The launch of our second Global Creative Index provides a useful opportunity to consider the characteristics of highly creative public relations work. Creativity remains one of the PR industry's most pressing challenges, although the campaigns highlighted in the study indicate that the PR practitioners are rising to the challenge of creating big, captivating brand building ideas. 1. Insights are important The role of planners within the PR industry remains a subject of some debate, particularly if you talk to the many advertising planners who have been hired by PR firms before fleeing back to adland. What is not up for argument, however, is the importance of a good, relevant insight that serves as the building block for the core creative idea. This must sound fairly self-evident but I suspect that, for many PR campaigns, the development of insights is a haphazard product, rather than a considered process. Regardless, the insights in many of the top campaigns — the Gnome Experiment's understanding of scientists; P&G's brilliant work with mothers; M&S capitalising on recycling for Shwopping — all showcase the kind of thinking that needs to underpin every successful public relations campaign. Without a good insight, campaigns become interchangeable stunts, and I think we've all seen enough of those. 2. Content unlocks creativity It has become a little cliched to describe the importance of compelling content but, if nothing else, the most creative programmes all demonstrate that great PR campaigns use smart insights to develop genuine consumer involvement. They do that via a content-rich strategy that often enlists communities to help build stories and spur advocacy. The top-ranked Gnome Experiment campaign, for example, showcased the precise nature of Kern scales by inviting scientists from around the world to take part in the project, logging results and developing a narrative of considerable appeal to the specific audience. Another good example of this trend is the the City of Ventspils ‘State Within a State’ programme, which turned the Latvian city into an independent state that printed its own currency. Users could earn the currency on a ‘global online embassy’, and cash it out upon visiting the city. And we shouldn't forget P&G’s ‘Momumentary Project’, which told athlete stories from the perspective of their mothers, utilising 60 documentary videos to deliver remarkable emotional resonance. 3. Work that works The focus on genuine business results should not be overlooked. The Gnome Experiment, for example, improved sales by 22 percent, generating 1,445 new leads. P&G’s Olympics campaign is estimated to have driven $500m in incremental sales. And ‘State Within a State’ saw tourist numbers to Ventspils soar during the campaign. Meanwhile, what could be more powerful than the results from Golden-Agri Resources' efforts to salvage its reputation in the eyes of NGOs and environmental campaigners? That campaign helped change the company's behaviour for the better and protect its licence to operate. 4. Corporate work can be creative The Golden-Agri campaign also demonstrates that creativity is not limited to consumer marketing campaigns alone. Smart, creative ideas can often solve the most intractable business problems, in this case helping a controversial company reshape its reputation through a commitment to authentic dialogue. The programme, which built on Golden-Agri's work in terms of supply chain and sustainability, is proof that creativity in public relations is not limited to shiny stunts, but can just as easily revolve around honest corporate storytelling. Indeed, it is it is worth noting that three of the top 15 are corporate programmes, including the ‘Gnome Experiment’, which focused on building Kern’s credibility among a scientific audience. 5. Purpose + Profit Last year's Creative Index was dominated by programmes that included a strong social component. While this is not so much the case in the 2013 version, there are still numerous campaigns that indicate the importance of a strong purpose motive amid all of that commercial marketing. Philips '+' Project is a good example of this, a campaign that aimed to solve some of Asia's health and social problems amid rapidly changing lifestyles in emerging economies. The 'Launch of Shwopping', of course, has a strong sustainability element, while Cancer Research's 'R UV UGLY' programme shines a light on the dangers of sunbed use. 6. Geography matters Like last year, there is considerable geographic diversity among the top campaigns. Yet, the truth is that the most creative PR work in the world continues to originate in the world's two biggest and most developed markets — the US and UK — and Sweden, which is sometimes described as the capital of modern public relations. Which is not to say that PR work from other markets is any less creative, simply that there is probably a higher volume of excellent work from these three countries (and, undoubtedly, more means of proving that excellence at award shows). Honourable mentions go to China, which continues to produce some brilliant digital work, Singapore and Eastern Europe. The rest of you might just need to work harder. All of the work mentioned here, and much more, can be found on the Holmes Report's dedicated Creativity channel. This post first appeared on Gorkana.