PR is an exhausting field to work in, creatively speaking. As a communication professional, you’re caught between the dry, demanding needs of business KPIs and deadlines on one hand, and the intense, boundless freedom of artistic imagination on the other hand. PR is also demanding because in practical terms it requires all-rounders. For instance, marketing and advertising firms employ specialist creative staff, while in PR we generally have to do all creative work ourselves. Some great tips in this article will help you and your team to increase your productivity in PR brainstorming sessions.
Creating PR campaigns that manage to combine effectiveness with creativity can be a challenge, especially when you need to do so over and over again. If you’re in PR, here are a few tips to keep that creativity flowing, especially when you sit down to engage in the most free-flowing activity of them all: brainstorming sessions.
7 tips to increase your productivity in PR brainstorming
1. Create unstructured structure
Brainstorming sessions are famously open-ended. But that doesn’t mean they should be left to wander in just any direction. When that happens, sooner or later, you’re bound to end up talking about topics that have absolutely nothing to do with your goal.
With that in mind, always go into a brainstorming session with a quiet-yet-firm hand on the tiller. Don’t be afraid to set criteria and boundaries. Steer the direction of the conversation toward topics that you feel are beneficial.
As you do so, make sure to adopt a “yes, and” mindset, not a “yes, but” mindset. In other words, don’t discourage or shoot down ideas. That’s a no-go in brainstorming. Instead, encourage existing ideas as you slowly redirect the focus toward topics and questions that are more pertinent to your objectives.
2. Give your team notice of upcoming sessions
Brainstorming sessions may be off the cuff, but that doesn’t mean they also need to be impromptu. On the contrary, it’s often a good idea to give your team a heads-up about an upcoming creative meeting.
This gives them a chance to incubate and mull over the topic of discussion and can get the creative juices flowing on an individual level long before those thoughts need to be vocalized. They need time to process, refine, and detail an idea before it sees the light of day.
3. Assign light homework
Letting your team know about a meeting beforehand also provides the opportunity to assign a little light homework. This should be done carefully, as you don’t want to overly influence an upcoming meeting.
Nevertheless, an open-ended homework assignment can help set the stage and increase the productiveness of your brainstorming.
For instance, if you’re going to conceptualize how to create a new internal business system, show your team how McDonald’s has used systems to create a sustainable business model. Then challenge them to come to the meeting with their own example of previous systematic success. This will spark thoughtful research that you can benefit from in your upcoming meeting.
4. Use impromptu sessions strategically
While structure and forethought are helpful, there are times when an impromptu brainstorming session is appropriate. For instance, if you find your team is waiting for your top management or a client to make a major business decision involving your function, use the free time to step aside as a group. Make a reservation at a local restaurant or place where you won’t be interrupted, and then use that time to help process and explore different ideas about your trip.
Impromptu brainstorming sessions can be disruptive if they’re interrupting normal schedules. However, if you are aware of potential pre-existing downtime, taking advantage of it on the fly to stoke your team’s creativity — especially if you’re in a unique environment — can be a great way to improve your team’s.productivity in PR brainstorming.
5. Unplug as you go
The ability to focus is a critical part of any successful brainstorming activity. If a person is distracted by other thoughts and responsibilities, it will negatively influence their ability to think creatively.
Finding ways to unplug during a brainstorming session can help overcome the focus issue. Rather than having your staff step 10 feet away from their desks to meet in a nearby conference room, pick a place further away from their normal work haunts. You can even go on a walk or visit a local park to really disconnect. Have your staff turn off notifications, too.
Unplugging is a great way to ensure that you get your team’s entire focus. It allows each person to fully concentrate on the creative process at hand.
6. Take your team’s strengths into account
It’s hard to be creative on demand. While that’s part of the PR schtick, it doesn’t mean you have to accept it as an inevitable part of all aspects of business.
When it comes to brainstorming, in particular, it’s worth investing some effort into planning your sessions around your team’s strengths. For example, look for the most creative time of day for your team to meet. If you’re looking for an average, that’s probably between 9-11 a.m.
However, don’t be afraid to ask your team for input. When are they individually the most effective? See if there’s a consensus. Focusing on your team’s creative strengths is one of the easiest ways to maximize their collectively productive efforts.
7. Persistence produces best results
Most people assume that top, inventive ideas bubble to the surface early in brainstorming sessions, when you are freshest. But research published in 2020 found this is wrong. Creativity doesn’t drop away over time; it actually increases as you brainstorm. Many people confuse creativity with the ease of generating ideas. For many of us, early ideas come quickly, while later ideas are harder to find: “Our best ideas are there. They just require more digging,” says Loran Nordgren, Professor of Management at Northwestern University in Chicago, who conducted the research, “If you’re struggling, keep going.”
Many elements go into a good brainstorming session. Structure, freedom, environment, personal creative rhythms, and many other factors play a part. Taking the time to invest in how you do your brainstorming is critical if you want to get the most out of every session. This will help you to increase your productivity in PR brainstorming sessions.