Creativity in Public Relations – a student perspective

By Nóirín O’Neill

15 April 2020

Public relations practitioners are now living in unprecedented times.  The world has changed since the announcement of a COVID19 pandemic on 11 March 2020 by the World Health Organisation.

“The coronavirus outbreak and the extraordinary measures brought in to protect public health have had an unprecedented impact on the public relations industry.” (McCapra and Ingham, CIPR, 2020)

The dominant narrative is that of Green (2007) who has stated that the definition of creativity can be placed into one of four categories which are (i) creativity as an individual talent (ii) creativity as a process (iii) creativity as a product and (iv) recognition by others. (Green, 2007: 5-7).

The context for creative acts at present is the global health emergency which is causing an existential threat to freelancers and self-employed public relations practitioners. (CIPD, 2020).

Creativity is not something that is set in stone like a mandatory policy, procedure or workflow but rather a process that should be followed, a skill that can be acquired or a tool that can be used.

Creativity in public relations practice has also been linked to “creative execution” in digital and social communications given the “polluted environment” of online content (Moloney and McGrath, 2019: 93).

Image courtesy of EcoWorld Reactor: I’m not creative.

Current discourses about creativity in public relations

Current discourses about creative industries are revolving around the economic implications of COVID -19. (Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre, 2020) and how arts and cultural charities are under threat.  A Bectu survey of over 5600 creative freelancers revealed that 97% are of the opinion that the government is failing to respond to their concerns during the pandemic. (Bectu, 2020).Discourses around creativity on the main public relations platforms (PR News, 2020) are currently focused on global brands. For example, Coca Cola is using its “iconic billboard in Times Square, New York City to spread health advice during COVID-19” (McAteer, O. 2020). This campaign was created by Mercado McCann a well- known Argentine creative agency in their creative hub.

Image courtesy of EcoWorld Reactor: INNSPIRE Great Quotes.


Even the United Nations have launched an open brief for creatives everywhere to “help spread public health messages.” (United Nations, 2020).  The United Nations Secretary General António Gutteres announced the following:

We are in an unprecedented situation and the normal rules no longer apply. We cannot resort to the usual tools in such unusual times. The creativity of the response must match the unique nature of the crisis – and the magnitude of the response must match its scale.”  (United Nations, 2020)”


It is contended that the definition of creativity in public relations will need to be updated to include new categories such as (i) creativity as a public health tool (ii) creativity as an act of solidarity and (iii) creativity as an act of humanity. 😃😘😃


Bectu (2020) Government has completely lost the confidence of freelancers, Bectu survey finds.  Bectu. London. Available from:[Accessed on 31 March 2020]

CIPR (2020) CIPR- PRCA issue joint statement on covid 19 outbreak. Available from–prca-issue-joint-statement-on-covid-19-outbreak/%5BAccessed on 31 March 2020]

Coca Cola (2020) How the coca cola company is responding to the coronavirus outbreak.[Accessed 10 April 2020] 

Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (2020) The impact of covid 19 on arts and cultural charities. London. Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre. Available from:  [Accessedon 31 March 2020]

Matthews, M. (2011) Connecting Creativity and Critical Thinking to the Campaign Planning Process. Communication Teacher.  v25 n1 p61-67 Jan 2011. 7 pp.

McAteer, O. (2020) Coke goes big with COVID social distancing in Times Square. Campaign Live. New York. Available from:  [Accessed on 10 April 2020].

Moloney, K, & McGrath, C 2019, Rethinking Public relations: Persuasion, Democracy andSociety, Routledge, Milton. Available from: ProQuest eBook Central. [4 April 2020].

PR News (2020) How brands are employing creative COVID-19 messaging. Available from:  [Accessed 10 April 2020]

United Nations (2020) Global Call to Creatives:  An Open Brief from the United Nations. Available from: [Accessed 30 March 2020]

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