“Creative thinking is the last legal way to secure an unfair advantage.”
Being creative in both approach and execution is something PR and marketing people talk about incessantly, and certainly the beginning of a new year is an ideal time to think about how best to bring a little creativity into your campaigns over the next twelve months.
The business benefits of showing imagination and originality in communication strategies are clear – these are the ingredients that give organisations an edge in increasingly competitive environments and help them engage with new and existing audiences.
However, there is an important caveat. Any and all creative thinking must be grounded in business reality and be executed properly.
A well thought-out publicity campaign can grab the media’s attention, get excellent coverage and leave a long-lasting positive impression with the target audience. A poorly thought-out one might still achieve attention and coverage, but the impression won’t be positive.
Last month, for example, an Australian marketing agency had to apologise for a government-funded publicity stunt promoting South Australia after media executives across the country received goldfish floating in bowls with the strapline: “Be the big fish in a small pond and come and test the water.” Unfortunately, the goldfish were dead.
Cautionary tales aside, if you’d like to usher some creativity into your campaigns here are five practical tips – inspired by Richard Parkinson’s excellent session on Creative Campaigns at the CIPR – that can help:
1. However much we would like them to, creative ideas rarely come from an isolated ‘eureka’ moment of terrific inspiration. It’s much more likely that a brainstorming session with a group of well-briefed people will work, yielding a series of smaller suggestions from which a big idea can grow.
2. Brainstorming works best if there are no barriers, so that people feel confident in sharing their ideas. Encourage the group to play and have fun, to embrace ambiguity and not to be afraid they might be wrong. If practical, try and hold the session in a different and relaxed environment – for example, bribe people with drinks and nibbles in the pub on a Friday afternoon!
3. Creative thinking still needs some structure.
Richard uses SCQA – Situation, Complication, Question and Answer. The old-school alternative is the Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem Solving (CPS) process:
a. Explore the Challenge
b. Generate Ideas
c. Prepare for Action
4. Keep an eye out for good examples of creative thinking by other organisations and build a file of ideas that you think work. Read through these periodically, they might just spark some inspiration that is relevant to what you are doing.
5. There will always be issues to overcome in the quest to be creative. These could be budget related, being stuck in a rut or convincing clients to do something different. As already mentioned, the only way around these is to ensure all new ideas are firmly grounded in business reality, and supported by logical thinking. Only go with the ideas that you feel you can confidently stand behind.