When it comes to generating ideas for public relations programs, where does inspiration come from? It strikes like a muse, or lightning from the sky, right?
Hardly. As with any creative process, brilliant ideas don’t come out of nowhere; in fact, they are usually hard earned. More often than not there’s a process that came before the inspiration, and PR teams can use these steps to trigger those great, creative ideas.
Immerse yourself in research, from content to experience. Good ideas come after steeping oneself in knowledge of the subject at hand. It’s often good to start by spending time using the product or service in question. Then, take some time to undertake creative thinking exercises without pressuring yourself or your group too much at the outset.
Jump-start the light bulb. To borrow the phrase from content marketer Mark Johnstone on how to come up with better ideas, there are ways to jump start that “light bulb” moment. Struggling to write creative content or come up with high-impact ideas for a new launch? Try giving yourself an assignment — write down 30 ideas or 30 lines without worrying about what’s good or not. The exercise of working — actively writing, thinking, trying things out — can trigger the right connections, eventually bringing you to the right path. It’s also a good way to eliminate the bad ideas, as they become obvious on the page.
Take time to “actively disengage.” Ever wonder why you struggle to remember a name or a fact, only to have it strike you in the shower or while at the gym? Johnstone says that’s because the act of disengaging gives the creative mind time to incubate ideas and release them. After putting in the work of studying and thinking hard about content, make sure to unplug for a while, and let ideas come to the surface.
Make it a competition. A good PR team has fun working together and relishes a little competitive drive. Many agencies call out good work with rewards like a free lunch or spa treatment — why not dangle a creative reward for your team if there’s a cultural fit? One of our clients’ teams is full of former college athletes, and it shows: the team is familiar with competition and the rewarding feeling of winning.
Try a survey. Borrow from the world of market research and take an informal tally of your audience — or whoever is at hand. This is especially valuable if you can survey people unlike yourself. Different perspectives can help identify strong themes that might not be readily apparent at first blush.
Change your environment. Turn the lights off. Go out to a cafe. Or, simply change your seating arrangement or move to a new room. Often if you can shake up your environment, it’s easier to see a situation from a slightly different point of view, which is often key to reframing a problem.
Get an outside opinion. It can be tempting to hoard good ideas and keep them secret, but that’s often counter-intuitive. Getting feedback early in the process can be a good way get validation on a good idea, or a reality check for a not so good one. Just don’t let pushback discourage you – don’t forget Thomas Edison’s 10,000 “ways that will not work” that led to the one that did work.