This month's article: Being a creative comms person
Being a creative comms person is not the easy option.
You regularly create something a little different that you think is pretty good - but you don't know how it will be received by your audiences, and colleagues.
It's emotional. Nerve-wracking.
Ever since I started out as a press officer and I sent that first press release, no matter how many times I put what I've made into the world, my body always tells me I've probably got it wrong and everyone will realise I'm an idiot.
A little lurch in the stomach goes 'danger!'.
"What if I accidentally sent an embarrassing typo? What if this video gets misinterpreted? What if... argh!"
When we stick to the ways we always do things, or go with the most inoffensive option, it reduces our worries that our comms will be badly received.
But the outcome of being safe, predictable and boring? Being ignored by our audiences. They get used to the same old same old.
And people just scroll past.
We have to create thumb-stopping content that is unusual and makes people react emotionally.
Creativity is VITAL to our work if we want to capture people's attention, and make a difference with our comms.
Creativity is brave. But it's also exciting!
But you know that, that's why you signed up for this newsletter. Oh yes, for that:
Much appreciated. Let me know what you think about this first issue.
And if you haven't already looked at my creative communications courses - what are you waiting for!
There's training on:
...and loads more. Reply to this email if you have any questions.
Next month we explore how to build creativity into your comms strategy. Do give me a shout if you have any thoughts on that.
comms stuff I liked
This tweet made me go, "HA!". It's not funny as such, but what creativity and a good joke have in common is... the unexpected.
Lots of good jokes lead you in one direction, then they surprise you with the punchline.
This tweet looked like it'd be the standard dry statement in response to comments about this uni's scholarship scheme.
But "jog on' is not a usual corporate response, and so makes a pithy punchline.
Making a bold stand shows their organisation has strong values, and shows an understanding of their key audience's concerns and lingo.
This creative statement was guaranteed to capture attention.
Linking a breaking news story back to your call to action?
That's creative! Newsjacking can be a bit crap sometimes. (Remember the butcher who promoted purple sausages after news of (vegan) Prince's death? What a wally.)
But this is fun, and a welcome distraction in the newsfeed that makes the Charity Retail Association look in touch with current events.
Creative tip of the month
Easy gif action!
Have you tried out the new animation feature in Canva? It’s dead easy.
Canva, for those who don’t use it already, is a nifty and free place to make graphics easily.
You can now make a design, and then Canva will move the objects for you. Then you download it as a gif or video file.
Let me know if you've had a play with it! Or share it with us all on Twitter or Instagram with the #CommsCreative hashtag.
I recorded myself having a go with it, so you can see how quick and easy it is.
Special guest Q&A - this month with CIPR president Sarah Hall
- Your dog could make you more creative
- You can be inspired by whiskey
- You should bring your inner-child to work
All fascinating ideas from my interview with PR legend Sarah Hall, in this first Comms Creative Q&A.
Hi Sarah, I've admired your work for ages!
Please tell us about yourself.
I’m a PR and marketing agency owner, the CIPR President for 2018 and the founder and editor of #FuturePRoof. Alongside this I’m a committee member of Athena40, which is focused on accountable leadership, female empowerment and youth development.
On a personal front I’m Mum to two boys and have the good fortune to enjoy a lovely blended family of five thanks to my partner and his three children.
What are your creative strengths when it comes to comms?
It sounds immodest but I can quickly look at a brief and come up with a solid campaign concept that will achieve the desired business outcomes.
As an accountable leadership advocate, the challenge of linking social purpose with organisational objectives is something I really enjoy.
I’m very much an ideas person so I’m careful to keep process people around me to balance things out.
Who is your creative hero?
I learnt an important creative lesson from a former boss, Stefan Lepkowski of Karol Marketing. Stefan would never be disheartened by a low budget project. He’d ask what we’d do to meet the business objectives if money was no object.
Any idea went and if we hit on something solid he’d find a way to make that happen, which usually meant winning additional business from other brands to build something really valuable.
Can you share a piece of creative work you’ve seen that you love?
There is a video featuring Robert Carlyle which is six minutes in length and tells the story of how Johnnie Walker whiskey came to be. It’s an authentic piece of comms which shows there is most definitely a place for long-form.
Similarly Chanel’s Inside Chanel videos are a beautiful example of brand storytelling – the type of content that we would do well to emulate and harness in everyday comms.
What advice would you give to a comms professional to help them tap into their creativity?
Where you can, take time out. I often come up with good ideas when I’m running with the dog because I’m totally switched off.
Also, watch how children approach any project they’re working on. They have no pre-conceptions about how to do things and aren’t afraid to experiment. Unlearning processes and starting from scratch is a hugely liberating way to approach work and can yield surprising results.
What projects are you working on right now?
I’ve just launched #FuturePRoof edition three so I’m keen to plug that but the big drum I’m continuing to bang via the CIPR is the need to approach public relations as a strategic management function.
Doing this helps us re-evaluate how we approach our CPD, how we describe what we do and gain the ear and respect of the C-Suite. The call to action is to make CIPR Chartered Practitioner status your goal.
Sarah, that's fantastic - thanks so much for being the first guest in The Comms Creative.
I heard recently that the brand, Innocent – who make the smoothies and soups – have a staff mantra that’s all about empowering staff to crack on and do interesting and creative things.
“If you’re 70% sure, go ahead and do it.”
Perfectionism is no friend to doing creative things – if I waited until everything here was perfect, you’d never see a single cartoon!
See more on the @CommsCartoons blog.
The #CommsCreative Challenge, explained
Creativity is not just a talent, it's muscle. We need to exercise it to get stronger 💪
I'm setting these challenges because we often get bogged down in day-to-day work, and this club pushes you to try new things:
- To help you boost your comms creativity
- To support and get inspiration from others who are sharing their #CommsCreative work online
There will be challenges to get you more creatively writing, drawing, video making, designing and all sort of other things no doubt.
The three rules of the #CommsCreative challenge
1. The thing you create doesn’t need to be brilliant, it’s about playing. Van Gogh was probably rubbish the first time he tried painting.
2. Taking part is fun, but also a good opportunity to think about things a bit differently.
3. Share your efforts on Twitter and Instagram and chat with people who have shared theirs! We’ll keep each other motivated and inspired.
This month's #Creative Challenge
Draw a sketchnote (20 minutes-ish)
We’ve all seen sketchnotes, and been in awe at how beautifully the artists draw and write.
I love the drawings Hayley Lewis shares, which creatively make key points about her expert subject, organisational psychology. Have a look, Hayley is seriously awesome.
Writing by hand and drawing by hand improves our ability to remember things.
I find sketchnoting helps me learn to be more visually expressive and to structure ideas more clearly.
We don’t have to be artists to have a go - and sketchnoters around the land won’t have to give up their day jobs!
We're simply playing with this as a more visual way of note-taking. Here's a quick one I did for this challenge:
1. Get out a pen and as large a piece of paper as you can find.
If you’re feeling fancy, you can use Sharpies, coloured pencils, or a couple of different coloured marker pens. But a good old black biro will do.
2. Watch ONE of these videos:
Or another TED Talk you're interested in. For my doodle above, I watched this one on New Yorker cartoons.
3. While you’re watching, doodle
4. Take a photo of your picture and tweet and Instagram it!
- In the middle of the paper, write the title of the video, or the central theme of the talk.
- Put a circle around it, or something snazzier if you like.
- All over your paper start writing down some key quotes or interesting points that the speaker makes.
- Any words, or things that seem related or relevant as you watch, doodle those too.
- Also doodle a few symbols and pictures that illustrate the words. Anyone can doodle and create simple shapes. Stick men and women will be fine!
Use the hashtag with #CommsCreative so we can find it.
How did you find it? Was it hard? Liberating? Did you take longer so you could decorate it more?
Your first challenge is complete.
Comms training with me
This summer, as well as jetting off to Ireland and Columbia on my hols, I'm doing in-house training on crisis comms, social media strategy and building your personal brand.
I also want to tell you about a new creative comms course that I'm running - it's called 'How to create more engaging content' and I really hope you join me.
|Have you ever wondered why your audiences rarely seem to like or share your Facebook posts?
Do you think your tweets should get more attention?
You CAN get more likes, shares and comments.
I will teach you all you need to know to:
- Make more creative content
- Get LOADS more likes, shares and comments
- Get your audience excited to see your next post
You can book comms training to be delivered in-house, or book now to join me in:
BIRMINGHAM, October 24th in the Fazeley Studios.
GLASGOW, October 25th in the House for an Art Lover.
Or maybe you want an injection of inspiration for your social media strategy.
Even as a seasoned comms professional, it can feel overwhelming to start from scratch or rewrite your organisation’s social media strategy.
I've created a workshop that's had AMAZING FEEDBACK from delegates.
It will help you get on top of your social media, and create a clear mission for how you’re going to communicate with your audiences online.
Book now for the Manchester course, or find out more about an in-house workshop...
And if you want in-house training for your team, hit reply to this email to give me a shout.
If you've read this far, you get a present! Enter 'CommsCreativeAug' to get 10% off the cost of any of my courses.