t being utilized to its full potential. In the words of Ben Bale, Creative Innovation Director at Drum and FCA speaker, “Data doesn’t kill creativity, it just kills the creative ego.”
Perhaps one of the reasons we overlook creativity is because we feel it can’t be measured and therefore proven. In fact, it can, and should, be measured. One of the best ways to do so is to look at what creativity actually does. When it comes to work, creativity delivers an emotional impact and makes people share a feeling. Facial tracking and coding can help us do this. We can harness the new technologies we’ve worked so hard to master and use them to prove the value of creativity beyond any doubt.
Creativity needs to be prioritized through any organization, from the top downwards. It makes good leaders. We heard from Colin Byrne, CEO UK and EMEA at Weber Shandwick and one of the most respected and revered communicators operating today, that one should never underestimate the importance of a creative mindset. He advised this applies even if an individual doesn’t see his or her role as particularly creative. Within the upper echelons of large businesses, creativity can take a back seat as steering the vessel to greater heights is prioritized. But without creative thinking, success will always be limited.
Leaders also have a duty to encourage and prioritize creativity within their organizations. Gabriela Lungu, the founder of WINGS Creative Leadership Labs, gave us her top tips on how leaders can prioritize creativity. She advises setting KPIs for creativity, entering creative awards, setting specific creative objectives to make leaders part of a culture that embraces creativity, and bringing clients along on the journey too. Don’t just reel out the figures and the stats. Show them how creativity influenced the work, and the response it generated.
In the words of one of the FCA mentors JC Oliver, founder of Flavas31 and former Chief Creative Officer at Microsoft, “We focus too much on the commercialization of business and not enough on creativity. It needs to be in the DNA of a business, how you come up with ideas, how you inspire people with a culture.” The PR industry has lost sight of creativity, but it lies at the heart of successful communication, successful careers, and successfully future-proofed organizations.