Invention in PR and why an appreciation for the absurd is an essential skill

“As PR people, we’re usually at the end of the [product] conveyor belt, and whatever plops onto the belt, we have to go make magic with that,” says Adam Ritchie, principal at Adam Ritchie Brand Direction in his interview for the PR Profiles podcast. Adam shows how to move PR to the front of the line in his recently-released book, “Invention in PR.” 

Creative PR with a capital C, which we call inventive PR or invention-first PR, is where you’re literally coming up with the product or the service [for a brand] that you, as a PR pro, know will be a home run.” 

In his book, Adam organizes Invention in PR into three types: 

  • Type 1, Invention: Inventing a newsworthy product or service in an entirely new category 
  • Type 2, Creation: Creating a newsworthy product or service in an existing category 
  • Type 3, Transformation: Turning something everyday into something extraordinary 

Adam demonstrates what happens when PR takes on a role typically associated with R&D and “forges the silver bullet” needed to run a successful media campaign. “Katie Couric defines journalism as not just telling people what happened, but helping them understand why they should care,” says Adam. “And I think PR, at its most inventive, makes something happen that’s worth caring about.” 

A position at the beginning of the conveyer belt empowers PR with a “story-making” role ahead of “storytelling” disciplines like marketing and advertising. “Invention is the final frontier,” says Adam. “Not considering yourself a storyteller, but an author of what might be.” 

But how to know you’re doing something worth caring about? Adam suggests seeking inspiration from what’s happening in the world around you and paying attention to campaigns recognized by the industry. Or as he puts it: “keeping your antenna up.” “You’re reading things like Bulldog Reporter’s best campaigns of the year,” says Adam. “You’re looking at those awards programs and seeing where the bar is set right now. Asking, ‘How can I elevate my stuff to that level?’ I’m a believer that you shouldn’t do a campaign unless you can see that thing on a movie marquee and kicking ass in national competitions.” The best campaigns to Adam are the ones that “go for the funny bone, the heart and the eyebrows. They make people laugh, cry and say, ‘wow.’ You have to have a good appreciation for the absurd.” 

Adam urges PR pros to begin their Greatest Hits collections early in their careers. “I think all new PR pros should be able to speak to their influences — not influencers,” says Adam. Influences are “specific campaigns from challenger brands that continually open their eyes to the power of what this profession can do.” Along with idea creation abilities, Adam also says PR pros need to learn how budgets function because they’re “the fuel that makes all this work happen.” 

The full interview with Adam is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or on the Agility PR Solutions YouTube channel. You can learn more about Adam’s book, “Invention in PR,” published by Routledge and its audio edition published by Tantor Media on his website.