I read once that the main reason some creative PR brainstorms yield little in the way of usable ideas comes down to performance anxiety. The so-called expert went on about discarding the practice altogether and basically asking team members to “phone something in.”
I think we can do better! There is often something magical about one person throwing out a concept and others building on it until you have something really worthy to share with a client.
I propose that rather than abandon brainstorming ideas for PR clients, we just add a little spice to the accepted format. I don’t favor criticizing ideas on the one hand, or offering monetary incentives on the other.
What I do mean is, let’s look at what works best about a brainstorm (preparation, collaboration, support,) and what doesn’t (consumption of precious time, pressure to be creative) and find a system that works best for your office. Here are a few concepts we’ve incorporated that seem to be working.
1) There’s no substitute for preparation – Prepare a creative brief or mini creative brief in advance to home in on exactly what you want to get out of the brainstorm. Also, provide attendees with as much client background as you can to help get creative juices flowing.
2) Ten 5-minute brainstorms may just beat one hour-long session – We seem to do our best thinking and advocating in short bursts. Maybe it’s just our sound bite, ADD culture but meeting and collaborating for short periods with a defined goal seems to produce more options.
3) Take copious notes – You, as main client contact or facilitator, may be just too close to the subject matter to appreciate a certain idea when you hear it. Don’t discount anything without giving it a second look!
4) Don’t be afraid to recycle – Everyone has one favorite idea for an event or program that they’ve never fully realized… the one that got away. Every new creative session promises that opportunity!
5) Brainstorm even when you are not – Keep a file online or physically, of good ideas or successful campaigns you have run across and check it whenever you have a new client or are asked to come up with some new ideas for an existing client. You will seem brilliant.
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