I will always remember being asked during an important new business pitch to give an example of feedback received from a prospect who didn’t select us and the reasons why.   It turned out to be one of the most important questions posed during the RFP process and led to winning the business (well, that and a realistic creative approach!). Given the importance of the creative vs realistic debate, I thought it worth sharing some thoughts here.

Probably the most frustrating piece of feedback we receive on those rare occasions we do come up short in a competitive pitch is the generic statement “we went with a more creative approach”.   No tailored feedback or acknowledgement that the strategy proposed was sound, showed understanding of the market or clearly linked to the business’ wider objectives.   It’s the type of feedback that sends us to the pub to drown our sorrows and debate the injustice.

We often wonder how many PR buyers have been burnt during the pitch process selecting the agency with the whizzy, out of the box idea when reality hits and the PR programme needs to be evaluated. How many of these concepts have delivered measurable outcomes that have impacted the objectives the business is trying to achieve?

On the flip side, this is feedback we hear time and time again when talking to prospects who have been tempted by the flash option, but end up with little more than a gimmick. It only goes to strengthen our resolve.

That’s not to say we aren’t creative, we absolutely are, but at the core of our strategic thinking is ensuring our campaigns will resonate with the end audiences we are looking to reach but also appeal to the needs of the journalist – as we know the press will be our biggest critic! Often the most traditional of tactics can be the best to achieve the desired outcomes and shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. Storytelling, stunts and other “creatives” are often employed as smoke and mirrors to ensure ROI is never questioned.

In today’s communications landscape it has never been so challenging to reach target audiences. There are an array of traditional and new digital channels coupled with increasingly short attention spans and the expectation that content will be tailored.

Yes, there is a need for creativity but crucially this must have an audience-centric approach to the creation and delivery of these ideas, which engage audiences while achieving communications objectives.

While some PR agencies will pitch off the wall ideas and talk of telling stories, we firmly believe that the key to achieving a client’s objectives is to combine compelling ideas with purpose, that are tailored to the target audience. Otherwise, it is just noise for the sake of it.

Creativity is key but it must be able to be delivered, measured and achieve clear ROI for a business.

Hayley Goff, Chief Operating Officer


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