Public relations requires a variety of skills: strategy, communication, analytics and creativity. All these components blend to create a colorful, evocative, engaging and informative landscape. Those who excel in the strategic and analytical side may not have the same natural aptitude when it comes to creativity, and even the best strategy cannot save a bad idea. The good news is that it is never too late to learn how to flex your creative muscles.
Just as positivity breeds positivity, saturating your atmosphere with thoughts and ideas from intelligent, innovative thinkers will fuel your creativity. It is human nature to be impacted by your surroundings, so it only makes sense to steep yourself in what you seek. When your well of creativity has seemingly run dry, use these four tips to retrain your brain’s way of thinking.
1) Pay Attention to Your Landscape: Curiosity Leads to Innovation
Shaking up your routine with new content can help shape a more innovative mindful landscape. When you intentionally seek out and research topics of interest, you will often stumble upon thought leaders and innovators engaging in discussions and sharing insights that will shift your mindset out of the typical patterns of your day-to-day. Look outside of the industry standards to find out who is pushing the boundaries with the most effective and integrated campaigns. Something completely unexpected could spark your next brilliant idea.
Be curious and consider what has come before in the industry to better identify where there may be gaps or new ways to interpret a story. Bear in mind that sometimes the best idea can be reframing an old one. Ask yourself how you can present relevant information in a way that hasn’t been done before. Try working backward to give yourself a different perspective and inform a more creative thought process.
At its core, creativity is about open-minded problem-solving and communication. It’s easy to go overboard with outlandish ideas, so remember to keep the solution at the heart of your overall strategy. After all, the target audiences you wish to reach are the ultimate decision-makers and your creativity should speak directly to them.
2) Change Your Surroundings
As important as it is to expand your digital surroundings and the media you consume, it can be just as impactful to alter your physical surroundings. Sitting at a desk in a familiar place is typically conducive to left-brain thinking and can limit your creativity. While your daily workload may require you to close off your mind in order to focus and accomplish tasks, this headspace makes it incredibly challenging to generate innovative thoughts or visual concepts. If you find yourself struggling to shift between these mental gears, go for a walk to clear your mind and welcome new stimulants. Creativity rarely strikes when conditions remain static.
When you allow yourself space to breathe, you reduce your stress and invite your brain’s right hemisphere to shine. A sight or interaction could inspire you to reimagine how an intended audience could experience a given message. Go beyond your typical walls to allow new ideas to bubble to the surface. Even a small change to your current environment – like moving to a different part of the office – could evoke refreshing streams of thought.
3) Brainstorm with a “No Bad Ideas” Policy
It can be difficult to reduce pressure when you’re carrying the responsibility of delivering a creative plan or storyline. Hold a brainstorming session with your team and give them the space they need to express ideas. Keep in mind that there may be a member who doesn’t feel comfortable sharing an idea for fear of judgment or criticism, so work to create a fun and relaxing environment where ideas can flow.
Adopt a “no bad ideas” policy to create a safe space for everyone to voice their thoughts. It may not filter the winning idea, but it could certainly spark an interesting conversation that leads to a stellar development. Just like a cold engine in winter, your brain needs to warm up to a different way of thinking about the topic. Likely, the most interesting thoughts and ideas aren’t the first ones to come to mind – it’s a journey.
When considering a new idea, ensure your whole team has an understanding of the goals as well as the audience’s needs. Creativity will come when you work together to build the bridge between these two endpoints. Inviting team members with different life experiences and perspectives to share their thoughts will facilitate well-rounded discussions.
4) Empathize with the Audience
Create an audience experience with a solid takeaway for the brand you want to promote. No matter the variety of pain points, customers want to know how a product or service can improve their lives. Rather than talking about a need the brand fulfills directly or even what sets it apart from competitors, consider creating messages that emotionally motivate the target audience to select your brand.
Tell a story where audiences can easily insert themselves into the narrative and describe a scenario to include your brand providing an element they desire. Aim to leave them with a feeling that resides long after they’ve read or heard the message. If you are developing messaging for a coffee company, you know the competition is vast. Understand how people make their selections and allow your mind to explore how to better connect with the audience’s needs.
Folgers created moments. It may not be the best-tasting coffee in the world, but Folgers took the time to understand what coffee means to its customers. It could be the smell of home or a moment of “me time.” Taking a similar approach of constructing a very personal connection is an effective way to fling open the creative doors to a variety of relatable possibilities.
Some Additional Thoughts from the Landis Team
5) Look Outside Your Industry
Understanding your industry landscape is key to understanding which moments are worthy of media attention. Still, when it comes to creativity, there are many benefits to looking at the world at large. What recent campaigns have changed the way the game is played? What did they do differently? How can you apply that to your work?
The answers may not always be apparent but knowing what success for others looks like might change your approach.
6) Reflect on Your Creative Work, Change it Up
So, you have a spark of creativity; what do you do now? Take that idea as far as possible, but don’t get married to the idea. Take that initial thought and consider as many variations and applications as you can. Tear it apart. Rebuild it. Think of a way to A/B test it.
As with copywriting, PR might call for something different than your initial idea, so open yourself up to the possibility of your thought evolving as new impulses and inputs are added. Additionally, incorporate examples from past projects in your thinking to make sure you’re following best practices.
PR requires agility when working with clients and the media. Citing past examples of successes and failures when forming new ideas adds credibility to our work – and can yield stronger new ideas.
If you ever feel that your imagination has diminished, remember that it takes a willingness to change to unlock innovation. Don’t hold back good ideas by struggling to come up with them all on your own. Bringing your team together to share in the ideation will get you far. Have the courage to express even the silliest ideas to push beyond the status quo and stay curious to maintain your creative strength. When you hit a mental block, look at the objective from a different angle or alter your physical space to foster new discoveries. If you keep your intended audience in mind and seek to convey a relevant message, grab the creativity keys and forge your own path. It’s thought leaders like you that the rest of the world will follow.