Make a change emma de la fosse

everything counts as PR

Creative in PR had a reputation for being tactical and ‘strategy-lite’ but has undergone a revolution, argues Edelman UK CCO and the inaugural President of the PR Jury at The One Show

By Emma De La Fosse

The One Show PR Jury 2024 has just wrapped. The standard of work was incredibly high, almost intimidatingly so. 295 pieces made the shortlist and there were very few duds in the long list.

If you got a merit or a medal, seriously well done. It’s hard to appreciate just how rigorously the work was interrogated unless you were in the room. As their inaugural Jury President, I was very proud of the fact that the jury was a mix of PR experts and Creative Directors. It ensured that every winning entry had all the elements of earned as well as being a brilliant piece of creative.

So, what does count as ‘earned’ and what were we looking for? From the number of entries The One Show received, it’s pretty clear that everything counts as PR these days. Our definition was work that had an earned creative idea at its very core. Not paid ads that had some PR behind them or work that had just received coverage in AdAge, The Drum or Campaign.

We were looking out for fame in genuine national news titles. But even that wasn’t straightforward. Paid placements, offered by some freelance journos, can get just about any campaign into Forbes or The Times. Or even onto a Breakfast TV Show. A true test of veracity is whether an idea has bubbled up from hyperlocal to regional to national media.

There was a clear trend towards more light-hearted and humorous work. After the Pandemic and with an on-going cost of living crisis, people evidently want something more hopeful and optimistic. So you’ll see humorous solutions to a wide range of problems medalling too.

Other trends included lots of work for women’s football, Trans Rights, Sustainability in the Corporate World, the continuing backlash against artificial beauty, and Ageism. I was excited to see some brilliant ideas tackling the last acceptable ‘ism’.

However, the most profound trend in PR is towards work that is more strategic and enduring. The opposite of the stunty ‘one off’. For years, creative in PR had a reputation for being tactical and ‘strategy-lite’. A press release with a bit of throw-away creative attached. Earned has undergone a revolution and is now being used to solve real world problems through action, from business transformation, to tackling climate change to innovation in healthcare.

In fact, the battle for ‘Best of Discipline/ not for Profit’ (AKA the PR Grand Prix for purpose) was a case in point. We were hotly debating two highly creative pieces of work which, while being for very different causes, used a similar format to get their point across. One raised awareness about a problem while the other enabled people to take action to solve the problem. And that clinched it.

We also wanted to inspire people to do brilliant work on the more every day, FMCG brands. It wasn’t difficult to pick a healthy crop. There were wonderfully inventive solutions and examples of lateral thinking for lots of different household staples, from un-sexy snack brands to faulty confectionary. And they all showed that the power of creativity could positively impact the client’s bottom line when other avenues had failed. ‘Reputation management’ (how to show up when the s#*t hits the fan) also proved a fertile area for creativity and I’m thrilled that some of these campaigns made the cut too. The more that creative can permeate those parts of PR agencies that wouldn’t normally put creative in the scope, the more exciting and interesting this discipline will become.

If I was starting my creative career now, earned would be my first port of call. We all want to make a difference in the world and I believe this particular creative discipline gives you more opportunity to do that than the others. Why? Clients come to us because they want people to think well of them. Today, that means deeds not words. As a creative, your ideas will be centred around getting brands to act, to do those things that will make the world and society a better place. Whether that be helping to get environmental bills through parliament, combatting age-ism through a new employment initiative or transforming a global business to save energy and carbon at a massive scale. In a PR agency, these briefs are not ‘awards’ briefs. They are real briefs you get every day. So, short of joining an NGO or a charity, this is one way you can use your creativity to make a difference. And you’ll be proud of your answer when your mum asks you “so what exactly is it that do you do for a living, love?”


LinkedIn iconx

Your Privacy

We use cookies to give you the best online experience. Please let us know if you agree to all of these cookies.