The seventh edition of the Creativity in PR study reveals how the PR sector has risen to the unique creative challenges of the Covid-19 era, with the vast majority reporting that creativity has taken on a much higher priority over the past 18 months.  

The 2021 Report, co-authored by PRovoke Media and Now Go Create, in partnership with FleishmanHillard, is based on a survey of more than 300 agency and in-house executives from across the world, which took place earlier this year.

For obvious reasons, this year's Report focuses on the changes wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic, and how these have affected the industry's creative capabilities. While demand for creative solutions has soared, many respondents feel that their own personal creative output has risen to the challenge, helping agencies and in-house departments meet the rapidly changing requirements of a new era. A free PDF of the Report will be made available later this week. 

"From a purely creative point of view, the pandemic has clearly presented PR with an opportunity to experiment and consider new ways to do things we took for granted," says Now Go Create founder and co-author Claire Bridges of this year's findings. "70% of the people who took part in our poll said that they felt Covid-19 would fundamentally change the way they approach creative solutions to business problems in the coming year. After 14 months of misery, that is surely something to look forward to."

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In addition to the 70% who said that Covid-19 will fundamentally change the way they approach creative solutions to business-problems, 88% believe creativity will be either 'extremely' or 'very' important to business recovery post-Covid. 69% report that creativity is a higher priority for agencies since the Covid era began, while 92% of agencies say that client expectations of creativity have risen since the onset of the pandemic. 

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Remarkably, 44% say that Covid has had a positive or very positive effect on their personal creative abilities/output, compared to 25% who described the impact as negative. While almost half of respondents (46%) miss in-person collaboration, 41% say they are inspired by examples of creative innovation during lockdown, and 36% claim to be using the extra time to learn new things and feed their imaginations.

Meanwhile, more than half (55%) of all those surveyed say that the pandemic has helped their agency to up its creative game – providing a snapshot of an industry that clearly doesn't see itself in peril. A mere 1% thought that Covid had severely dented their agency's creative abilities, although 13% did describe a "negative" effect. 

A third of creative directors, furthermore, believe that their work has improved as a result of the pandemic, compared to just 18% who report a decline. 

"Creativity has always been the way out of crisis," explains FleishmanHillard executive creative director Dan Margulis. Creativity is innovation, energy and action – all the things that dislodge us from troubles’ sticky grip. Now, on the other side of 2020, so many in our industry are stronger, smarter, braver, and better built to reshape the future. Crisis forced us to act but also freed us to evolve. We didn’t get here through convention. We have creativity to thank for getting us through."

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A more nuanced view of the overall creative impact emerges when clients and agency respondents are asked to assess how the lockdown has impacted the quality of ideas. Around half felt that their work had not been affected, and while 21% thought that their ideas had actually improved, 28% felt things had taken a turn for the worse. 

But, one of the most telling findings from this year’s survey is that agency respondents report very little change in creative levels at their agency during Covid, despite the challenges of remote working. Indeed, a quarter (26%) actually rate their agency’s creativity as more ‘inspirational’ during Covid than prior to the pandemic (13%).

Even more significantly, perhaps, clients think their agencies have become more creative during the pandemic. 63% describe their agency’s creativity as ‘inspirational’ or ‘good’ during Covid, compared to 54% prior to 2020.

"Cooped up and disconnected from their colleagues they may have been, but the world's PR professionals have – for the most part – dug in and demonstrated amazing resilience," notes Bridges. "One of the best takeaways of our survey: in-house teams think that the creative output at their PR agencies has greatly improved since lockdown. The number of brands who say their agency's work is currently "inspirational" has more than doubled since before the pandemic struck."

More findings from this year's study, supported by podcasts and video discussions, will follow in the coming days — covering such areas as remote working, talent, the 'war for ideas' and today's drivers of great creative work.