29 Nov Creativity and Competition: The Perfect PR Combo
Whether it’s finding fresh angles for stale content or using quirky metaphors to make dry or overly technical topics interesting, creativity is an important asset for PR pros. While both of these examples focus on creative execution at a more granular level, I want to also share a real-life example of how creativity can improve how we approach problems or challenges at a higher level.
One of the clients we work with offers enterprise storage solutions. Storage software is vital in the B2B world, but it’s an extremely niche vertical and the technology is about as esoteric as it can get. There are only so many storage publications and reporters out there, and often, the topics are too technical for traditional technology news sites. But that doesn’t stop us.
While I could illustrate how we got creative at the granular level and compared legacy enterprise storage and modern enterprise storage to middle school dances and Coachella (this actually happened), our major creativity triumph happened at a much higher level. We decided to turn our media relations efforts into a friendly internal competition.
It originally started as just a one-off proposition from our account lead — “I’ll buy District Taco for the person who lands their pitch first” — but after she realized how motivating free food was for us, we decided to turn it into a full-fledged competition. We began by creating two poster boards. The first tracked how many media opportunities each individual scored in the quarter, while the second tracked the team’s overall progress in achieving our quarterly goals. The front-runner in the former gets to wear a paper crown that says “YAS QUEEN”, which I honestly find more motivating than the free food. Once the quarter ends, the winner gets a free lunch of their choice (within reason, of course) and bragging rights. For the latter competition, if the team reaches our quarterly goals*, SpeakerBox buys all of us lunch and we get to have a mini celebration (with wine if it’s after work hours).
*Note: These are stretch goals we set with the client, and while we work our tails off to reach these goals, it doesn’t always happen. I think this is important because it pushes us out of our comfort zone. And let’s be honest, competitions are no fun without the challenge.
I’m using this example in my blog post not just because I think it’s fun and creative — I’m using it because it works. Being creative just for creativity’s sake is useless. Our idea of starting a friendly competition and making visual aids to track our individual and team progress is a creative way to push us even harder towards achieving our media relations goals. Not to say we were in any way slacking off before, but the added incentives of free food, paper crowns, and fear of your face sitting at “0 opportunities” when your colleagues are at 2, have pushed us to go the extra mile in our pitching.
Although I said this example focused on creativity at the higher-level, the impact this competition made could be seen at the granular level as well. The competition encouraged us to get more creative and ambitious with our pitches because the only way we could succeed (and steal the coveted YAS QUEEN crown), was to draft a compelling pitch that reporters just couldn’t say no to. I thought this was a great sign that our creative idea was a success — it was fueling not only how we approached our media relations efforts, but how we executed as well. And it’s paying off! We’ve secured 10 opportunities so far this quarter – and, as you can see, the successes are spread fairly evenly across the team.
Here are some things that we’ve learned as we pursued our goals:
Failure can be motivating
Failure shouldn’t deter you from thinking creatively. Not every idea works, which is why it’s important to fail fast. If we weren’t reaching our goals, or the competition turned ugly and pitted us against each other (which is likely a sign of a completely different issue), we’d stop because it’s clear that our extra time and efforts are of better use toward the actual pitching. If you’re trying something new, set a deadline and re-evaluate whether or not it’s worth continuing at that point. Maybe it needs tweaking, or maybe it’s a complete failure, but regardless you came out of the experience with new insights that you can use later down the line.
Get into it
When you do come up with a creative idea that works, make sure that it’s something you and the team can really buy into. For example, we could have done the competition and just kept track of our metrics in the spreadsheet like we usually do, but instead we created the posters because they’re visual, interactive, and a fun way to engage the entire team. Believe me, adding that extra bar to the thermometer or taking the crown from your co-worker’s face is much more fun than updating a spreadsheet. It’s also equally as humiliating when your face is sitting two opportunities behind your co-workers — spreadsheets don’t light a fire under your butt nearly as much as having the entire company look at your smiling face sitting at “0”.
Creativity is critical
Creativity is a critical asset for PR pros – it’s the x-factor that might help pique a reporter’s interest, turn a good blog post into a great blog post, or inject new energy into your account strategy. Regardless of if your idea works or is a complete fail, exercising your creative thinking muscle is important. Just remember, the idea should help move the needle in some way. If it doesn’t, embrace the art of failing fast. Make sure it’s something you and your team can and want to buy into.
And above all, have fun! You can’t be creative without having a little enjoyment.