June 20, 2018
"This year, we want to do something really different! Please share your big, out-of-the-box ideas with us.”
Ah, the big creative challenge. It’s the hallmark of agency life, and, while creative brainstorming can be exciting and fresh, it can also be daunting. Whether it’s for a long term client or an exciting new business prospect, big ideas can make or break a PR program. Strong, creative thinking wins pitches and keeps CMOs happy - but finding that perfect idea can be a challenge.
We’re continually working to refine our approach to brainstorming in order to develop ideas that are truly unique, while balancing the realities of budgets, brand guidelines, and execution.
Below are a number of best practices that are strategically designed to yield smart ideas, while avoiding brainstorms where the same ideas circle around the drain (I’m looking at you, activation in Times Square) by injecting fresh perspectives and some gentle structure to the process:
Set Parameters Out of the Gates
Before you begin a brainstorm, it’s critical to define your audience, goals and desired outcomes. In order to maximize everyone’s time, share these guidelines with your team before you walk into the room - or the virtual brainstorm - and provide relevant topline background on programs that have worked in the past and any landmines to avoid.
Encourage Both Individual and Group Ideation
Once you have established goals and context for your creative session, challenge team members to develop one or two ideas individually and bring them to the group brainstorm. This enables each participant to take ownership of their thinking, while also avoiding groupthink which can hamper creative outcomes.
Empower Team Members at All Levels
Often the best ideas come from junior staff who can be less entrenched with the go-to ideas that come up at every brainstorm. Further, newer team members - and people outside your practice area - can have much-needed distance that provides them with a unique perspective on the challenges you’re facing.
Get Outside Your Head & Office
Leave time in your creative process to marinate on a challenge. Go about your daily life so you get distracted by other things. Often, new ideas will come to you when you passively keep a challenge in the back of your mind and aren’t consciously looking for a solution. A change of scenery - and of mindset - can yield fresh thinking.
Cultivate a Culture that Values Creative Thinking at All Times
Most importantly, it’s critical to cultivate a company culture where creative thinking is prioritized. Encourage your colleagues to continually seek out new, fresh ideas by flagging interesting activations or creative concepts they see in everyday life. Draw inspiration from your industry, but be sure to look beyond it in order to ensure your thinking remains fresh. Circulate interesting articles on strategies for brainstorming. Creative thinking is a muscle that needs to be continually exercised.
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