The courage to be creative
By Christoph Baller
For a long time, public affairs followed the same pattern:
- Politicians, civil servants and decision-makers were invited to meetings or events to discuss specific issues.
- The aim was a personal discourse on a specific political issue in order to move the opinion of the decision-makers.
- The main focus was on the content and the speaker had to convince using arguments.
- Emotions played a subordinate role, because the means of communication were limited and the target group was traditionally oriented towards hard data and facts.
This has changed. As in advertising, political communication and public affairs have become more creative, more colourful, and more exciting. The main reasons for this are:
- the expansion of new communication channels (keyword: digital),
- a new openness of the target group for unconventional or surprising methods, and
- the increased importance of emotions in politics.
The emotional, creative element plays a central role, especially in the question of how an issue becomes viable for the majority. Thus, creativity becomes a duty in politics in order to make important matters communicable, implementable and majority-worthy.
For marketing and PR colleagues, addressing target groups creatively has long been an important component of successful communications. Public affairs managers, on the other hand, often see creativity in political communication only as a “nice to have”.
A new way of thinking is needed here: with the numerous letters, requests and pieces of information that reach political decision-makers every day, it‘s important to stand out from the crowd. Nowadays, in almost all cases, your name alone is no longer enough to be convincing, and just stating your concern is rarely sufficient. If you want to land at the top of the list, you have to be prepared to surprise and show emotion. This can be a special form of presentation or a surprising moment in the context of a political discussion event – a mechanism that NGOs in particular understood and perfected early on.
More creativity also requires courage on the part of clients and advisors: courage to propose new ideas, to go in new directions and to defend the ideas internally. And this does not mean gift baskets with corporate branding or colourful letters with pretty graphics.
Good arguments are only worth as much as their packaging. With emotionally appealing ideas, we create a positive amplifier for political concerns, making them capable of winning majority support. The result is a better policy that is gladly accepted.