Marina’s Top Secret Tips to Ideation and Staying Creative
Anyone working in Digital PR will remember the first idea they ever came up with and looking back on my own experiences, it’s safe to say I had no idea what I was doing.
Since then, I’ve learned a LOT about what makes not only a good idea but an idea that gets coverage. And whilst there is no one size fits all, I’ve popped below my key secrets to approaching the process, showing how I come up with an idea under pressure and what my biggest pieces of advice are.
Tip 1: Do your research. The client, their competitors and the media landscape are all equally important to get information from
I’d recommend spending at least 30 minutes to an hour researching before going into ideation. During that time, these are the kind of things you should be looking into:
- The client’s products/services
- Their values and ethos
- Their target market
- Their blog
- Their tone of voice
- Their social account and engagement
- The competitors they provide
- The competitors you think they should watch out for
- Where the client is covered in the media
- Where their competitors are covered in the media
- Upcoming launches and trends in the industry
The above will help you produce ideas that have a real connection to the brand and help your campaign get exposure in the media and get in front of potential customers, ultimately driving that all-important traffic to the website.
A key tool I use to analyse client and competitor coverage is Ahrefs. Downloading their backlinks and referring domains, I can see what opportunities the client is missing out on and how to get one step ahead.
In addition, use Google news to search for both a client and their competitors’ most recent stories over the last 3-6 months to log any trends and stalk their websites, key dates and products in that particular industry they are promoting.
Tip 2: Write things down as you go along. You could be forgetting a gem if you don’t!
Some ideation sessions can feel harder than others. One of the reasons for this could be timing and not being in the right creative headspace. When this happens, we often stress as we may only have a set hour for the task.
When researching a client, more often than not, I’ll have a few ideas already coming to mind, and with the nature of working in a fast-paced agency, I write them down before something else comes up, and I lose it forever.
Physically writing ideas and themes down whilst researching helps keep my creativity flow, and I don’t tend to go near my laptop until I have some half-decent themes and top-line ideas.
Tip 3: If you’re overthinking it, take a break.
Sometimes it’s hard to face the fact that the creative juices aren’t flowing, and the best thing to do in that situation is to take a break.
Grab yourself a drink, a snack (something chocolatey) and have a time out, even if it’s for five minutes. Consider changing seating positions or move somewhere else.
Fresh air is another great way to wake yourself up from staring at your screen for too long and give you new energy. Getting into comfortable clothes can also help me feel relaxed and get into the creative zone when working from home.
These are such small things but can genuinely have a huge impact.
Tip 4: Look at other campaigns for inspiration
As much as we’d like to think we’re creative geniuses, ideas don’t come out of thin air. Often, they are a combination of other sources of influence and ideas, which we learn from the news, social media and conferences.
With this in mind, the more campaigns, stories, adverts, and ideas you see, the more knowledge you have to draw inspiration from for your content. Just like the more you read, the more you know. It’s no different for PR.
*Great sources of inspiration include*
- Twitter – #digitalprexamples
- Content Curated newsletter
- The Weekly PR Blog
- Work in PRogress newsletter
- Your company’s content slack channel – if you don’t have one create one to share great content.
- Answer the public
- National news and industry-specific press
Tip 5: Take advantage of repetitive news in the media
You’ll often see the media talk about the same things every year, and it’s crucial to take advantage of this as PRs. From how to avoid a cold to creating the best DIY Halloween costume, we can predict the types of content coming.
By looking into key themes at different times of the year, awareness days, national holidays, you can come up with some timely ideas that journalists want to be covering at that given time.
Creating an awareness day calendar, and checking in every day on what is going on in the news, will allow you to produce quick turnaround campaigns that get links.
Tip 6: Read. The. News
I don’t think I need to go into too much detail on this one, as it’s something we all preach as PRs.
Personal tip: Get to know the news sites you like so your job of reading the news doesn’t have to be a chore. While I look at the tech and financial sites, I spend much more of my time reading digestible, funny articles on the Metro, HuffPost, LadBible, Refinery29, etc.
Tip 7: Ideate in a safe space
Ideation sessions can be daunting when you’re new to the game, as creativity is personal.
Producing a safe space for people to express their thoughts is crucial. Some people in your meeting may love the process, whilst others may find it challenging. Your role is to encourage everyone to feel confident enough to throw out the craziest ideas without judgment.
Sometimes you can’t get to those absolute gems until you’ve gone through throwing out some shocking ideas first.
Tip 8: Get others involved
Many of us are assigned to specific clients and produce similar content for long periods, leaving our creative juices running dry.
To get some fresh insight, ask people in your company what their thoughts and ideas would be to get a fresh take and spark something new.
Personal tip: Pop a quick brief in your company’s messaging channel and ask for top-line ideas on a particular client. Give it 24 hours or so, and you’ll come back to some great sources of inspiration. It also can require just five minutes of another team member’s day without forcing them into a meeting.
Tip 9: 30-minute express ideations are EVERYTHING
Agency life is busy, and sometimes the thought of an hour-long meeting can be stressful. Express ideations allow you to take just 30 minutes out of your day and push to make the most out of it. The shorter period gives you some extra adrenaline, and you may surprise yourself with the ideas you produce.
With these tips, you should hopefully be able to come up with some great concepts and enjoy the process along the way! If you’re interested in working with us on a digital PR campaign, get in touch today.
By Marina Plummer - 11/08/2021