reimagining creative pr.

If you’ve never boarded a flight from San Diego to the Midwest at the onset of winter, consider yourself blessed. Leaving San Diego to return to bitter winds wasn’t my favorite moment. Luckily, my mind was distracted with one thought: I’m a total badass. And I suck.

ICYMI, I recently attended the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)’s 2019 International Conference. If you missed the blog recap, check it out on the Well Done Marketing blog. #PRSAICON 2019 was easily my favorite conference yet. I walked away feeling validated in my skillset, eager to continue connecting with the new pros I met and challenged in the very best ways.

If you follow me on Twitter, you’re already well aware that I want to work for Adam Ritchie. What I haven’t articulated is why I feel so strongly after one panel. Enter this blog post where I break down why.


I consider myself a pretty creative person, I mean if you scrub my website or LinkedIn page, you’re going to see three words: creativity, communication, and collaboration. In my career, I’ve been fortunate to work for leaders that value innovative thoughts and forward-thinking ideas. I had the pleasure of building the City of Fishers’ community mobile app—more on that here. Years later I was then tapped by Mayor Fadness to build the City of Fishers’ employee engagement app—more on that here. Most recently, I even helped gain media coverage for The Julian Center by connecting domestic violence to basketball—you can read that feature here. And these are just a few examples. So, when I saw the #PRSAICON panel: Invention in PR: How To Use Public Relations as a Creative Engine, I was pretty excited to be validated in my creative talents.

Spoiler alert: I was not validated—in the best way.

The panel was presented by Adam Ritchie, owner of Adam Ritchie Brand Direction and Gina Luttrell, PR and social media professor at Syracuse University.

I want to recap what their 128-slide-deck presentation consisted of—because it was that good—but, I’ll keep it concise with one giant takeaway.

“Creative” PR vs. “Creative PR”

Let that sink in, and if your thoughts are racing, let me share three things Adam mentioned to drive this point home.

  1. How many times have you created a PR plan for promotion of a product, service, or event versus worked on the development side of said product, service, or event?
  2. How often do you strive to be innovative versus inventive? What would happen if you put invention above innovation?
  3. How would your PR plans shift if you aimed to make the story versus simply tell the story?

Insert Adam’s example. I could tell you all about it, but honestly, it’s not my story to share. Here’s what I’ll give you, “Boston band The Lights Out release its latest album, “T.R.I.P.,” on a beer can. You could call that an empty gimmick if it wasn’t such a success — in sales, sound and taste.” – Jeb Gottlieb, Boston Herald. Read the whole article here.

So, what does this approach actually change?

Maybe nothing, But maybe everything. The public relations industry is at a critical point. While most pros still employ traditional PR tactics (see press release, media advisory, and talking points), the good pros have also embraced digital media and influencers in their strategic plans. But imagine how the industry would shift, and your value would increase, if you embraced a new approach to public relations for your organization and/or clients?

As I’ve returned to agency life, I’ve honestly found it difficult to digest and act on what Adam presented—mostly because I think this approach speaks to the culture of an agency. But, that’s not to say his panel insights haven’t been swirling around my thoughts. Actually, the first week of November, I actually came across a story out of Fargo, North Dakota that’s done exactly this. Needless to say, I immediately Tweeted Adam!

Learning how to go from “creative” PR to “Creative PR” certainly doesn’t happen overnight. But it does happen when you follow Adam’s mantra, “I’m the baddest ass in town, and I suck.” Over time, as you practice stepping into a “Creative PR” approach and learn how to use those muscles, you’ll get stronger and bolder in your approach to PR—and that’s the space this panel left me striving to reach.

How are you working to be a “Creative PR” professional for your company or organization? I’d love to connect and hear more. Tweet me @CaseyNCawthon and the first cup of coffee is on me!

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