Tips for Successful Big-Picture Thinking in PR

27 Feb Tips for Successful Big-Picture Thinking in PR

The beginning of a new year is always daunting. As individuals, we set lofty goals and resolutions to make big lifestyle changes, often with big results in mind.

I’ve seen a similar phenomena occur in public relations as well. With the start of a new year, client contracts are being reviewed, yearly goals and success metrics are set, and there’s naturally a gravitational pull towards “big-picture” thinking. While I do believe this kind of mindset is necessary for starting the new year off on the right foot (after all, who wants to just pick up with business as usual when everyone else is thinking big?), this higher level of creativity can often lead both PR teams and clients alike down a rabbit hole where time is wasted and unrealistic goals are set, ultimately hindering the momentum that existed before the holidays.

That’s why I compiled a list of tips and best practices for successful big-picture thinking in public relations. These suggestions can help you, the PR professional, maintain any forward momentum you established in 2017 and keep it going through the first few months of this year — and beyond.

Establish end goals before brainstorming

It’s easy to get swept up in the process of brainstorming creative ideas for clients, but brainstorming without specific end goals in mind can be a waste of everyone’s time. Establishing goals up front can make brainstorming ideas far more productive and effective.

For example, one of our clients is celebrating their 40th anniversary this year and wanted to do something out of the ordinary to celebrate their success as a company. Before our team set up a brainstorming meeting with the client, we worked with their PR team to establish the goals they wanted this campaign to achieve. As a result, we came to the meeting with a variety of ideas that aligned with their end goals, and were able to use the time to decide on a campaign and move forward with the planning process.

Don’t be afraid to seek outside help!

Successful PR, marketing and other creative agencies all have one thing in common: their teams are open to collaboration and willing to share ideas across other teams. At SpeakerBox, when one of us runs into a creative rut or is putting together a big campaign for a client, we often hold all-staff brainstorms where everyone can bounce ideas off of each other and provide insights or solutions that may otherwise have not been considered.

Capitalizing on the variety of different expertises within your agency is also a great way to test out any “out-of-the-box” ideas that you might not be fully comfortable sharing with your client yet. See what the rest of the team thinks before going public with them. It’s very likely that they’ll be able to offer a perspective you may not have considered.

Embrace silly creativity exercises

We’ve all sat through painful brainstorming sessions where generating ideas becomes like squeezing water from a stone. This is where those silly creativity exercises can help. You may remember some of them from your “Philosophy 101” days in college, where everyone clamored to share their thought-provoking, existential comments, but really just liked to hear themselves talk. Well, now that we’re not all fighting for participation points and sucking up to our college professors, these creativity exercises can be a big help, whether you’re just starting the brainstorming process or stuck in a creative rut.

There are a number of different exercises you can use. This list from HubSpot has a good variety, from “structured to silly.” It’s a great starting point.

Keep in mind, these exercises don’t have to be complicated! My colleague, Robin Bectel – who also incidentally just wrote a post about how to incorporate creative thinking in B2B marketing – used a bubble chart to brainstorm ways to boost attendance for a client’s presentation at a Gartner event. At the center of the chart was the end goal, “boost attendance,” and each outside bubble corresponded to various avenues for achieving this goal (paid social, sponsored event advertising etc…). As a result, the brainstorm had direction – Robin was able to use the chart to get the conversation started, and the outside bubbles allowed the rest of us to think of ideas from a variety of different perspectives.

Keep the momentum going!

It’s critical to keep the planning process moving along, even if the exciting brainstorming sessions are over. Maybe you’ve decided on which idea to move forward with, but are waiting to hear back from the client on budget or final approval from their CEO. That doesn’t mean your team should completely halt all work. Take the time to research vendors, put together a tentative timeline, or create a skeleton proposal outlining your project’s end goals, budget and suggested KPI metrics. Whatever you do, just keep the momentum going on your end and anticipate the client’s next move. This type of proactive thinking not only helps move the process along, but also reflects positively on your team’s scrappiness and drive for high performance.

When done correctly, creative and high-level thinking can absolutely result in high-level successes for your clients. Just remember to establish your end goals first, use your peers and creativity exercises to make the most of brainstorming sessions, and keep the momentum going as you enter the planning process. That’s a winning formula for success throughout 2018.

Casey Dell'Isola
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