Posted: April 20, 2015, 2:20 p.m.
by Sadie Schwarm.
Creativity is a mind map. It’s a philosophy. And it is a necessity for the public relations industry. Employers crave creatives who breed genius campaigns. In a world based around structure, employers need ideas — creative ideas.
According to Patricia Martin the CEO of LitLamp, an award-winning marketing firm that combines social research with strategic communications to help clients lead change in a digital culture, there is an old joke, “Q: How many creatives does it take to screw in a lightbulb? A: Does it have to be a lightbulb?”
The 2014 edition of the Creativity in PR | A Global Study revealed that the PR industry’s increasing investment in creativity is beginning to pay off, despite continued friction with clients over ideas and budgets.
The study found that nearly half of the respondents said the quality in PR campaigns has improved over the past year, showing that creativity is on the rise.
Although definitions of creativity vary from agency to agency and person to person, Martin stated that the best creatives are ones who “express optimism, relentless curiosity in the face of ambiguity and a radical desire to see things differently.”
In addition, Molly Bretag, an assistant account executive at Ogilvy Public Relations in Chicago, defined the creative process as how you approach an idea.
“It is about thinking in new and original ways, and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone,” Bretag said.
From a young age we are taught to think outside of the box, yet we are confined by strict timelines and schedules, specifically through the education systems and nine-to-five work days. This structured lifestyle trains people to live in the confines of schedules which may conflict with creatives’ ability to create to the best of their ability.
Creativity as a skill
Creativity is a skill that job seekers know they need, but they can’t just stick a label on it. If you have to call yourself creative, are you really even creative? The increased demand for creativity gives the term more value, but has it changed anything else?
Martin’s firm, LitLamp, is evidence of creativity in action.
“We nurture creativity. We must. It’s our life blood,” Martin said.
But, to be successful, it takes more than just employees having this skill. Clients should participate in the creative process, as well.
“We also nurture it among client teams — it’s part of why they retain us. We do future planning and scenario building with clients — it’s a creative process that they’re a part of,” Martin said.
In order to be creative, one must be ambitious with ideas.
“We constantly work to balance ambitious imaginations against business realities,” Martin said.
She added, “The worst is to let a failed idea fester. Creative grudge-holding is bad manners. I recall a guy from Pixar telling me, ‘You have to be willing to let someone draw on top of your drawing and not get pissed off.’”
Innovation requires two qualities: patience and acceptance.
“Ambitious optimists are often dismissed. Business is full of cynics. Cynics can want to spur innovation and still have very hide-bound ideas about what’s possible,” Martin said.
Accepting rejection and not taking it personally are integral to having a creative foundation. According to Martin, creatives see themselves as risk-takers.
“There can be a really healthy and exciting interplay between seeing the risk and taking a creative leap,” Martin said.
Similarly Bretag added, “All my work requires some degree of creativity. I am always learning, which constantly propels my career forward.”
Creativity has been around forever, but lately it has made more of an appearance. Millennials seem to awaken this term more than any other generation previously.
“Millennials are eager, hungry in fact, for mastery. So I find in my daily work and in my research of the age group that opportunities to learn — especially through travel and hands-on experiences — can be very motivating,” Martin said.
Bretag shared similar thoughts.
“Millennials are willing to push themselves outside of their comfort zones,” she said, adding that they take more risks and are fueled by the challenges creativity requires.
Martin acknowledged that the trouble is that it takes time and rigor to master creativity.
“Millennials grew up in an age of time compression, so it’s a test of patience and persistence,” Martin said.
Many skills take years to build, but millennials do have a step in the right direction with their passion. Martin said that this is why it is great to combine strengths and pair up older and younger team members because “everyone gets stretched.”
The best way to build these skills is with a plan. “These days, we are focusing more and more on supporting forward-looking leaders to help them realize ambitious projects and visions that bring the future to their organizations,” Martin said.
LitLamp has scenario-planning retreats, brand strategy workshops and foresight seminars where they can identify the trends and behaviors that need to be considered so that a new direction or program can succeed.
Defining creativity is not an easy task because it is subjective. However, it is the free flow of ideas and opinions that leads to these ideas: ideas that breed great campaigns. Great ideas come from great creatives, which is a reality that will not disappear in the near future.