Five Ways To Come Up With Great PR Ideas

Much of successful public relations has to do with simply spotting good ideas, and recognizing their PR value. But generating good press for businesses and brands also means coming up with fresh concepts on a consistent basis — especially after the cool new product has been launched, or the buzz from a seasonal campaign has died down. Consider these ways to generate ideas for the times when things threaten to go dry.

Spot trends.  People who are great at PR ideas aren’t just naturally creative; they consume and analyze media constantly. While reading the latest pop culture story of the week or getting up to speed on international politics, look for common threads that seem to converge, and make the connections for brands. Is your tech startup’s growth on pace with small business data? Does a new product appeal to an emerging demographic? How is it part of a growing trend, or does it buck that trend? All are good fodder for visibility.

Borrow other brains. Ours is a collaborative business, so when in doubt, pull others in. Include people similar to you as well as those with a different orientation or bias. Make it fun and worth everyone’s time by throwing in treats and making it an official brainstorm; or, just pull in two colleagues at lunch. Above all, let the conversation flow, don’t object to any ideas (no matter how off-target), and write everything down. Even a random remark can lead to a great idea.

Use the calendar. I’ve never been a fan of “fake” holidays for PR (no offense, National Bobblehead Day!), though if you’re really clever, it can work for PR. But there are plenty of legitimate calendar events to work with if you think it through. There are the major holidays, as well as anniversaries, milestones, and the changing seasons. Then there are pop culture events — Superbowl tie in? Oscars angle? — school related periods, elections, and anything else happening, really. Make your angle relevant by pegging it to something timely, and it’ll become a natural fit.

Try something wacky and fun. Often when thinking up ideas for generating press, we tend to be serious, putting on our “smart” hats, which is good and necessary. But once in a while, let yourself think about what would be really fun to do with the business or brand. If your product is a food or beverage, come up with a creative contest and offer to stock a party for the winner! If it’s a B2B service, try a competition where the winning company gets the service free for a month.

Consider a stunt.  A successful stunt doesn’t have to be huge and expensive, although strong visuals can help. Think in terms of a limited-time offer, photo opportunity, or even a prank (remember when Taco Bell announced it had bought the Liberty Bell? Or when Burger King said it had removed the Whopper from its menu?) It’s even better and less risky if the execution results in people being helped, like this New Year’s campaign by a British company which offered to dry clean suits for free for anyone who was unemployed.

Six Steps To Creative PR Brainstorms

Many successful PR and marketing campaigns have started with a simple creative brainstorm. Yet, we’re always searching for better and more productive ways to develop great ideas. What many PR pros and others don’t always realize is that every concept doesn’t have to be groundbreaking. Some of the best creative sessions produce a small germ of an idea, a new phrase, or a fresh twist on the ordinary.

Look at the most recent promotion from Lowe’s, the home center retailer. #lowesfixinsix centers on a series of Vine videos demonstrating cool home improvement tips. Business Insider calls it, “one of the best uses of the social medium as a marketing tool we’ve seen yet.”

Here are some pointers that have worked for us.

Create a positive atmosphere. Some people associate office meetings with stress or pressure to be brilliant. The best creative sessions feature a positive, welcoming, and humorous atmosphere. It helps to start with a warmup like, “How would we launch this product on the moon?”  Responses to such absurd challenges can never be wrong, and they’re likely to be funny. Above all, don’t make judgments on any of the ideas floated.

Set some goals.  Brainstorms can work well when wide latitude is given for generating ideas, but keep the end goals in mind. Make sure your team is prepared with all the background, and be clear in what the brainstorm is trying to achieve.

Let the fun begin. Once people start shouting out suggestions or solutions, write them down… all of them. Even though some ideas won’t make sense at the time, they may lead to other things. The best ideas often stem from a simple concept or phrase.

Change it up. During a given session, there is typically a time where the enthusiasm wanes and everybody falls into a slightly awkward silence. Sometimes rewording the initial objective or goal is all you need to get a response. Or, if you’re the moderator, have some thoughts in your back pocket to get the juices flowing again. If that doesn’t work, try taking a break and cover an ancillary aspect of the situation. Candy is often helpful.

Try speed-storming. A takeoff on speed dating, this can work as an ice-breaker, or it can help reset the situation to keep ideas flowing. Set a time limit of ten minutes, go around the room, and ask everyone to shout their best ideas. It’s okay if it deteriorates into free association or jokes; what you want is to get rid of blocks.

Never stop brainstorming. Even when the meeting is over and everyone has returned to their desks, create an email chain, or a running word document with the top ideas that are really fleshed out. Work them out with greater details and graphics to ensure the best result.

Have any brainstorms for more successful brainstorming? Let us know.