A key part of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is the series of Young Lions competitions. Sponsored by PR Council, the competitions are designed to foster promising talent across a range of creative disciplines. This year, we’re proud to announce that two colleagues from Ketchum’s Chicago office – Patty Bloom and Rachel Carlisle – will be representing the U.S. in the Festival’s Young PR Lions Competition!

To better understand the significance of this honor, Ketchum sat down with the team for a Q&A on their experience so far, and what’s still to come as they prepare for Cannes. This post originally appeared on the Ketchum Blog on May 10, 2017

What inspired you to join the competition?
As members of the Midwest planning team, we are both really passionate about planning, so this was a great opportunity to come up with a break through idea for an inspiring cause and organization. The Young Lions Competition is centered around big, creative thinking, and we really embraced that opportunity to come up with an out-of-the-box plan and campaign.

What was the brief, and what was the approach you took to answering it? What led to your creative breakthrough?
The challenge was to raise awareness and drive donations for Brave Beginnings, an organization that provides life-saving equipment and technology to neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). Through research, we found that a big barrier to donating was lack of understanding around NICU equipment, which can seem scary and cold to many people. Our creative breakthrough was realizing that powerful visuals could take away that negative stigma and position the equipment as a symbol of hope, care and support for preemie babies. For a powerful visual media moment to tell that story, we proposed partnering with the most powerful baby campaign: Gerber’s annual photo search contest, which receives over 100 million impressions every year from top media outlets. Our idea was for Brave Beginnings to partner with Gerber to find “America’s Preemie” for the contest’s 90th anniversary – which would also illustrate that one in nine babies are born premature. The competition would allow us to show the NICU equipment serving these preemies in powerful, hopeful photographs – replacing the sometimes scary imagery typical of NICUs.

What were some of the Ketchum resources you took advantage of on your road to victory?
We were very fortunate to have Lauren Sugarman, SVP of Creative and Strategic Planning, as our “coach” to push us to be brave and think big.

Once we were finalists, we prepared for the final presentation like a new business pitch. Tera Miller, Partner and Director of Strategic & Creative Planning, was an excellent sounding board and creative champion – she really pushed us to make our presentation powerful and experiential. The Chicago Senior Leadership Team really invested in the process, from vetting our presentation to allowing us to share our plan. We were very lucky to have the support of such great leaders, and the lessons we learned will last long beyond the competition.

What was the atmosphere on the day of the presentation? Did you get to watch the other presenters? What did you learn?
Everyone was a little nervous, but the energy was very positive and encouraging! We didn’t get to watch the other presenters, but we all found common ground in how we had prepared and how excited we were. We had done quite a bit of practicing leading up to the day of the presentation, but our best performance was definitely in the room before the judges.

How will you prepare for the competition in June?
Since both of us are on the planning team, we’re fortunate that our daily routine is practice for Cannes. We’re also taking part in an internal Insights Bootcamp to fine-tune our skills and talk to creative leaders and previous Young Lions competitors around the network to determine our game plan.

What are you most looking forward to learning at Cannes?
We’re excited to meet PR professionals from 20+ countries to get a better picture of what PR looks like on an international stage. And of course, we can’t wait to see everything else the festival has to offer!

What inspires you creatively?
I’m always trying to learn something new about our industry or find inspiration from another field, by reading a new book or brainstorming a client challenge in spin class. I don’t want to bring Ketchum’s clients something they’ve heard before – I always want to push ideas to the next level and explore the unexpected to bring something new and fresh to the table.

Rachel: When I need extra inspiration, I like to look at campaigns from other industries to see how I can apply an unexpected element to my client’s campaign or product launch.