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Three lessons PR pros can take away from #FutureFest16

Posted by Alex Warren on 19th September 2016

This weekend I took a trip down to Tobacco Dock for FutureFest 2016, the annual exhibition of forward-looking technology, art and design from Nesta, the UK’s innovation foundation.

While the focus of Nesta has always been on the future of technology rather than PR, the crossovers of collaboration, creativity and innovation all lend themselves to our profession. Here are three of the most relevant insights that those of us in the PR industry can take away from the event:

  1. Creativity is about more than just creative spaces: Working in modern marketing we often find ourselves obsessing over creative spaces. From whacky wallpapers to whiteboard walls, PR professionals spend a fortune developing spaces in which their “creatives” can, well… create. In truth however, this aesthetic obsession may simply be a case of style over substance.

Speaking at the show, Kursty Groves Knight reminds us that “space doesn’t always matter”, it all comes down to what works for the individual. Writing in her new co-authored book, Spaces for Innovation, Kursty explains that “if you sit a creative person on a pile of bricks next to a window, they’ll still create something by the end of the day”. The space is simply a facilitator for the individual’s own unique approach.

  1. Just because you can’t count it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t count: For those of us in the industry, proving the value of PR has long been a contentious issue, and one that continues to hold the entire profession back. Speaking at FutureFest, Brian Eno reminds us that there is more to life – and more to business – than just focusing on disciplines that can be neatly quantified. Innovation is not something that fits in a spreadsheet, it’s a fluid concept that almost always generates qualitative results.

As Brian explains, “As a culture, we’ve become obsessed with quantification. People think that if you can’t measure something, then it doesn’t serve a proper purpose. Somehow, if you can’t count it, it doesn’t count.” As PR professionals we need to stop obsessing over quantitative results, and focus instead on convincing others that qualitative outcomes still have a place in the world of work.

  1. Create your own success: As a career, public relations offers a strange contradiction. On the one hand, PR is continuously voted one of the most stressful jobs that you can have. On the other, PR people also score extremely highly for their levels of workplace satisfaction. We are one of the few professions where people are asked to be creative, but to extremely rigid deadlines. The result of this demand is a bunch of deeply satisfied PR professionals seemingly pulling their hair out with joy.

So how do we overcome this contradiction? Advertising consultant and entrepreneur Cindy Gallop offers a solution: “The most important aspect of any business is identifying and creating value. What is it about your job that you love? Identify that, and then identify the circumstances in which you most love doing it.” By taking the aspects of PR that we most enjoy and extrapolating them to the rest of our working day, PR professionals can create an environment in which they’re happier, more creative and ultimately even better at what they do. By enjoying what we do, we lay the foundations for our own success.

For more on this year’s FutureFest, check out http://www.futurefest.org/

Alex Warren

Alex uses his in-depth understanding of the media and creative flair to engage target influencers and create stand-out results for every client campaign. In 2016, Alex published his first book, Technoutopia, which explores the impact of technology on the media. He now regularly contributes articles and opinions to Huffington Post, Marketing Week and MinuteHack.