“There’s no such thing as a bad idea”. It's a phrase many marketing professionals hear as they take their seat at the brainstorming table. It's vital in a brainstorm that all input is welcome, as it can often trigger a line of thought for someone else in the room.
This way of thinking gives people the space to be creative, and without judgement. The perfect recipe for quality content ideas.
I like to think Zazzle Media takes this approach. Some of our most shareable pieces of content have been developed off the back of a simple idea, something that’s trending, or even going on in our lives. They may, occasionally, stem from what we had for dinner last night or what our kids are into. After all, the best content is relatable and shareable.
But the truth is, there is such a thing as a bad idea.
An uninformed idea can often waste time in a brainstorm and lose the focus of the group.
So, I have some tips that will help you, as either the organiser or an attendee, to be as focused and creative as possible…
Us creative types don’t like to be told exactly how to find our next big idea, but there are some things you should do before every brainstorm that can help you to position your brand and come up with some campaign defining ideas.
In agency life, you get accustomed to becoming the PR for up to 10 companies at any given time. You learn everything there is to know about a brand and quickly. The tone of voice, strengths, weaknesses, and success stories. Before heading into a brainstorm, is the perfect time to get your expert hat on.
It might be a group brainstorm, but in order for it to be successful, you need to believe that it’s down to you to think of the winning idea, rather than relying on others. Some of the best ideas in the world came from a single, brilliant mind, but not without some help.
Look at the news to see what’s trending, and use tools such as Ahrefs (content explorer) to find out what content is performing well and getting the most referring domains/traffic. Write down keywords, themes - anything you come across that may help you form a good idea.
Questions to consider about the brand you’re working on before a brainstorm:
- What is it doing on social media?
- What are its competitors doing?
- What’s currently trending in the industry?
- What’s done well in the past?
- What’s gone badly?
- What can you come up with that’s new and unique?
- Do your campaign ideas provide a clear link back to your brand?
Be sure to write down your ideas, and don’t be afraid to spill the details. This helps encourage collaborative thinking.
Questions to consider around your idea:
- What’s the hook?
- How many angles can you take with it?
- What’s it going to look like?
- What are the limitations to your idea? (budget, client values)
- What’s unique about it?
- What type of publications might be interested?
When inviting the usual suspects to your brainstorming session one of the most important things to do is to send round a good brief. Attendees need to know as much as you do to think of the right ideas. Here’s what I always send round before we begin our brainstorming mission.
- Company background
- The objectives
- A link to the company website
- Any relevant news or existing topical campaigns
In the midst of your brainstorm, it’s easy to go off on a tangent. This isn’t always a bad thing, as it encourages creativity, but you do still need to navigate the conversation. Ensure ideas are welcomed and expanded on because so many could be great if more detail was given! Most of the time the group will fill in the gaps, they just need a nudge from you.
Everyone deserves a say, so be sure to encourage people to join in or think of alternatives. You should also write down everything that’s contributed, as you may find it useful later on. And don’t be afraid to briefly discuss the limitations of an idea, so you can quickly ditch it or keep it.
We’re creatives, let’s act like it
If people want to draw on a whiteboard to present an idea, then they should absolutely do so. Try things such as standing up for five minutes of the session or finding a new space to get creative, like outside or even the pub.
If you find the group is in a bit of a slump and the ideas are not up to scratch you might need to change things up a bit with some of the options below…
It’s easy to find a mind mapping template online or create your own. Simply write down a theme or problem you’re trying to solve at the centre of your sheet or board and surround it with phrases that are related to what you need. Keep adding to your mind mapping masterpiece with different sets of terms and key phrases. They are a great way to tackle a dull subject or solve a problem by breaking it down.
We have a template for another version of brainstorming - more of a random word association exercise. Forcing connections with your main theme or idea and random words, can not only generate new ideas, but creating opportunities for new angles and that all important supporting content you’ll need further down the line, when it comes to PR activity.
Brainwriting is a pretty simple way of finding a solution to a problem or expanding on an idea. Pass a piece of paper around the room, and ask everyone to add something new to the last idea or phrase written down. This technique allows the whole room to contribute and people tend to feel less apprehensive about putting ideas forward.
My last piece of advice? Drench yourself in creativity ALL of the time. Find inspiration daily, whether it’s taken from your newsfeed, or your morning run and share it with your team. Use a platform for your creative team to share their ideas on such as Slack, so you have a channel where great quality content ideas live all year round.
Alex Aldrich, PR manager at Zazzle Media.