Gaming Creativity: How to Fake it till you Create it
One of the hardest parts of digital PR is coming up with creative ideas on tap. But there are various steps you can undertake to make the process a little bit easier. Here’s some handy starting tips on improving your creative process:
1. Break Ideation Down
When it comes to generating ideas, it can be hard to know where to begin. So try and find ways to make your initial ideation into more of a mechanical process.
A few years ago now, Mark Johnstone in a talk ‘How to Produce Better Content Ideas’ shared a television advert for BT broadband. In the advert, a boy asks his father ‘why did they build the Great Wall of China?’ The dad, flustered because he doesn’t know, panics and tells his son they built it to keep the rabbits out. Cut to – the boy in school, about to deliver a presentation to his class on why China built the great wall:
So, how did Mark break the advert down to examine its success?
- Customer Insight
- Product Truth
- Competitor Insight
BT knew that its customers wanted information for their children. They knew their broadband speed was faster and could provide information quicker. They knew competitors were entirely focused on price. They found success by combining Customer Insight, Product Truth, and Competitor Insight.
Top Tip: Take inspiration from this advert and try and generate ideas through manageable sections.
Instead of trying to create ideas from the air, which is daunting, find a way to mechanically break ideation down to explore different sections at a time.
- Customer Insight – Look at your customers. What kinds of people are they? What kinds of sites do they frequent? Look at problems they face or stories of interest to them. If you sell footwear to older women, don’t look at shoes, look at the issues faced by older women.
- Product Truth – What do these products do? Who would buy this? What need does it address? You might be able to tie into a more interesting topic.
- Competitor Insight – Research blog posts and marketing campaigns of similar brands. What stands out? What do you do differently?
Whilst this approach may not necessarily work for you, try to find ways to make your ideation sessions less daunting from the start – look at target sites, demographics, products, and brainstorm any connections you might find.
2. Remember to Tell a Good Story
Why would a journalist cover my content marketing campaign? Often, the answer is simple, and it’s one which hasn’t changed a great deal in a fair few decades. For the journalist, the story is everything.
One of my favourite books on ideation is Chip and Dan Heath’s Made to Stick. In their book, the Heath brothers examine adverts and urban legends to dissect story success – what makes a good story stick? They break down stories into a SUCCESS principle, some of which can be easily applied to ideation:
- Simplicity – Often you’ll often provide journalists with a wealth of data and they’ll pick out one element and just run with that. Ideas which stick are often simple and to the point. Can you chisel your idea into its one core element? Think in terms of movie pitches. ‘Speed is Die Hard on a bus!’ ‘Alien is Jaws in space!’ What’s your hook?
- Unexpectedness – Our brain notices things that are different. Surprising data often has more value. For example – did you know that deer kill more people than sharks every year? Playing against stereotypes or audience expectations can help an idea land. Look at stories journalists are covering in your industry and try to add your own unexpected twist.
- Emotions – Notice how the press will do human interest stories which will have more impact than simply listing figures? People are more likely to share stories that make them feel something – happiness, anger, surprise. Can you provide a human element to make your ideas more successful?
Always ask – who cares? Why would a journalist want this? What makes it stand out?
3. Site Survey to Reverse Engineer Content
One last fast tip to get started. Use an advanced Google Search Operator to perform a site search with a relevant keyword and ‘survey.’ This works especially well with tabloids. So for example, if you sell wedding rings and want wedding topics to inspire you, try this in Google:
This will pull up all combinations of all stories built around weddings and surveys. Doing this will provide an overview of the flavour of stories the press has covered around your keyword. And you might notice a few patterns. Weddings, for example, will bring up:
- Cost of weddings
- Wedding habits
- Wedding locations
- Wedding stress
If most of the stories are on the costs of weddings, it makes sense to start there as it’s clearly a subject the press are keen to explore. Can you look to do an unexpected twist on this?
Again – this isn’t a definitive list, but starting ideation can be daunting and hopefully, these tips are useful. Find more inspiration here. And if you’d like to leave ideation in our hands, feel free to contact us to find out more!