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Thinking Outside the Box, or Turning the Box Inside Out?

Creative that is not practical may not be useful to your clients.

Thinking Outside the Box, or Turning the Box Inside Out?

I’m sure you all remember the story about the 18-wheel tractor trailer that got stuck going through a tunnel. The truck was too tall and literally ended up being wedged in the tunnel. After numerous engineers and rescue personnel failed in their multiple attempts to dislodge the truck, an 8-year-old boy passing by suggested letting the air out of the tires.

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And with that, the problem was solved.

Creativity and innovation do not always come in the form of big, colorful campaigns. You can skydive from outer space, you can create the world’s largest flash mob in Times Square or you can quit your job on national TV during the Super Bowl. All are extremely effective ways to get noticed and get your message across. But it is, at times, the right-sized, smaller, practical ideas that are needed to get the job done. This is especially true for those of us who support clients in heavily regulated industries. Here, the creative and the practical need to go hand in hand. Creative that is not practical may not be useful to your clients.

For the last 14 years, I’ve been working with clients in the pharmaceuticals sector and now, more than ever, to show up differently we need to be laser-focused on how to execute an idea or a program. Of course, the idea itself needs to be creative and the story needs to be compelling. But the content also needs to include the important legal and regulatory industry requirements aimed to inform and protect consumers-it’s what we call the inclusion of fair balance and/or important safety information. It’s not so much about thinking outside of the box. Instead, we need to expand the dimensions of it and think differently inside of the box!

The question becomes: How can you tell a truly compelling, engaging and share-worthy story in these regulated industries? It’s about education, not promotion. It’s not just about benefits, but also risks. Above all, it’s about transparency. Put all the facts out there and let your audience weigh the pros and cons so they can make the most informed decisions to meet their needs.

Here are a few tips:

  • Outcomes or outputs? Whether you’re looking for a placement or a mention, or to move the needle on awareness, or to drive a consumer to take some sort of action, it’s extremely important to have your objectives clearly defined at the onset.
  • Co-create with your clients’ legal and regulatory teams. Bring these teams early into the process, as it provides an important moment in time to get them emotionally invested in the success of the program.
  • Partner with specialists outside of your industry to get fresh perspectives. Your understanding of the space coupled with their unique take on the problem could help identify a new approach.

So in these heavily regulated communications environments, it’s important to remember that while an industry can guide your creativity, it shouldn’t define it. And in most cases that perfect blend of the creative and the practical is exactly what it takes to get the job done. Just ask the driver of the truck.

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David Barbanell is the Global Client Relationship Manager for AstraZeneca at Edelman.

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