Last week, I was stuck on an idea that just wouldn’t go anywhere. I needed a new direction on something I’d been mulling over for days. The problem was I didn’t even know where start. I needed a brainstorm.
Brainstorming is an effective tool in any organization—regardless of size—to help generate new ideas with clients or internal account teams and keep the creative juices flowing. But brainstorming is messy. Moreover, it can be a challenge to invite clients into the process because it can look unstructured if you don’t understand how to conduct an effective and collaborative session.
Here are a few tips to get the most out of your brainstorm:
1. Take time to think about the problem.
Before you begin brainstorming, spend time defining the problem you’re aiming to solve. Are you digging for a new, unique story topic, or are you defining strategy to get your client in WSJ?
Naming the problem is the first major step toward finding the right creative approach or solution.
2. Keep an open mind & go with the flow.
Any idea, no matter how far out there, is worth hearing out. You never know when it’ll spark something else. It’s important to be able to go with the flow. The best brainstorms are not structured, not formulaic and have multiple voices bouncing ideas back and forth depending on the flow of conversation.
When leading a brainstorm, create a safe space for the flow of ideas. It’s imperative to let everyone’s voices be heard—you never know what will spring up from one person’s thoughts. Typically, one idea will lead to another, which will lead to another and the final thought will be a collaboration of everyone’s contributions.
Bottom line: no idea is a bad idea.
3. Have a set game plan after the brainstorm.
The most important thing about a brainstorming session is what happens next. What good is it to think of 10 new ideas if they go absolutely nowhere?
Take notes during the brainstorm and after you’ve had time to digest the ideas, dissect them into new outreach angles, plans of attack or incorporate into new strategy for the next quarter.
Lay out the problem and lay out the ideas/solutions you’ve devised. Not only does this allow you to think strategically, but it helps you understand how to develop a bigger picture story or at the very least, tie your client into relevant news or timely trends. It’s critical to understand how your client fits into the big picture without getting lost in the self-promotional abyss.
A few handy questions to ask yourself: Why would a reporter care about this? What would be an interesting take for a reporter to write on this? How would the headline read?
As PR professionals, it’s crucial to think like both a client and a reporter. The best ideas can be formed into a timely topic, a problem/solution scenario, or a deeper dive into a larger trend story. Brainstorming helps to get people unstuck by “jolting” them out of their normal ways of thinking. After all, multiple brains are better than one!