Creativity in Strategic Communications

Today brands are in motion more than ever before. They revolve around a diverse customer base who demand a brand’s attention 24 hours a day through a variety of channels including traditional media, social media, digital and other connection points.

Jennifer Risi

Expectations of brands to be more transparent and authentic have increased, while brand loyalty continues to decrease. Increasingly, brands are expected to do more than prove a simple functional or transactional benefit. They need to engage in a higher purpose for consumers as well as all other stakeholders. We need to find the right balance between the rational attributes and benefits of a brand in its emotional place in the lives of customers. This is where creativity in strategic communications must come into play. But where does creativity come from and how do you infuse it into a strategic communications campaign?

The role of modern public relations is the blending of realization and communications – it’s about substance, content creation, sustainability, relationship building, social (sparking conversation and sharing stories and experiences), media reverberation and helping the brand live and thrive in the real world.

There are great examples of where creativity has been let loose to further a brand’s purpose and relevance. New roles were realized for such brands as IBM when it went from being known for mainframes to becoming a business solutions company and creator of a smarter planet. Coca Cola went from a commodity to a refreshment company that unleashes happiness and Ford transformed itself from an automaker to a reliable transporter and cultural driver.

Brands need their public relations to help them navigate this world and relate to their “publics” in a more dynamic, insightful and strategic manner. We need a new set of tools to realize and maximize the full potential of PR for brands. We need to go beyond short term tactics to help brands deliver substance, ignite interest, enlist influencers, develop relationships, evolve over time, and ensure synchronicity through multiple channels and connection points.

Of course social media plays a major role in today’s modern strategic communications model. We use social media to inform and deliver the unexpected via Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to connect people to opinions of those they trust. We also create and expand experiences in real-time through social listening, and serve up real-time content to those who are seeking new experiences.

With social media we build, borrow and buy content that connects with consumers at various stages throughout their purchase journey.

Another core activity to infusing creativity into a campaign is built around the science of storytelling. Who are your client’s storytellers “in residence”? These are the next generation content creators –cartoonists, writers, poets, filmmakers and photographers. We know from recent neuroscience research what fires up the brain and what doesn’t when it comes to persuading, shaping opinions and getting people to fall in love with your brand.

The single most powerful differentiator of a brand is its story. Great business and brand storytelling drives business outcomes. Irresistible stories that get willingly passed around do far more to instill corporate culture and values – brand storytelling shared across media genres – earned, owned and paid media.

A good case in point of creative storytelling and public relations is the example of how Ogilvy helped Brazil increase organ donations. How do you increase organ donors in a country where their cultural and religious beliefs oppose the practice? One creative way of doing it was to tap the country’s soccer fan base with a campaign Ogilvy came up with called, “Immortal Fan”.

It involved the soccer team Club Recife, who has some of the most passionate fans in Brazil. There motto is God first, sport second, family third and work last. They want to be fans forever. For our organ donor campaign the message to Club Recife fans was now they can live on as immortal fans by signing up for the first donor card for a soccer team. We created a new reason to donate organs. It helped solve one of the biggest barriers in Brazil surrounding organ donation—gaining family authorization that was very controversial until this program was launched.

The marketing campaign communicated to the fans that when they passed away they could donate their organs to someone else, and in essence their spirit would stay with their organs and someone else could continue to root for their favorite club. Ogilvy brought this connection together that said when you get your tickets for the season, sign up for an organ donor card and you’ll be a member of the club forever – during life and death.

As a result of the campaign and message being pushed out via traditional and social channels, organ donations increased by 54 percent in a year breaking a historic record. What’s more, the waiting list for heart and corneal transplants was reduced to zero.

Jennifer Risi is the managing director of Ogilvy Media Influence, North America and NYU professor of strategic communications. Follow Jennifer: @JenRisi. Follow Ogilvy: @ogilvypr