Does the Agency Model and Leadership Impact the Future of Creativity in Communications?


The Holmes Report recently released their fourth annual Creativity in PR Global Study and the results present a mixed bag on the status of right brain thinking in the PR profession. While there has evidently been an uptick in key areas – for instance viewing creativity as a key element in agency culture and more resources being devoted to creativity – there is still work to be done.

The study, conducted in association with H+K Strategies, provides both a snapshot and a somewhat longer view of the profession relative to its creative path.  But as with any study, the real insights are when the results of similar questions are considered together.

This year’s study included the question “Do you think the PR industry is set fair to deliver and lead creativity in the next five years, in terms of …?”. Respondents had four categories to respond to: Talent (hiring, training, diversity of workforce), Innovation, Agency Business Model, and Leadership.

Here’s how the responses netted out:

Unfortunately, this question wasn’t included in last year’s study, so there’s no way to know if there’s been a change. But there are both insights and dichotomies when the responses to this question are compared to the response to others.

Take talent for instance. Responses to a separate question about how agencies reward creativity indicated less than half (45.7%) do so as part of an annual performance review and a third don’t reward it at all. Taking that into account, how then could the industry as a whole be well positioned to hire, train and diversify for creativity into the foreseeable future? How many people – regardless of age group – will want to continue to work in an industry that says it values creativity, but your chances of being rewarded for it are less than 50 percent?

Let’s move to innovation. The greatest percentage of respondents to this question believes that the industry is poised to lead in this area. That’s all good, but when compared to the 50% of respondents who rated the current quality of creativity as ordinary in a separate question, there’s clearly a lot of work that needs to be done to get the industry to a leadership position in innovation over the next five years.

The Agency Model received the lowest percentage of yes votes relative to the long-term view and the highest number of no’s. Should we be surprised? The model has been in question for some time now, yet no one seems to know what to do about it. Unfortunately, when these numbers are combined with the fact that Leadership got the second lowest number of yes votes and the second highest number of no’s to this same question, it’s not difficult to see that the industry may be stymied in its efforts to be more creative.

Clients and agency personnel alike are providing some possible solutions. When asked if they could only do three things to improve their own or their company’s creative capabilities here are the top five responses:

      Improve use of insight

      Ability to take more risks

      Educate clients

      More budget

      Clearer client briefs

Three of the above require more direct money and two require more time, which equates to more money. With money involved, change in the agency model and leadership mindset will be necessary to address all or most of these.

In other parts of the report, client input suggests they’re willing to spend the money on innovative ideas, but not if there’s no data to back up the approach. Advertising agencies have never had a problem with this. They create ideas, test them, iterate on the results then present concepts based on data. Brainstorming might have gotten them to the initial idea, but the results of the brainstorm typically don’t go immediately to the client without some kind of data to back it up. That’s a model that PR firms aren’t used to operating within but may need to get comfortable with.

It’s encouraging to see that the industry as a whole is continuing to move toward a greater focus on being more creative. This has been a conundrum that has affected PR for decades. But verbalizing what you want to be and proving it are two different things. Rather than pointing to ad agencies and wondering why they get to wear the creative mantle, PR needs to take a clue from them and mimic what’s allowed them to do so. It’s going to have to start with agency and in-house leadership – their future and the industry’s may depend on it.

Trend of Top Journalists Moving into PR Can Enhance Integrity and Transparency


By the time recipients of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize were announced in April, two of its winning journalists had already switched professions to public relations. The news dismayed many media people as it served as a reminder of the dwindling newspaper business, and particularly the downfall of small-town news and its public service stories.
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The newspaper reporters, Rob Kuznia of The Daily Breeze in Torrance, California, and Natalia Caula Hauff of The Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina, left their jobs for different reasons.

Kuznia, who won a local reporting Pulitzer for a series of stories on corruption in a local school district, was struggling to pay rent, living paycheck-to-paycheck on his former wage. Hauff, who won the public service award for a seven-part series on domestic violence in the state, wanted to start a family and needed a reprieve from her demanding work environment.

Their moves into public relations don’t seem as shocking as perhaps they do timely. Newspaper reporter regularly ranks as one of the worst careers due to its low pay and high stress situations. Paired with the decline of print journalism and subsequent job cuts, the choice to change professions is often made for journalists.

Yet the loss of journalism’s top reporters is primed to become PR’s gain. Similarities between the professions, such as great storytelling, the ability to work under tight deadlines, and the need for a wealth of good contacts, make journalists appealing additions to the industry. The shift may also shape the attitude of the future of PR, and offers the potential for more transparency and integrity in the industry.


In our current digital age, keeping news and facts hidden from the public is increasingly difficult. It’s also potentially risky for client reputation if data is leaked from an outside source without context, and may give the impression that a company is concealing important information.

More than ever, we are living in a time of instant global sharing, with the looming prospect that one can’t hide, so why try? Emails can be forwarded in seconds and social media posts may go viral and show up in search engine results before involved parties have a chance to shape the course of dialogue. It’s a time of co-creation between brands and the public, and being prepared by being open can put a company ahead of the game.

Since journalists have been trained to uncover the truth and share the facts with accuracy, this mindset in public relations can help brands control the message and better serve their customers by welcoming conversation and honesty.


With transparency comes integrity. Of course, public relations has its own code of ethics, and top professionals in the field already operate with a keen sense of moral principles.

According to the Public Relations Society of America, upholding integrity and public trust are essential to maintaining the profession’s role and reputation.This is done in part by allowing the free flow of truthful and accurate information, as well as open communication to promote informed decision making.

Welcoming award-winning former journalists into the industry can further strengthen and protect high ethical standards with their dedication to sharing the facts in an unadulterated manner. This focus on embracing openness and actively disclosing company data can bring further confidence to the field, as well as from clients and potential clients. It may not only bolster client reputation, but also make the company at large more appealing to do business with.

In the future, public relations will remain in strong demand, especially as new technologies create different channels of communication and environments that foster the rapid exchange of information.

Perhaps not every journalist is suited for the field; however, exceptional reporters with shrinking news outlets available to them are finding public relations an attractive alternative for sharing their talents. Their commitment to imparting honest information in fast-paced and fast-thinking situations may also make them an asset to public relations in our hyperconnected era of digital communication.

How Brands Are Using Live Video Events: The Opportunity for PR


New Balance, MasterCraft, Pottery Barn. Three big U.S. brands, one innovation in common: using live video events to improve public relations. The game changing potential of live, interactive broadcasts is already in motion. Take, for instance, the rapid growth of live-streaming platforms such as Ustream, Brandlive, Meerkat and Periscope. How are top brands using these live video technologies successfully, and what role should PR play in this process?

New Balance: Finding the right balance between in-store and online media
Sports footwear giant New Balance uses live video to build multi-event product launches. Consumers and retailers have been invited to “hear about all the latest in #runnovation and get your questions answered by the product team, live from #NBHQ!” Company spokesperson Tom Taylor has praised live video as “a powerful and consistent means of visually connecting with fans and customers, bridging the gap between in-store and online”.

If retail is on track for a high-tech, interactive future, the footwear brand is stepping in the right direction. Video kiosks at the brand’s retailers create in-store hype, while its live webcasts integrate social feeds, chat and e-commerce. New Balance also uses live video internally to give field reps the low-down on its products and brand message.

MasterCraft: Mastering the art of product education
Another brand using live video events for both training and consumer awareness is premium sports boat manufacturer MasterCraft. The company sought a streamlined method to inform its 150 boat dealers about new models. It also desired real-time, visual engagement with its geographically diverse consumers. As MasterCraft’s Director of Marketing, Jason Boertje, told Retail TouchPoints, “The more we can show our product when we educate the consumer, the better off we’ll be.” Using live videos with real-time question and answer feeds has increased the sense of participation from consumers and dealers alike.

Boertje believes that an interaction-based live video model offers a promising return on investment. Digital marketing research by MasterCraft’s live video platform, Brandlive, indicates that consumers are more likely to buy a product featured on a live, interactive broadcast than on a pre-recorded video. Plus MasterCraft can use Brandlive’s post-video quizzes and attendance stats to gauge the learning and loyalty of its dealer network. Creating and archiving live videos about sales, product specs and upkeep is proving convenient for the company and practical for sellers to access.

Pottery Barn: Harvesting the hype around holidays
Home-furnishing store chain Pottery Barn is converting public fanfare around holidays into live video. Online events such as “Host a Spooktacular Halloween Party” and “DIY Easter Baskets” are fun, informative and useful. Quality content adds value for viewers and can improve brand loyalty. Therefore, Pottery Barn crafts the perception of valuable content by asking viewers to register for “exclusive access” and by posting Facebook promos with in-house designers.

Nick Wheatley from VideoCommerce observes that, like Pottery Barn, the majority of brands using live video are not hiring professional talent. Instead, they are putting their own employees in the limelight. This strategy not only reduces costs; it also lets employee devotion and knowledge shine through.

How PR can ramp up its offerings
In a world where companies can deliver PR messages straight to the consumer via live video, how and why should PR firms assist with this process?

Fritz Brumder, CEO and co-founder of Brandlive, puts forward the following case in PR Daily:

“The good news is that PR firms are uniquely qualified to claim ownership of live video, because their media outreach efforts tend to focus more on timely news or event-driven campaigns such as product launches.

A PR agency looking to beef up its live interactive video offerings must know how to successfully build on its traditional skill sets. Based on our experience at Brandlive producing over 3,000 live interactive video events for over 120 brands, PR firms that can pull together a team with the following skills to form a “live streaming video center of excellence” will be best positioned to succeed:

  • Structuring and crafting brand and product stories
  • Preparing client executives for on-camera/on-stage appearances
  • Activating social interaction
  • Knowledge of audio/video production”.

The business case for PR involvement
As Brumder points out, PR agencies must formulate “a business case for why their live video capabilities would provide better value or produce more valuable results” than unassisted live broadcasts by companies.

Martin Shepherdly, the CEO and founder of BeThere Global, comments that live streaming has three advantages over traditional PR mediums:

  1. The level of engagement and two-way communication engendered among the audience through interactivity
  2. The customization of the viewer experience for specific audiences, and
  3. The detail with which viewer statistics can be measured.

PR agencies must learn to harness these benefits for clients if they are to swap pre-prepared, commercialized spin for natural, personal interaction. As futurist Ross Dawson reminds us in an article on where PR is going, PR is no longer “about hiding or manipulating the truth; it is about providing access, being open”. Live video bolsters a massive opportunity for PR: helping brands to engage with a world that favours dialogue and transparency.

Image sources: New Balance, MasterCraft, and Pottery Barn