There are few things more frustrating for a PR professional than being asked to ‘come up with a quick idea’. The concept that ideas are simply pulled from nowhere is frankly ludicrous, and actually devalues the creative process.
That’s not to say that you can’t have ideas quickly. Far from it. It’s totally possible to have ideas all the time – in the shower, walking to work, while making a cup of tea and – if you’re lucky – during your ideation session with your team or while sat at your desk writing your next campaign proposal!
But those ideas don’t come from nothing. If you want to succeed in promoting your brand through digital PR, you’ll need to invest time filling your ‘creativity jar’ – meaning gathering information, finding inspiration and storing it safely so that, when the time comes, you’ll be able to call on all of that to power your ‘quick idea’. The reason the analogy uses a ‘jar’, is that we can fill that jar, but we can also empty it – it’s not a finite resource, so you’ll need to keep on learning, keep on adding to it, if you are to continue to succeed.
Here are just a few ways to get your creative juices flowing:
Know your brand values
One of the first things we do as a PR team is to immerse ourselves in the brand of our client. Often, this means conducting a ‘discovery day’ where we dig into the brand, its values and its aspirations. We ask not only what they sell and what they want to sell more of, but how they differentiate, how they want to be known and what they want to stand for.
By articulating these brand values, we are much better equipped to come up with relevant, worthwhile ideas to promote the business.
And it’s not just about representing the brand, either. Brand values are also important from the audience’s perspective. Modern consumers are far more savvy to traditional advertising and will be much more inclined to choose a brand that they feel genuinely reflects their own values than one that simply sells the cheapest version of a product. It’s about practicing what you preach and encouraging audiences to align themselves with you.
It’s easy to bring your own media preferences to the ideas table. It’s a skill to be able to appreciate the broader media landscape and to recognise that sometimes what works well isn’t what you’d necessarily choose to read yourself.
By regularly immersing yourself in the press, you make it much easier for yourself to come up with ideas that will suit a specific audience.
That means reading the publications that are pertinent to your client’s industry or niche, taking in mass media, watching TV, listening to the radio, reading print, scouring the web, creating Feedly lists, interacting with Twitter… Become a media expert so you know what works, what doesn’t and can call on that knowledge when you need it.
Appraise PR campaigns
As a PR, it’s important to be hungry for PR inspiration and that means keeping a close eye on other PR campaigns that are happening, whether that’s in your own niche/industry or beyond.
If you like something, consider why; what facets of it worked well for you? Why do you think you liked it? Why do you think they think their audience will like it? What effect did it have? Why did the journalist choose to use it?
If it’s something you don’t like, talk about that too! As a team, we regularly appraise PR campaigns for their positives and their negatives and that really helps us to build up our own creative knowledge.
You don’t want to be one of those PRs who just churns out the same campaigns again and again. Find a winning formula and use it, for sure, but it’s important – especially in the mass media age – that you’re coming up with new concepts and trying new things all the time.
Part of the joy of being in a PR team is that different people bring different ideas. Just recently, my colleague Jess had an idea that I personally would never have run with (mainly because I’m inherently cautious). But I trust her, and I trusted her judgement, and she launched the most successful campaign we’ve ever run.
That’s why it’s so important to try things. As many in the PR industry will attest to, not every idea works and you need to take the lessons from those that don’t into coming up with those that do. Get on with it, put it out there and if it’s a flop, learn and move on. You’ll be a better PR for it.
Be a total PR nerd
Once you start looking out for PR inspiration, be warned – it will come to you in the most random of places! It’s not uncommon for our team to spot PR inspiration in unlikely settings and bringing them up with colleagues, friends, the takeaway delivery person…
Your friend makes a comment about how much time you spend getting ready to go out. You start conceptualising a nationwide survey on how long people take to get ready and creating news stories around gender, age or regional splits.
Your colleague comments on how Wagon Wheels are so much smaller than they used to be. You consider pulling data on how the sizes of common shopping items have changed, visualising it in a graphic and selling it into the press as a ‘how brands are mugging you off’ style campaign.
Your boyfriend tells you he’s watched the most exciting Formula 1 race of the year. You wonder if that is true, what makes an exciting race and your mind wanders into data analysis where you overlay speeds, number of overtakes, angle of corners and length of track to find the most exciting race of all time.
Inspiration really can strike any time, so embrace the nerdiness of it all!
Tie it into SEO goals
The major value of digital PR over traditional is that is supports online visibility goals. So if you want to be seen by more of your audience online, you’ll want to tie your PR ideas into your SEO goals.
At the most practical level, that is achieved in two ways.
Firstly, you’ll need to consider the keywords for which you’re trying to improve rankings. No point coming up with a campaign all about kids’ beds if the client actually wants to improve rankings for their kitchen tables.
Secondly, consider link equity. Much like champagne in a fountain, the value of a link attained through digital PR is poured into the initial target page but then passes through nearby pages via internal links and folder structures. To get the most out of your PR campaigns, you’ll want to think about where your content is going to be housed and where your links should be directed to pass the most SEO value.
No idea comes from nothing. It’s the result of experience, research and inquisitive hunger to learn. But you can have those ideas quickly, providing you put the time into filling your ‘creativity jar’ with inspiration.
And if you’re struggling for PR ideas, you can always get in touch with us 😉