January 21, 2015

3 Ways to Kick-Start Your Brainstorms


It’s not a surprise to hear that content rules social media. As time goes on, the need for brands to produce high quality, highly relevant content only increases. Brands are now responsible for creating visual content several times a week that used to take months to approve and execute. How can a brand possibly think of enough ideas to meet that demand? Here are three tactics to keep your brain fresh and the ideas flowing.

1. Spend 10 minutes every day thinking of ideas.

Too often we set aside hour-long blocks of time with people from various departments called in to think of new ideas. Instead, try getting into the habit of setting aside 10 minutes (we like to pick a time around 2 P.M. for this – it’s late enough in the day that things have happened in the news to inspire us, but not too late that we can’t act real time should the situation call for it). During these 10 minutes, run through trending topics on Facebook or Twitter, or skim CNN or Huffington Post (whatever site makes the most sense for your brand). Quickly jot down a few key happenings. Then list one idea for each item on that list. It doesn’t need to perfect or really any good at all. But it’s important to write something down. When the 10 minutes are up, try to select one item that you can develop into a viable content idea. If you can get a viable idea twice a week, you’re doing great. The objective isn’t to get tons of ideas every day; it’s getting your brain used to down-and-dirty creative sessions. This is also a method you can use solo or with a small group, depending on what works best for your organization.

2. Spend several hours really focused on one objective.

Let’s face it, sometimes we need big ideas. In the agency world, a client could have a product launching or maybe it’s Mother’s Day and we need as many concepts as we can to use across industries and target demographics. When those situations arise, we pencil in a half day for a brainstorm. Yes, four hours of brainstorming. There are many different group brainstorming techniques to implement, so there’s no set formula but here are some important things to note:

  • Prepare attendees in advance. Give everyone who’s coming to the session some homework. They should have materials to review and know what the goal of the brainstorm is before walking into the room. Not everyone works well just hearing a challenge and throwing out a lot of ideas. Some people need to sit with the information and think about it. Make sure everyone has the chance to soar with their brainstorming strengths.
  • Try different techniques each time. There is no tried and true method of brainstorming. We’ve tried everything from “hooking” (where team members throw lots of ideas out on the table and other team members can build off or “hook” on to the ones they line to continue to build it out) to wearing “hats” and most things in between. What’s worked best for us is having the freedom to try something new each time and focus on achieving our goal.
  • Set a goal. Someone needs to clearly establish why we’re brainstorming, what we need to end the session with, and how we will use it going forward. If you don’t do that, you’re just a bunch of people in a room shouting out ideas.

3. Be impromptu.

Some of the most successful ideas I’ve seen have come from conversations that happen within the comment threads of our Facebook group.. If you see something interesting, whether it’s an article or a subway ad during your commute, share it with your team and see what happens. And don’t be afraid to share ideas with decision makers. I’ve never been told by a client to have my team stop sending ideas to them. Ever. In fact, I’ve been told by several clients they’d rather us send through 100 ideas than not get anything from us at all. These impromptu sessions keep creative juices flowing and often create the foundation of even bigger ideas later.

I’ve found that when you make a habit of brainstorming (like in suggestions 1 and 2), brainstorming makes a habit of you (suggestion 3).

Tags: Best Practices, Content Marketing, Facebook, Strategy

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