Posted by Tom Gable
Where do creative PR and other marketing, positioning and communicating ideas come from?
Experts recommend checking a broad range of media, including those you may not have encountered unless you go non-digital and take a newspaper or two to breakfast and a magazine or two to lunch.
In interviewing more than 20 applicants (ages 22 to 34) for jobs at Gable PR over a two-month period, I asked where they got their news. We were in a small conference room, with several different newspapers scattered on the table. All said online. One said she occasionally read the weekly business journal. I thumbed through a local daily and a weekly business journal with a couple of candidates just to see the reactions. None was aware of how the publications were organized but enjoyed following the flow of the news, something not often experienced online.
It’s too easy to subscribe to different digital news trackers and feeds, click on a promising link when one arrives, check out the single story and then move on to another link to a different story. The process is efficient and valuable for following certain topics, people and organizations. The missing parts for anyone in communications: the joy of discovery of new topics and nonessential information that can broaden your base of knowledge, providing new stimulus for future creative thought.
As a former print journalist, I have always started the morning with newspapers, even in today’s digital era. I subscribe to two local daily newspapers (one regional metropolitan, one business and financial) and The Wall Street Journal. During the week, I get hard copies of the local weekly business journal, the Sunday New York Times, and a dozen magazines (news, business, science, wine, management). In reading the physical product, one sees how the editors ranked the importance of the news based on story and photo placements. You get a sense of the world as you move page to page. And this is where discovery occurs — finding odd little features or analytical pieces you might not have seen elsewhere, adding to your intellectual database. I find stories that I missed in scanning through the digital editions of several of these publications.
Stephen King, in is book On Writing, talked about where his ideas came from. “There is no idea dump, no story central, no island of buried bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky; two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”
If we are coming up short on creative ideas for our clients during a brainstorming session, we’ll take a break for a day or two, assign further reading of the media covering our client, its competitors’ materials and general business media. We then ask each individual to come back with their top three ideas and compile the results for further brainstorming. The quality of the creative thought rises considerably as do the results for our clients, from positioning, to media stories, feature pitches, new product introduction ideas, conference speech topics, promotions and staging events for broadcast coverage, among other things.
For example, in helping position a new company and its software products for launch, the team read competitive coverage, marketing materials, trend stories in the industry and local news stories on some of the major customers in the space. They looked for what was there and also what wasn’t there — the ying and yang of creative thinking. The result: distinctive positioning for our client that became the foundation for a long-range strategic plan to help it break out of the competitive clutter and grow.
A little morning, midday and evening stimulus with a newspaper and magazine or two can go a long way.