MONDAY 1 MAR 2021 11:25 AM


Tommy Moore, creative director at DRPG, spoke to Communicate magazine about the role digital plays in the organisation's creative department, how copy and content meet brand strategy, the ways in which the role of the communicators has changed, and the great potential young people hold for the future of comms and PR.

How was your transition from copywriter to creative director? Where does copy and content meet brand strategy?

If you're going to be a good writer, you need to be a clear thinker. Your writing is only ever as good as your thought processes.

When you're a copywriter, you're asking, who is the audience, what is the message, how is it being delivered? Will people remember it? All these things will require someone, at some point, to think about what the audience is going to do, how they will engage with it, what will get them excited. I always found that the best writers are people that can think clearly and communicate in a way that people understand.

Becoming a creative director isn't much different from being a copywriter. You take on more responsibilities when it comes to aesthetics and how things look. But, in reality, it's just about being a problem solver. Whether you're a writer, a creative director or an art director, if you're a good problem solver, then there will be a place in an agency for you and there will be things that you can do to for clients that will really benefit them. I found that changing from writing for audiences to creatively directing campaigns is much the same thing. It's a very easy transition and most people that become creative directors are either designers or writers to begin with.

When your job is pitching ideas to clients, you need to be able to articulate a vision in a way that is very clear, understandable and exciting for them.

What role does digital play in DRPGs creative department?

Digital matters because people like certainty. Unlike with many other mediums, you can pretty much guarantee that your content will end up with the right audience through digital channels. If you want a certain section of society to engage with your material, through digital marketing and digital advertising you can get it to them. And clients really love that certainty because it lets them know that their entire investment is going to the right place.

The more targeted clients are, the more comfortable they feel with their investment. The more targeted the audience, the better the results. So, when it comes to thinking of your objectives, consider what the client wants to achieve. Especially given budgets at this time, being able to guarantee you can get something to the right people is essential. It saves a lot of time and money, and it means that the right people are engaging with your material.

Most people between the ages of 11 and 111 wake up, play with their phones, go on their laptop, go on their iPad, go on their smart TV. They are constantly connected. So using their natural habits is key. If you, as a marketer, can tap into what people do naturally, that will always be the best result. Stopping and looking at a billboard or stopping and choosing to go to an exhibition are unatural behaviors that you have to convince people to do. Instead, being targeted with adverts via Google Display Network matches people’s normal patterns of life. If you can make advertising seamlessly fit in with normal life, then you're doing it right.

In what ways has DRPG been able to overcome Covid-19 restrictions relating to events? What alternative solutions have you come up with?

When it comes to virtual events or virtual experiences, they typically break down into a number of areas, one of which is broadcast. However, if you spend most of your day on Teams or Zoom and then go to a Teams or Zoom event, there is no sense of something special, no magic gold dust. So it's very important to amp up the quality, not necessarily the length. That's essential.

Interactive virtual environments have also become important. At DRPG, we spend a large amount of time building 3D worlds where people can go and explore, attend talks and do games or quizzes at their own leisurely pace. Essentially, we allow them to explore 3D environments that are full of content because today's consumer likes to spend five minutes here and five minutes there. So tapping into that behaviour is is really important.

Putting presenters in 3D virtual environments really helps to increase engagement because if they are presenting from unique locations, like a city of the future for example, suddenly people sit up, pay attention and are invested in what they’re saying. The key is to break people out of their normal patterns of behaviour, and this can absolutely be done virtually.

In a virtual world, there is also much better data tracking. You can see when people get bored and stop listening and stop interacting. Getting more control over the data and the variables allows you to improve your event offering.

What are the biggest challenges the creative and PR industries face post-Covid-19?

I see the biggest problem and the biggest opportunity as bravery. Businesses have never struggled this much financially and they have never experienced so much risk. But, if they are not brave, they will never turn their fortunes around. They will never be able to take businesses that have taken a hit and grow them, or grow the strongest brands. When finances and trust are low, people start to reduce that risk taking. However, the smartest and bravest brands are all risk takers.

One thing that businesses have watch out for is being too risk averse and then finding themselves falling increasingly far behind. It can be easy after tough times to develop a guardian mentality – hold on to what we've got, what we know and what we're certain of. But the businesses that think like that will stall. They'll be slow compared to the new, agile pioneers that are brave. It's a brave new world.

We've never had as much data about colleagues or customers because we've spent the entire year online. So if you think about it from a data perspective, we know more about human beings this year than we've ever known, and that's incredibly powerful. Taking risks and being brave is something that companies should do now more than ever, but their confidence in doing so will be lower than ever too. Therefore, it falls to agencies to really inspire and lead organisations. They need to feel excited by the world to get excited by communications again.

Has the role of the communicators has changed? Has they way you communicate or the way communicators relate to their businesses and their clients had to adapt?

For both in-house communicators and agencies, roles have changed. Now, we’re not just communicators, but also strategists and a statists. You need to be able to evidence what works, back up your arguments, provide data and rationale. If you're a communicator, you're called on to back up your thinking. So I think right now we're entering the era of the strategic communicator. You have got to be able to convince clients not just with passion and belief, but also with sound evidence as to why you think this may work.

Communicators need to scale up on their knowledge of data analytics and global insights. These are all things that are just as important to have in your skillset as writing, communicating, speaking, designing. Everyone has to get a little bit more data savvy so that we can encourage clients to make brave decisions. We're increasingly getting asked not for a one year strategy, but a three or five year strategy. Communicators’ ability to look into the future and make a good decision is now an expectation.

It's a whole new battleground for businesses that are brave enough to grow, and communicators will lead that charge.

What about trust?

Trust in communications has always been an issue, and clients will always have to have some faith in their communicators’ work because risk taking is an important part of that job. I don't think trust has necessarily dropped with communicators, but I think communicators have learnt a lot this year about the value of transparency and being very clear and honest with their audiences, and with their colleagues in terms of in internal communications. We're more considerate now of what we say and how we communicate what we think. As communicators have become more considerate, trust has grown in those organisations that were transparent and communicated clearly and honestly during the pandemic.

The businesses that have profited and thrived are those that said ‘we don't know what's going to happen but we'll do our best to keep you informed.’ The ones that have bluffed their way through or said ‘it will all be fine’ or ‘it will over by Christmas’ will have huge trust issues because they’ve set a big precedent for glossing over the facts.

It's been also been a good year for levelling the playing field. With Zoom there is no hierarchy in teams; bosses and board meetings no longer feel intimidating.

What role do young people play in the future of PR and comms?

Now, more than ever, it's a communicator's responsibility to reach out to young people and remind them that creative and communication careers are viable, they’re growing and they're important. It is essential to reach out to young people and tell them this is an exciting, vibrant and growing industry. Being able to communicate is always going to be a valuable skill and comms is one of the only industries that automation can't replace.

I've never had more channels, more opportunity to thrive, and it's never been a better career choice for young people to explore. So while we are in these times where people are worrying about their career options, the industry and the economy, making sure that we're very proud of the impact we have for businesses is vital. We should take pride in the effect we have on organisations because it is rather substantial.

Being out there to provide advice, tips, face time, social media content, apprenticeships and more is great for young people. It's a bit like advertising, you need to see it more than once to believe it. So if you just have an apprentice open day, that's fine. It’s about the different channels coming together, from seeing an inspiring woman in leadership to reading that amazing blog to attending that live broadcast talk. All these help young people believe in a career in communications and this will help the industry thrive.