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Brewing big ideas – the secret to successful marketing and PR campaigns

By Laurna Woods

Fresh eyes see things you might not think are out of the ordinary. That's how I felt when one of our interns asked me how our integrated communications agency keeps coming up with new ideas to fuel marketing and PR campaigns.

We’re in the ideas industry – ideas are our stock and trade – and much as I value them, I’ve grown used to creativity just always being there.

One of our interns, Katie, is already a veteran of our brainstorming sessions after just a few short months with us and tells me she loves being part of an ideas agency. And what struck her was the variety of ideas that come out as we bounce about new ways to promote our clients and drive new business for them. Why, she wondered, don’t the ideas dry up?

I’ve been with Beattie since I was younger than Katie, more than 20 years in PR and marketing. Even now, finding that game-changing idea to promote a client gives me a thrill – whether it’s one of my own or one that’s come from our team of PRs, digital marketers, UX and UI specialists, and designers.

Having this team gives us many eyes and ears, the most important resource we can have when it comes to building a PR and marketing campaign that delivers results.

Spot emerging trends

So where are we looking for inspiration? There’s the news for starters – in print, on TV, on radio, online and on social media. We keep up with goings-on in the industries we cover and the industries we don’t, current events, cultural events. We’re news junkies. That way, we spot emerging trends and talent – and the opportunities they present for our clients.

Keeping abreast of changes within our own industrial sector – be that an update to a social media giant’s algorithm, or the rise of something like voice search – helps us find new ways to market and promote businesses. Spotting an opportunity early gives us, and them, an advantage.

We take on fresh blood in the form of the rising stars who join our internship and graduate programmes. That give us access to fresh thinking and a youthful perspective.

But we’ve also got a bank of seasoned pros who have been over the course before. They know what works and what doesn’t in a PR campaign, a marketing strategy or a website overhaul. Genuinely new ideas are few and far between – but there are plenty of fresh twists or new spins that can be put on techniques and strategies that have worked before.

Clients, too, provide inspiration. Things they think of as everyday events can be quite novel outside of their profession or specialism.

Simple ideas have most impact

Then there are the friendly comments and questions we’re asked by journalists and influencers when we meet up at events – taking note of what people on the outside are asking and thinking can help inform future strategy.

The ideas with most impact are simple to those they are aimed at. If you have to explain an idea, bin it, you’re wasting time the brand could be using more fruitfully. Getting to these simple, killer ideas is the mission. That kind of simple thinking isn’t always that easy.

A lot of what we do comes organically – but we’re not averse to trying more esoteric means to develop innovative PR and marketing strategies. I’m a great fan of the thinking at the Ideas Factory and two of their brainstorming techniques have paid off for us.

One of them involves using Lego to create a physical representation of the problem then using lateral thinking to find the way through. It works because one half of the brain is concentrating on the orderly task in hand, freeing up the other half for flights of fancy.

The other that we’re having success with is the Superhero brainstorm. Each participant is given a card featuring a superhero and their powers – there’s the likes of Spider-Man, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Invisible Girl and Dr Strange.

Not your standard marketing campaign

Then they are presented with a problem and have to use those superpowers to come up with a solution. They set out to find a radical, outlandish idea – and not necessarily one that a standard marketing or PR campaign would arrive at.

For example, if your message isn’t getting cut-through, Dr Strange could make your rivals disappear so there’s only one voice. Obviously, we don’t have superpowers and can’t make companies disappear. But there’s the beginnings of a solution there. You need a louder voice, one that drowns out your rivals. You take that weird, wonderful, wacky idea and make it workable.

Though the Ideas Factory techniques sound outlandish, they encourage you to step away from the normal to find radical solutions that work in the real world. Ideas like that take imagination, and anything that can stimulate the imagination is to be seized upon. PR and marketing strategies are built on raw imagination.

Ultimately, our creativity as an integrated communications agency comes down to the calibre of the people we hire – the individuals who prod one another on to always improve. They observe, covet, hone and refine ideas to deliver the engaging content our clients desire.

To find out how we push the boundaries of PR, marketing, digital and web design to get the best for our clients, call us now on 0800 612 9890.