PR Musings

Billy leads Grayling’s PR offering in Scotland and is also a member of Grayling UK's team of specialist crisis and issues management consultants. He has devised and implemented many award-winning consumer and corporate PR campaigns and specialises in media strategy and strategic planning. Billy is also a ‘digital ambassador’ for Grayling and has responsibility for ensuring digital strategies are effectively executed in the agency’s network of offices. Follow Billy on Twitter: @billypartridge

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Don’t be fooled by Blue Sky Thinking

I remember attending a particularly “creative” all-agency meeting recently where a no-holes-barred approach to brainstorming seemed to give the day a life of its own. I’m sure someone suggested reincarnating Michael Jackson at one point.

We’ve all been there – time is against us, the pressure is on, and the one thing we need is CREATIVITY…you could almost hear little demons sitting on our shoulders – THOU SHALT BE CREATIVE…! NOW!

People are often praised in marketing circles for their ability to conjure up something from nothing – in public relations, it is a highly coveted skill.

But woe betide the client that has to start from nothing in the first place.

The classic “ok I’ve got this client that makes bread – let’s come up with some ideas” approach should be banned. Because more often than not you end up with a bread-shaped balloon as your lead creative.

The truth is that blue sky thinking actually stifles creativity if it is not itself restricted.

Putting up rules, controls, guidelines and even constraints, I believe, is the best way to get your brainstorm really motoring.

Shakespeare, for example, never had any trouble creating lyrical genius despite being hemmed in by iambic pentameter while writing his plays and sonnets.

Even more astonishing, French author Georges Perec wrote a 300-page novel (called La disparition) written entirely without the letter ‘e’. (If you’re interested in this – check out the group Oulipo, the ultimate exponents of writing with constraints – of which Perec was a member)

Creativity flourishes when given direction, which often means drawing up boundaries – something that at first glance goes against the true nature of Blue Sky Thinking.

We have our solutions for this at Grayling but the bottom line is that there’s no substitute for serious, thoughtful planning. The media monitoring; the online sentiment analysis; the consumer insights…the hard yards, in other words.

I’m a big believer in planning because it gets you to places that make sense – my Biggest Brainstorm Bugbear is finishing with outputs that are either impossible to implement or would be appropriate to any client, anywhere.

So there you have it. Thought of the day: don’t let Blue Sky Thinking ruin your brainstorm

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