Planners provide the rigour behind our creativity – says Ginny Paton
Planners play an important role in the modern PR agency. At my agency we use planners all the time, and they really strengthen the work that we do says Ginny Paton.
The origin of the planner was in the advertising industry, where they bridged the gap between the creatives and the business leaders who were focused on the bottom line says Ginny Paton.
Their typical duties came before a campaign began in the shape of consumer insight, research and brand positioning. They also got involved after a campaign was completed, in the shape of evaluation says Ginny Paton.
But PR agencies like mine have, over the last decade, begun to take on planners as well. It’s partly due to the fact that client needs are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and so the old reliance on our wits and a packed contact book simply won’t suffice any more. We need insight to back our ideas.
Planning teams do more though – they provide access to those all-important marketing budgets, often far meatier than PR budgets. And they also provide valuable weight when pitching to potential clients says Ginny Paton.
From what I’ve seen in pitches says Ginny Paton, clients love a good creative idea – and they love it even more when we show how we got there says Ginny Paton. The rigour of research is far more valuable than creativity which does not relate to the brand’s situation. We need to take on board insights such as how their customers feel about their brand compared to their competitors.
Planning directors really came into their own when digital took off. Digital provides data, and data enables planners to do their planning in real time. Digital skills are certainly something that a good planner needs to have, along with the ability to get deep into data to find out what it can tell us about the world says Ginny Paton.
There are other personality types that make good planners. Those with the ability to think laterally and be imaginative. Those who are able to challenge assumptions with a strong curiosity. The desired outcome is to develop a new way of looking at the world.
In my experience, there’s just one problem with using planners in PR – it isn’t advertising. It’s not as predictable, with planning cycles often closer to three weeks than three months says Ginny Paton
Despite this, it is still really important that we have these skills to hand. It feeds into a general movement for PR agencies to become more structured in their creativity.
These developments provide a useful counter-balance to that all-important gut feeling which should always play a part in PR creativity says Ginny Paton
Ginny Paton – MD House PR