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How to 'sell' creative ideas to decision makers

By Kim Harrison,

Consultant, Author and Principal of

Generating creative ideas is only half the battle. It is difficult enough to come up with a new creative angle, but then we often have to sell the wonderful idea to decision makers who are just not on the same wavelength. In fact, it can be extremely difficult to get them to back an idea. They might have a different agenda, may be preoccupied with other matters, and may be playing politics with your sound idea. Most communicators are familiar with this problem. So what can we do about it?

There are some street-smart ways to increase the chances of senior management or clients accepting your new concept. It pays to sit down and think through the ways you can do this. Make sure you give yourself enough time to prepare the ground ahead of an important presentation to the executive committee or similar. The range of actions includes:

  • Legitimise the source of the idea. Involve management or client in the brainstorming process. Seek third-party credibility by getting a respected external person or group to support the idea. Transfer ownership or (some) credit for the idea by allowing your boss, senior manager, client or committee to be perceived as the source of part or all of the idea (the extent depends on your assessment of the situation).

  • Meet individually with committee members days before the meeting so you are able to convince them, answer questions and head off problems ahead of time, or at least have time to work out a suitable response to tough questions. At least meet with your supporters so they can get used to the idea and sound knowledgeable in the meeting in front of their peers. The extent you do this depends on your assessment of the situation. This integrates with the first tactic.

  • Timing. Consider the practical aspects of timing. When presenting ideas to a committee, try to avoid a slot when the committee members are likely to be distracted, for example, first thing in the morning, last thing in the afternoon, close to lunchtime, last item on the agenda, etc. In making a presentation, generally lead up to the idea after discussing the need and benefits (advertising people are very good at this).

  • Translate the idea. This is probably the main reason for failure to convince. You need to explain the idea within the span of knowledge of your audience, and to explain it in their terms and in ways that relate to all three of their visual, auditory and kinaesthetic (touch or tactile) senses.

  • Keep within brand values. Ensure the idea is consistent with the brand values and broader cultural values of the organization.

  • Presenting within the context of a relationship. It is important to understand the audience - their politics, budgets, and background attitude.

These tactics are used by Antony Green and outlined in his 2007 book Creativity in Public Relations.

About the Author

Kim Harrison is a recognized authority in the public relations field. His website,, provides a wealth of informative articles and resources on public relations techniques and management.


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