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Creativity in PR 2017


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The sixth edition of the landmark study into creativity in PR, conducted by the Holmes Report and Now Go Create.

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Creativity in PR 2017

  1. 1. Creativity in PR Global Study 2017 In association with Ogilvy THE HOLMES REPORT #CreativityInPR
  2. 2. Contents #CreativityInPR | 2 03 Introduction 05 The War for Ideas 14 Influences & Barriers 22 Talent
  3. 3. Introduction #CreativityInPR | 3 Arun Sudhaman The sixth edition of the Creativity in PR study once again helps reveal how creativity is transforming the public relations world. This year’s study reflects an industry increasingly at ease generating the big ideas that result in genuine business transformation. This is not just evident from the campaigns that we see winning in major award shows across the globe, but also in the practices and processes that are ensuring that creativity is viewed as a central element in organisational culture, rather than being viewed solely in terms of creative output. A good example of this comes from one of this year’s headline findings, that the creative director role — considered an exotic luxury when this study launched five years ago — is now well and truly entrenched across the PR industry. That does not mean, however, that the creative talent challenge has been solved. Respondents continue to point to a range of concerns, particularly when it comes to competing with other disciplines. Elsewhere, the client-agency divide continues to bedevil attitudes towards whether PR firms can be entrusted with leading creative duties. This Report polled almost 300 people from more than 35 countries across the world, helping us once again uncover some fascinating findings about the state of creativity in PR. Respondents came from agency and in-house, and from a range of industries and sectors. All respondents answered a variety of questions during the three months the study ran during the summer of 2017, encompassing attitudes towards creativity; tools and skills; opportunities and challenges; and suggestions and advice. We are very glad to bring you the fifth edition of this landmark study, particularly after the remarkable support the first four editions have received. As always, we appreciate your time, thoughts and feedback. Arun Sudhaman, CEO and Editor-in-Chief, The Holmes Report THE HOLMES REPORT
  4. 4. Introduction #CreativityInPR | 4 Claire Bridges In our 6th year of researching and writing this report what strikes me is that the results over that time show that PR professionals are more confident about their abilities than they were when we began. More resources are devoted to training and rewarding creative behaviours, the need for creative leadership (whether CD or otherwise) is now well established and creative confidence is high. There are no major changes in the year on year results. However staying still is not an option when competition is fiercer than ever with many changes afoot and the findings do point to some key issues that the industry needs to address for those who work in the PR function to prove more consistently that they can devise creative ideas that also deliver on effectiveness. This is where the findings are surprising in relation to evaluation of creative ideas; still nearly 30% of agencies don’t see it as a priority and over 50% of in-house respondents say it’s an average or low priority. How can this still be the case in today’s data-driven and data-rich environment? How can any client or stakeholder agree to ideas without a solid rationale for them? If effectiveness in terms of sales, reputation, behaviour change or other relevant measures can’t be measured then it won’t (and arguably shouldn’t be valued) undermining any credibility in the idea. Risk-aversion is cited by agencies as the number one barrier to getting creative ideas away (71%) and surely these two issues must be linked. ‘Does the potential success of taking the risk outweigh the present conditions?’ This is one of the key questions to answer when managing risk (source: Neil Patel). Research shows that companies who innovate have processes in place to manage risk. Risk-taking is related to culture, particularly related to trust, and it would seem that in house teams and agencies have to find ways to approach and manage risk if they want to innovate and sell ideas internally and externally. I’d love to hear from anyone that is addressing this in practical ways. As ever thank you for your input into this year’s study. We’d love to hear from you as to what you’d like this report to include and any ideas as how to continue to make it relevant and useful to you. Claire Bridges, founder, Now Go Create
  5. 5. The War for Ideas #CreativityInPR | 5 Creativity continues to attract a very high premium when it comes to agency hiring decisions. Clients rate it at 8.6 out of 10, with 54% rating it 9 or higher. Interestingly, agencies see it slightly differently: When asked how important creativity is to their clients’ hiring decisions, they rank it as just 7.21 out of 10, reinforcing the gap that first emerged last year. 7 0 10 9 How important is creativity when clients decide whether to hire you or your agency? How important is creativity in your decision to hire & retain an agency?
  6. 6. The War for Ideas #CreativityInPR | 6 Once again, we ask the question on everybody’s lips — are PR firms actually leading creative on behalf of their clients, ahead of advertising or digital agencies? At best, the results remain mixed. 48% of agency respondents said that their PR agency has been designated as lead creative agency, while a further 21% added that it had been considered. On the client side, however, only 9% had turned to their PR firm as lead creative agency. Discouragingly, only 53% of clients would consider their PR firm for this role, down from 74% last year. AGENCY IN-HOUSE No, but it has been considered No, but I would consider No, it has not been considered for this role No, I would not consider them for this role 48% 9% 21% 53% 31% 38% Yes Has your PR agency ever been designated as lead creative agency?
  7. 7. The War for Ideas #CreativityInPR | 7 When asked why PR firms are not being entrusted with lead creative duties, each side appears happy to blame the other. Clients point to a lack of strategic agency capabilities as the key stumbling block, while agencies think in-house structures are responsible. Clients also have concerns about PR agency creative quality. To be fair, so do PR agencies. ‘PR agencies are the red-headed step children of the communications business and don’t get access to C-Suite decision-makers.’ ‘Client perceptions about PR creativity and additional budget to drive integrated campaigns.’ ‘Clients need to be open to new roles for PR agencies.’ ‘PR agencies are wasting time trying to redefine PR instead of just adapting and doing the work. Less talk, more doing.’ 5% 52% 27% 42% 37% 14% 9% 25% 28% 31% 34% 28% None, they already are Client structure Budget PR agency creative quality Lack of strategic agency capabilities Lack of understanding of client business AGENCY IN-HOUSE What do you think are the barriers to PR agencies becoming the lead creative agency?
  8. 8. The War for Ideas #CreativityInPR | 8 More than two-thirds (68%) of clients are more likely to approach their agency for big creative ideas than they were 12 months ago, solidifying a positive trend that first became clear two years ago. ‘Clients want great ideas and don’t care who provides them.’ AGENCY IN-HOUSE Much more likely Slightly more likely There has been no change Slightly less likely Much less likely 15% 53% 30% 3% 0% 19% 29% 29% 10% 10% Compared with 12 months ago, are clients more or less likely to approach their PR agency for big creative ideas?
  9. 9. The War for Ideas #CreativityInPR | 9 How happy are clients with the creative capabilities of their agencies? 46% are described by their agencies as consistently happy, up from 44% last year. Meanwhile when clients are asked to rate the level of creativity at their PR agency, 58% opted for ‘Good’ while 41% saw it as ordinary or worse. 2017 2016 Yes, consistently Yes, sporadically No, it's a constant challenge NOt at all 46% 45% 8% 2% 44% 50% 7% In general, are clients happy with the creative capabilities of your agency? Inspirational 0% Good 58% Ordinary 26% Unsatisfactory 5% poor 5% non-existent 5% How would you describe the level of creativity at your PR agency?
  10. 10. The War for Ideas #CreativityInPR | 10 PR vs the world Surprisingly, management consultancies emerge as the agencies considered most creative by both agency and in-house respondents. PR agencies also fare remarkably well, with clients placing them ahead of advertising and digital shops, but behind experiential and media agencies. AGENCY IN-HOUSE PR Advertising Digital agency type Media Experiential Content Management consultancy Other 3.72 2.82 3.93 5.17 3.75 4.27 5.50 6.02 4.48 3.87 4.00 4.53 4.82 4.00 5.38 4.45 Please rank the creative quality of the following agencies. (8 is highest and 1 is lowest)
  11. 11. The War for Ideas #CreativityInPR | 11 Rising demands 23% of agency respondents note that clients are demanding ‘fundamentally’ greater levels of creativity from them, up from 17% in 2016. Overall, though, the needle has barely moved, with creative demands ranked 3.45 on a scale of 5, compared to 3.43 one year ago. No, not at all Yes, fundamentally higher 9% 12% 26% 30% 23% 2017 6% 13% 30% 35% 17% 2016 Agencies: Are clients demanding greater levels of creativity from you?
  12. 12. The War for Ideas #CreativityInPR | 12 The client/agency divide extends to how receptive in-house teams are viewed as being when it comes to creative ideas. Notably, more than 40% of agencies describe this as ‘ordinary’ or worse. Clients themselves are considerably more bullish. Inspirational Good Ordinary Unsatisfactory poor non-existent 3% 55% 28% 11% 3% 0% 9% 75% 13% 0% 0% 3% AGENCY IN-HOUSE In general, how would you describe the receptiveness of clients to creative ideas?
  13. 13. The War for Ideas #CreativityInPR | 13 Getting paid This year’s survey again addresses one of the fundamental issues that affects creativity. How exactly should agencies be reimbursed for their ideas? This question was put to both clients and agency people. Interestingly, both agencies and clients select ‘set fees for ideas’ as their top choice, suggesting that a more innovative approach to funding would help encourage idea development and overall creativity. Agencies, however, continue to favour billable hours (34%) far more than clients (21%). Only 18% of agencies, meanwhile, want their remuneration tied to sales results, compared to 36% of clients. 34% 21% 49% 39% 23% 25% 18% 36% AGENCY IN-HOUSE 2016 AVERAGE Billable hours Set fees for ideas Intellectual property & licensing of ideas Sales results tied to ideas In terms of developing ideas would you prefer to pay / be paid according to:
  14. 14. Influences & Barriers #CreativityInPR | 14 Quality The survey finds a marginal decrease in terms of the industry’s creative quality. Around 48% of agencies describe it as ‘inspirational’ or ‘good’, compared to 60% of in-house respondents. AGENCY IN-HOUSE 2016 AVERAGE Inspirational Good Ordinary Unsatisfactory poor Non-existent 6% 42% 38% 8% 4% 2% 12% 49% 27% 9% 3% 0% 9% 45% 33% 9% 4% 0% How would you describe the quality of creativity in the PR industry?
  15. 15. Influences & Barriers #CreativityInPR | 15 There is some evidence that the PR industry is moving in the right direction where creativity is concerned. Almost 60% of agencies think that the quality of creativity in PR campaigns has improved over the past year. However, clients are less likely to agree — 45% see no change. 24% of in-house staff say that creativity is overated versus just 1.5% of agency staff. The fact that nearly a quarter of in-house staff say that creativity is overrated seems contradictory given that when it comes to agency hiring decisions 54% of clients rate it 9 or higher. AGENCY IN-HOUSE 4% 39% 38% 17% 2% 6% 45% 39% 9% 0% worse same as usual slightly better much better dramatic improvement AGENCY IN-HOUSE Over the past 12 months, how do you rate any improvement in the quality of creativity in PR campaigns? Overrated 1% 24% 70% 45% 25% 24% 3% 6% Properly rated Underrated Not rated at all AGENCY IN-HOUSE How is creativity rated at your current business?
  16. 16. Influences & Barriers #CreativityInPR | 16 Top priority These figures have not changed markedly year on year – with 50% of agency staff saying that creativity is a fundamental priority in their business. However it’s down slightly for in-house practitioners at 29% vs 24% in 2016, with a 20% difference between agency and in-house. This is unsurprising given that creativity is the lifeblood for many agencies whilst in-house teams operate as part of wider marketing efforts. There are some other considerable differences between the two groups – still 30% of in-house practitioners say that it is an average or low priority compared to 18% of agency staff. AGENCY IN-HOUSE 2016 AVERAGE Fundamental High Average Low Non-existent 50% 33% 15% 1% 1% 24% 46% 24% 6% 0% 44 % 44 % 10 % 3 % 0 % How high a priority is creativity for your current business?
  17. 17. Influences & Barriers #CreativityInPR | 17 Evaluation Whilst equal numbers of agency and in-house staff (48%) say that evaluation of ideas is a high priority, it is somewhat surprising that whilst 23% of agency staff agree that it’s fundamental, there were no in- house respondents who agreed. This is versus 14% agreeing with that statement last year. A further 48% of in-house staff agree equally that evaluation is high or average priority. “Given the data-driven environment we now operate in and the overwhelming agreement that the industry must move beyond AVEs it seems remarkable that 50% of in-house respondents rate evaluation as merely an average priority. With 71% of agencies citing client risk aversion as the number one barrier to getting creative ideas away we can only assume that these 2 issues are linked. If effectiveness in terms of sales, reputation, behaviour change or other relevant measures can’t be measured then it won’t be valued, undermining any credibility in the idea.” Claire Bridges, Now Go Create Fundamental 23% 0% 48% 48% 20% 48% 7% 3% 1% 0% High Average Low Non-existent AGENCY IN-HOUSE How high a priority is evaluation of your creative ideas?
  18. 18. Influences & Barriers #CreativityInPR | 18 Drivers There are some marked differences between what agencies and their clients or in-house teams believe drives great PR work. For agencies shareability, (media, bloggers, influencers, opinion leaders, ordinary people—sharing with their friends, via social media or word-of-mouth) is rated as the number one factor in driving great PR work, whilst in- house practitioners rank it 4th citing authenticity as the most important driver. Agencies rate authenticity as half as important as a driver to their in-house counterparts. Storytelling (using stories to engage audiences, shape brands, spark conversations and drive social media) is the second most important factor for those in-house (7.5), scoring just 4 on the agency side. Engagement (prompting audience response both emotionally and in some tangible way: joining the conversation, participating in the debate, offering feedback, getting involved in a cause or issue) is the third most important consideration for in-house teams, who rank it higher than agencies. Of equal importance to both audiences are ethics and behavioural change with little difference between stickiness and purpose (contributing to social good rather than just focusing on business results). On the latter it would seem that this is falling out of favour with in-house teams with it being the lowest ranking in terms of drivers. “The lower ranking of storytelling by agencies this year is surprising given how much the word is bandied-about and even baked into the approach and ethos of some. PR people have always been connected to stories in the sense of creating news and now content, and storytelling offers a framework for marketers, PRO’s and leaders to communicate their messages. The current crop of emotionally-charged Christmas adverts focussing on storytelling rather than products highlights that this method of communication is not going anywhere fast. The popularity of the shareability measure is interesting as success here may mean that something is popular, but is not necessarily effective in driving the behaviour change that clients are looking for. Linking the relationship between the two is something that the industry still needs to do better.” Claire Bridges, Now Go Create AGENCY IN-HOUSE Courage Authenticity Engagement Shareability Stickiness Ethics Purpose Behavioural change Storytelling (4.38/ (4.16/ (4.14/ (4.64/ (5.29/ (5.17/ (5.51/ (5.03/ (4.1/ 5.75) 7.88) 6.67) 5.76) 4.56) 4.94) 4.27) 4.85) 7.58) 0 10OUT OF In your opinion, what drives great PR work?
  19. 19. Influences & Barriers #CreativityInPR | 19 Visual/image-led communication still reigns for both groups as the most important trend with in- house teams continuing to value this highly – 63% this year vs 57% last year, and agencies citing 50%, slightly down on last year’s 55%. Co-creation remains popular – 41% in-house, 36% agency, both down on 2016. Seemingly contradicting the figures in question seven regarding purpose, social good is the second most influential trend informing creative work with 41% of in-house and 43% of agency respondents, both up on last year. The biggest difference in opinion is in relation to immersive experiences with just 27% of agencies citing its importance compared with 44% in-house. Unsurprisingly perhaps the old school bread and butter function of product placement remains more important to in-house teams with 19% vs 6% of agency respondents. Celebrities / influencers has also increased markedly over the past year. “The word influencer now has a much wider meaning than it has done historically given the digital environment and whilst it can tricky to define and measure, many agencies now have influencer marketing offers and the rise of bloggers, vloggers, Instagrammers and the like will be driving that year on year change. The importance of influencer marketing is only set to increase as brands navigate between maintaining control and consumer interaction.” Claire Bridges, Now Go Create AGENCY IN-HOUSE 36% 41% 6% 0% 31% 22% 50% 63% 27% 44% 37% 35% 4% 0% 43% 41% 23% 16% 6% 19% 38% 41% Which trends are most influential when it comes to informing your creative or marketing/communications work?
  20. 20. Influences & Barriers #CreativityInPR | 20 Barriers The number one barrier for agencies to creativity, following the same pattern as last year is client feedback or risk aversion – at 71%, up five points on 2016 (67%). In- house teams feel that lack of time is a bigger barrier than their agency counterparts at 44% and 31% respectively, and this has doubled as an issue in importance for clients (23% last year). Lack of budget is the second biggest barrier – similar feedback with 51% and 54% agency / in-house. Meanwhile, for clients, agency feedback or risk aversion has reduced to 13% - from 29% in 2016. “Again these results highlight the need for more robust evaluation measures, better briefs and clear objectives at the start of projects to make the work more accountable and to assuage client concerns around the risks involved when work is presented.” Claire Bridges, Now Go Create AGENCY IN-HOUSE What stops you or your company from being creative?
  21. 21. Influences & Barriers #CreativityInPR | 21 The top 3 things that would improve creative capabilities are quite different according to our audiences. For in-house teams the number one factor that would improve their own or their company’s creative capabilities is the ability to take more risks at 58%, whilst this ranked 3rd place with 29% for agencies. Clients cite more budget (49%) as do 32% of agency staff, which along with educating clients puts it the equal first improvement for agencies on 32%. Unsurprisingly in-house respondents don’t agree — just 9% saying that client education would improve things. “Research shows that companies who want to innovate must learn to manage risk and introduce processes to do so. In companies that stagnate, or worse die, their desire or ability to take risks has been shown to be very low. Whilst it’s not necessarily an easy thing to do and is related to the overall culture in a business, particularly related to trust, then in-house teams and agencies have to find ways to talk about and approach risk if they want to innovate. It doesn’t have to be about betting the farm; testing, experimenting and iterating and learning from mistakes can all be built into ways of working.” Claire Bridges, Now Go Create AGENCY IN-HOUSE What would improve your own or your company's creative capabilities?
  22. 22. Talent #CreativityInPR | 22 Creative director There is a major jump in the number of agencies employing a creative director — to 56% from 37% last year, suggesting that the role is becoming a formalized position within the agency model. And there is a corresponding drop in the proportion that believes the role is not necessary (23%). Disappointingly, though, there is no sign of positive movement in terms of the gender balance of creative directors. According to this year’s Creativity in PR study, the proportion of female creative directors has decreased to 30% this year, compared to 35% last year. Yes 56% 37% 13% 21% 23% 30% 8% 12% No, but we are considering it No, not necessary, it's part of everyone's job We'd like to but we cannot afford it 2017 2016 Do you have a creative director? 2017 2016 male 70% female 30% male 66% female 35% Is your creative director male or female?
  23. 23. Talent #CreativityInPR | 23 A consensus appears to be developing about the creative director’s responsibilities within the PR agency model. Respondents again opted for campaign ideas first (84%), ahead of new business (56%), with talent and training growing to 37%. Other suggestions included: ‘Critical cultural role: sets the tone in empowering everyone to be creative.’ ‘No idea. Very few people have ever met him.’ 1. Campaign ideas 2. New business 3. Design & branding 4. Talent & training 5. Other 84% 56% 37% 37% 8% How would you characterise the creative director's role & key duties:
  24. 24. Talent #CreativityInPR | 24 Recruitment Planners remain the most sought- after type of creative talent, perhaps because of the challenges the PR industry has faced in terms of incorporating this service into their model. They are followed close behind by art direction and/or design, reflecting the visual times in which we live. Of note, there is a big jump in the need for technologists. What types of creative talent does your business need?
  25. 25. Talent #CreativityInPR | 25 Previous work (44%) remains the most popular way to recruit for creativity, with awards ranking more importantly as a measure of an applicant’s abilities at 29% up almost 10% on 2016. A quarter still use no specific measures. One of the challenges often raised by PR firms revolves around their ability to attract the best creative talent. Accordingly, we again addressed this issue, with more respondents (33%) again stating that creative talent prefer to work at another type of agency, presumably in a competing discipline. Meanwhile, salaries (22%) overtake other concerns when it comes to posing a barrier to hiring creative talent. Other suggestions included: 2017 2016 29% 43% 16% 35% 44% 39% 25% 20% 41% 18% 40% 45% 30% 23% Applicant's awards portfolio Specific interview questions Specific interview test Use interviewer's judgement Assess interviewee's previous work Recommendation We don't use any specific methods How do you recruit for creativity? Salaries are higher elsewhere They prefer to work at another type of agency We don't try hard enough to hire them Our culture is not receptive to them Other 22% 33% 16% 11% 18% What stops creative talent joining your agency? “There is a lingering perception PR is not creative.” “All of the above plus they perceive having a PR agency on their CV is bad for their career.” “We don’t ask them, we breed our own.”
  26. 26. Talent #CreativityInPR | 26 When asked to list the top sources of creative talent for their business, 29% pointed to adland, ahead of other non-PR agencies (18%). Only 17% find the creative talent they need at other PR firms, while 9% hire from in-house and 12% from digital media. 17% 29% 18% 9% 8% 12% 7% Another PR agency Advertising agency Any other type of agency In-house Graduate recruitment Digital media (eg Facebook, Google, Buzzfeed...) Outside the media and marketing world What is the best source of creative talent for your business?
  27. 27. Talent #CreativityInPR | 27 Retention & development When it comes to retaining the talent hired, 23% of respondents believe that their company does an excellent job, up 5% on 2016, with the majority doing an average job (57%). Excellent Average Poor Don't know 23% 57% 13% 7% How good a job does your company do when it comes to retaining creative talent?
  28. 28. Talent #CreativityInPR | 28 The barriers to retaining creative talent are the need for variety (45% want to work at a different type of agency), salary (42%), lack of career development options (27%) with 23% agreeing that the culture is not receptive, up 8% on 2016. Salary They want to work at a different type of agency Our culture is not receptive Lack of career development options They are not offered enough opportunity to contribute Creativity is not supported by management/leadership 42% 45% 23% 28% 16% 9% What are the barriers to retaining creative talent?
  29. 29. Talent #CreativityInPR | 29 There is little significant movement in most of these figures, although there is a 6% decrease in promotion opportunities on 2016. Despite its importance to business, in particular in agency respondents almost 40% of respondents still say they do nothing to encourage creativity and creative behaviour. 2017 42% 16% 31% 38% 2016 39% 18% 37% 44% Internal awards Financial incentives Promotion opportunities We don't How do you encourage creativity and creative behaviour?
  30. 30. Talent #CreativityInPR | 30 62% of our respondents said their company’s HR practices including remuneration, appraisals, rewards and training were average or worse, poor or non-existent. 35% felt that they were good with just 4% saying they were consistently excellent. Consistently excellent good average poor Non-existent 4% 34% 41% 13% 8% How good are your company's HR practices - remuneration, appraisals, rewards, training - when it comes to supporting creativity?
  31. 31. About #CreativityInPR | 31 About the holmes report The Holmes Report is the authoritative voice of the global public relations industry, dedicated to proving and improving the value of public relations by providing insight, knowledge and recognition to public relations professionals. The Holmes Group was founded in 2000 by Paul Holmes, publisher and CEO, who has more than two decades of experience writing about and evaluating the public relations business and consulting with both public relations firms and their clients. The Holmes Group delivers against its mission by providing the most sophisticated reporting and analysis on public relations trends and issues, along with an extensive global footprint of events and awards. For more information please visit About Now Go Create Claire Bridges is Chief Spark and Founder of leading creative training consultancy Now Go Create, whose philosophy is that everyone can be creative. Claire is an ex- WPP Consumer MD and Creative Director who has worked with some of the world’s biggest brands in her previous 20-year PR career and she now runs Now Go Create, delivering workshops around the world that last from three hours to week long creative leadership intensives and ongoing programmes. She has worked on hundreds of creative projects and trained thousands of people around the world. Claire’s new book In Your Creative Element, The Formula for Creative Success in Business explores the question ‘What does it take to be creative in business?’ and features proprietary work undertaken by the author for her MSc in Innovation, Creativity and Leadership from the Cass Business School at City University London. In Your Creative Element is highly practical and packed with case studies and tips from creative experts and organisations including the NHS, United Nations, Twitter, Punchdrunk, Sky Media and Paddy Power as well as some of the world’s most successful advertising and PR agencies including the Holmes Report’s Most Creatively Awarded Agency in the World 2016 - Unity. For more information please visit