Holmes Report 11 Sep 2013 // 3:44PM GMT
By Michael Schubert and Eric Turkington Welcome to the new era of creativity; a start-up, make-it universe where concepts are printed into 3D models in a matter of hours, where business challenges are hacked into working solutions in a matter of days, and where ideas move from concept to prototype to IPO in a matter of weeks and months, not years. Creativity is no longer about being creative. It’s about actually creating. What was once a conceptual ability to devise unique and imaginative ideas, is now a full-speed-ahead, dive-in-and-make-it-happen force that pervades today’s social, cultural and business worlds. The public relations industry, however, has been slow in embracing this new reality. The PR world has always been about the shaping of thoughts and ideas over the creation of content, experiences and technologies. Furthermore, this build-first-ask-questions-later ethos, marked by rule-breaking, speed and collaboration, often goes against the grain of the measured, risk-adverse sensibility of the seasoned communications professional. But in a world where ideas matter only as far as you can make and measure them, moving from idea to creation is essential. Here are several strategies communications professionals should consider to maximize their creative output in today’s "maker" world. Expanding the box PR firms love to tell their staff to “think outside the box,” an approach that too often manifests in people with similar backgrounds and expertise trying their best to push the boundaries of imagination without the core experience or skill sets to know or imagine what’s really possible. It takes technologists to envision new technology, gamers to imagine the next wave of gaming, filmmakers to conceive the future of film. A better ideation strategy, one that taps more potential as well as bridges the gap between concept and creation, is to “expand the box” by radically re-thinking the talent base we draw upon to ideate. In today’s fluid media landscape, fields like gaming, film, technology and design have more to offer communications than ever before. Companies who leverage these non-traditional experts not only see creative opportunities that others miss, they have the capability to act on them. Connecting to the business Truly creative ideas rarely get realized unless they are connected to the core drivers of your customer's business. Because so many agencies only interact with clients who are their professional peers in communications and marketing functions, they often constrain their creativity to traditional communications tactics – from employing clever, counter-intuitive pitch angles to proposing non-traditional campaign partners. Being connected to the people creating and driving the business not only provides a richer knowledge-base to ideate from, it focuses creative energies on real business challenges and provides access to the decision-makers who can take ideas off the page and into reality. Fast-prototyping Communications has much to learn from the world of “hacking,” the driving force behind many of today’s most successful innovations. Think about the start-up developer who envisions a feature, builds it overnight, gathers data and refines it in the morning. Instead of debating the merits of a new idea for days or weeks, they quickly make it a reality, taking discussions out of the realm of theory and into the realm of facts. This fast-prototyping approach holds tremendous potential in the communications field, where return-on-investment has always been tough to anticipate, preventing countless creative ideas from ever seeing the light of day. Through piloting, measurement, and refinement, we have a new avenue to try out and see through ideas whose novelty and ambition can cloud our assessment of their plausibility. The more capability a firm has to both conceive and build its ideas, the more likely it will be to sell and execute them. Hack-a-thon approach Hack-a-thons have demonstrated tremendous results by bringing together top tech talent in a competitive, time-pressured environment, with everyone focused on a specific shared objective. It’s time communications professionals start embracing this new model of accelerated productivity and innovation. An agency shouldn’t have to take months to develop plans and proposals, when it can convene cross-functional teams to deliver plans and prototypes in days. Not only would this save time, it would shift the industry’s thinking toward a new paradigm of creativity and collaboration. It’s time for the PR industry to re-invent itself and more fully embrace the creative capabilities that technology now affords us. In a world where ideas matter only as far as they can be built and deployed, the agencies who thrive will be those whose thinking comes from the widest range of thinkers, and who have the ability to take those ideas off the page and into the real world where their impact can be felt. Michael Schubert is chief innovation officer at Ruder Finn and Eric Turkington is VP and director of corporate innovation at Ruder Finn.