My Work in PRogress guest this month is the fabulous data and content whizz that is Harriet McCulley. I was lucky enough to work with Harriet a couple of years ago, and really loved catching up with her on all things creativity, data hacks, and her love of Amy Winehouse. Enjoy!
What is your ultimate shower song? (The song you can give a 10/10 Grammy-worthy performance on in your shower on a Saturday morning)
I’ve always been a huge Amy fan, so I’d have to say Me & Mr. Jones by Amy Winehouse.
What are your three favourite campaigns EVER?
An old but gold piece of content, in my opinion, was the IKEA living rooms piece where iconic film and TV sets were recreated using IKEA furniture. I think this campaign is good for a few reasons. Firstly, there is that element of nostalgia and relatability. They chose TV shows that everyone can relate to and rooms that are super iconic. Secondly, the visuals are so spot on, you can tell there was no expense spared in terms of budget for the visuals. Finally, I think the addition of the cost data gives it that PR-ability, to make headlines, showing how much it would cost you to recreate the iconic living rooms from TV shows is a great use of data.
This is one of my favourite campaigns due to the use of data visualisation. Something I love is when strong data is visualised in a really creative but informative way, which is what this campaign does so well. The campaign takes a really serious matter and displays it in a way that creates an emotional response from the viewers, a truly powerful use of data and design.
My third favourite campaign of all time has to be the Queen Elizabeth according to Barbie piece from Neomam. I think the graphics are absolutely incredible and, again, the element of nostalgia is so present, making it relatable to a lot of people who played with Barbie as a child but also taps into those who love the Royal Family, so speaks to a few different audiences.
What is your advice for those who don’t consider themselves naturally creative?
I think people put a lot of pressure on themselves to be creative. Prep before ideation (getting the right playlist, filling up your water bottle, going for a walk beforehand) is something a lot of people preach, but for me, I find this just adds to the pressure. I like to block out my calendar and dedicate specific time to ideation, regularly.
I think my top tip is not to be afraid of going down a rabbit hole. Although you might have specific keyword targets, or topical focuses, sticking too closely can restrict your creativity. Here are a few bits of advice I would give to help get the most out of your ideation / spark creativity.
Firstly, creativity can come in so many different forms, for me a huge help is data. Finding a dataset that is slightly unusual, or maybe something that isn’t from a generic, overused source can help you to spark creativity.
Secondly, bank ideas that come to you at random times during the day. I have a note on my phone which is called ‘Random ideas’ so when I think of an idea perhaps out of work hours, or on the weekend from conversations with friends and family, I can pop it into my note and bank it for when the right client comes along. I think the idea of having a bank to start with when you begin ideating really helps to spark your creativity.
Thirdly, pre-research is a HUGE one for me. I always create a pre-research document before any brainstorm. This will include the keywords the client needs to focus on and the themes and topics we have to play with. I use tools like Buzzsumo and Google News to put those keywords or topics into, and find out what’s been trending recently, and add them all into the document. You can include anything you find interesting on that topic, datasets, campaigns that have already been done, and that way you’ve got a lot of research that has already got your brain starting to think in a more analytical and creative way.
“When it comes to ideation there is no one size fits all.”
Lastly, I think trialling out different ideation techniques is so important. I personally love self-ideation, as it allows me to lean into data and research and come to a brainstorm with more fleshed out, researched ideas. But I know lots of people who love to bounce ideas around a room and then delve into them later on.
So to summarise, start with data, bank ideas, do pre-research and trial out different ideation techniques. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be creative, with the right techniques and data, creativity and idea generation will come naturally.
Which digital PR campaign formats are working well at the moment?
Reactive is a big one at the minute, I’m seeing a lot of smaller campaigns reacting to trends or news topics that are doing so well in terms of coverage, and I think a big part of this is down to quick data (search volume, Google trends, social data).
In terms of larger campaign formats, I have seen a lot of competitions and fake product campaigns recently but also dream jobs making a bit of a comeback. I think competitions are great, particularly when users have to submit a photo for example, as you get a lot of UGC (user-generated content) that journalists love to add into their stories.
A format that I think will never die is the World / US / UK map comparisons. You’ve got large amounts of data that can be tailored to specific regions or cities, which make more personalised stories for journalists. What’s more, the comparison between specific locations such as the north / south divide (for the UK) is a conversation that will always be present.
What are your favourite data hacks?
A tool I love using before I map out my design brief is Raw Graph. You can input your data and select from all different types of visualisations to find out which one works the best.
Visuwords is another great tool to help with ideation. You can input a word and it will present you with related words, new topics and definitions.
“This will blow your mind if you didn’t know about this tip already (as it did for me). In Excel you can convert your data into data types, if you highlight your cells, click the data tab then Geography and click the little icon. You can insert the population of each location, area, time-zone, to name a few. I made a video on twitter showing how to do this.”
A little hack I saw from Andrew Charlton on twitter was the SPARKLINE formula, which visualised data for you in a chart so you can instantly see where the trends are in your data set.
Finally, what does being a work in progress mean to you? (Both professionally and personally).
I’d say it’s being aware of change and not being scared to find areas of improvement in both yourself and your work.
Being a work in progress is never a bad thing. For me, it’s more of a motivator to be better, learn more and constantly look for ways to challenge myself.