Feeling challenged? Doh. Feeling overwhelmed? Hell, yeah.
If ever there was a time for some creative thinking, it’s now. We are all cooped up with our loved ones (who we pray we will still love when this is over). And the daily strain is a mental grind.
What we need now is to learn how to think creatively alone, or with the help of your loved ones (yup, really), or your virtual pals and colleagues. Granted, it’s not quite the same as a brainstorm in the boardroom with frisbees and jelly beans but there are many ways to creatively get around your current challenges – whether work, or life in general.
Creative thinking is about taking a fresh look, thinking of new, different, better ways to solve issues, as much as creating stand out campaigns. In Firefly’s professional world of marketers and communicators, we are always under constant pressure to come up with creative and interesting content every day; sometimes we are given exciting campaigns that spur and drive our creativity, and sometimes the challenge may be huge but the brief is less stimulating, and we get stuck.
And today, we have the added challenge of getting our creative juices flowing as we all work in isolation of each other – so now more than ever we need creative ideas to tackle the unforeseen challenges that ‘coronavirus disruption’ brings.
Luckily for you, I’ve found some great tools to help boost your creativity, amuse you and ease your day and hopefully get you back on the path to success and motivation.
Brainstorming can be a brilliant way to boost creativity. Getting ideas from your colleagues and bouncing thoughts from one person to another can really help to build ideas. However, sometimes, it’s not possible to bring all your colleagues together physically or virtually. This is where Brainsparker comes in.
Brainsparker is a free app that helps you stretch your creative muscles without relying on a colleague. The app contains 200 cards with thought-provoking words or phrases, you simply shake your smartphone and it produces a new card. These random trigger words will help you to relate to the problem at hand and hopefully, get thinking a little more creatively.
Back to basics
It’s great that we have a selection of tools which can help us think more creatively, but sometimes we need to go back to the basics and use the tricks we heard about years ago. One brilliant technique for encouraging creative thinking and boosting productivity is mind mapping. And no, I’m not suggesting that you do some Sherlock Holmes style, internal mind palace brainstorming. It’s far simpler than that.
The key to a successful mind map is to write down every idea you have, no idea is too silly or too farfetched. In fact, the more ideas you jot down, the better.
Mind maps can be used for any thinking or learning task, whether that’s coming up with a campaign or thinking of a topic for a blog, just make sure that you have fun with creating your mind map. Choose bright colours to link your thoughts and ideas together, draw images instead of words or use some funky software to make it look exciting. For some free mind mapping software check out Coggle.
Have some fun
When you get stuck in a creative rut, it’s easy to give up. But, if you give up too quickly, you’ll never learn how to overcome your creative block. Instead, try and have some fun while thinking up some creative ideas. A great place to start is to listen to someone inspirational and motivating. TED Talks are a brilliant way to get ideas and start thinking more creatively. The slogan for these conferences is ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’ and they attract some of the most innovative and creative minds on the planet. The free TED app includes hundreds of videos that can provide you with some refreshed creative inspiration and encourage you to think, dare I say it, outside of the box.
All of the videos can be downloaded to your phone and the ‘Inspire Me’ function allows you to select what kind of inspirational video you’re looking for.
It’s all child’s play
Young children are tremendously creative. They are constantly asking questions and using their imagination, primarily because they are often experiencing situations for the first time. Yes, it can be quite annoying when you have a child constantly asking you ‘why’ or ‘how’, but they have the right idea.
As we get older, we stop asking the ‘how’, ‘what’ and ‘why’ questions because we have experience, and those questions have been explained to us. But could this be affecting our imagination? Perhaps if we asked a few more questions, our content might be a little more creative.
This is where Alex Osborn’s checklist technique comes into play. This very simple exercise is essentially a list of questions that you should ask yourself before starting your work.
There are six main questions you should ask yourself before beginning any piece of creative work:
If you can answer these questions before beginning a task, you’ll likely come up with some interesting and creative answers, saving you from getting halfway through a life challenge or campaign brief and then running out of ideas.
So, there you have it — hopefully I’ve given you some simple techniques to think about if you’re ever stuck in a creative rut.
As we all adapt to a new way of working we mustn’t let our creativity suffer – if anything, we need as much creativity that we can muster to keep us in good spirits.
Meanwhile, stay well and stay safe!
It’s a few days until my wedding so I apologise in advance for these analogies, but I’ve often thought that PR and ABM should be joined in holy matrimony. Public Relations and Account-Based Marketing work as a pair and can certainly make beautiful content babies together, so why are teams still operating separately?
We are gathered here together…
ABM is a strategic marketing approach, largely adopted by B2B businesses in IT, services and consultancies, whereby an organisation communicates with a prospect in a highly personalised way. Rather than a marketing campaign to a group of prospects who are similar (because of industry, size, need etc), or an approach through a certain communication channel, ABM aligns marketing tactics with sales goals and picks off prospects that require special attention.
If ABM is the groom, then ABM’s best man is sales. Of course, they must stay in constant contact as the primary objective of ABM is to convert the prospect using the insights from the sales team.
Meanwhile, the friendship between PR (the bride) and content marketing (her maid of honour) blooms as PR has moved further and further away from being purely media relations focused, and instead become a more holistic communication approach, reaching audiences through many channels.
Do you, PR, take ABM, to have and to hold?
So, why should PR and ABM be walking down the aisle together? ABM teams are driven by the very specific audience they’re targeting, very clearly understanding the challenges this audiences faces. This insight and understanding serves as great inspiration for PR content and can unearth some interesting viewpoints and insights. Sometimes, PR can get stuck in an echo chamber where very similar views are put forward on social media channels and in the press. But it’s important to say something new, bringing a fresh perspective to the conversation. Otherwise it’s just a lot of people saying the same thing, which gets tedious very quickly.
ABM, meanwhile, can make use of the bank of content the PR team develops. PR teams are in constant contact with executives and thought leaders in the organisation, teasing out advice and viewpoints which can benefit prospects. Even short ‘how to’ type content, or a comment on a topical issue could help build the relationship with the prospect and stay front of mind.
That’s what they get from each other, but once paired up, what’s next? ABM teams have an in-depth understanding of their accounts whilst PR’s speciality is storytelling. Together with this insight, PR can assist in creating a story arc for prospects and help produce content to support the campaign. But remember that tailoring content doesn’t necessarily mean creating something completely new every time. Reusing and re-purposing existing content works too and makes the most of everyone’s efforts.
So, while I head down to a farm in Somerset to marry the person that brings out the best in me, I encourage all PRs and ABM leads to start dating (metaphorically, of course) and spark a relationship that might just bring about the happiest day of your life – or at the very least, help with that latest customer deal.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a love-hate relationship with spreadsheets. Some days they’re my best friend, other days they’re my mortal enemy — I tend to consider them one of life’s necessary evils. So, any tools that can make my life easier when it comes to a spreadsheet and Microsoft Excel, I embrace with open arms. And this new feature from Microsoft is exactly that.
Microsoft is adding a feature to its Excel mobile app for iOS and Android that allows Excel users to take a photo of a table of data and convert it into a spreadsheet. Using AI, this feature uses image recognition, so users don’t have to manually enter hardcopy data. All you have to do is take a picture of the table and Excel will work its AI-magic to produce a spreadsheet, saving you from having to repeat the process of clicking through each cell and entering the data.
To see how this sorcery works in practice, check out Microsoft’s video here.
As client demand for influencer mapping, community building and engagement increases, I came across some interesting statistics that help prove such campaigns are worth their while.
A new study announced yesterday by ExactTargethighlights that consumers active on Twitter are the most influential online. The report reveals that Tweeters are three times more likely to impact a brand’s reputation through syndicated tweets, blog posts, articles and product reviews than the average consumer. This provides a strong argument that online influencer research and digital PR campaigns are of value to brands.
ExactTarget’s principle Morgan Stewart points out that “while the number of active Twitter users is less thanFacebook, the concentration of highly engaged and influential content creators is unrivalled” noting that it’s becoming the “gathering place for content creators whose influence spills over into every corner of the internet.”
Some useful, persuasive stats:
72% of Twitter users publish blog posts at least monthly
70% comment on blogs
61% write at least one monthly product review
61% comment on news sites
Providing further evidence of the value of opening up a Twitter channel, the report reveals the principle reason for consumers to follow a brand on Twitter is to get information about the company and consequently their products. If your audience is online and you’re not, you are clearly missing a trick.
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