Creative Brainstorming

September 9, 2015

by Heather Keroes

Your job title doesn’t need the word “creative” in order for your role to be creative.  That’s one lesson that struck home for me when I attended the PRSA Sunshine District Conference this year.  Hundreds of PR professionals gathered from across Florida to experience an amazing line-up of speakers, including Duncan Wardle, vice president of Walt Disney Company’s Creative Inc., Disney’s team of “creative ideation and innovation catalysts.”

Wardle did not get up on a stage to give a presentation.  Instead, he took our large group through creative exercises designed to push past our own barriers.  Here are a couple of examples that may inspire you and serve as catalysts for your next brainstorm.

  • Start with a Smile – In groups of three, we took turns playing expert and reporters.  And boy, Wardle selected unique subject matter for the experts!  When it was my turn to play the expert, I became a relationship therapist for unicorns.  The result?  The most fun and fantastical “media” interview on the planet.  And bonus, it was a great way to get the juices flowing and incite laughter.  Smiles = relaxed way of thinking = creative thoughts.
  • Say, “Yes, And …” – Question:  Who are the most creative thinkers out there?  Answer:  Children.  But why?  As Wardle explained, when we become adults we think more efficiently and we seek to rationalize.  So when you bring up that next truly “out of the box” idea at your team brainstorm, the chances of it getting shot down are pretty high.  The problem isn’t that others don’t appreciate your idea; it’s that they have already weighed it against a predetermined set of criteria (resources, budget, time, etc.).  We’re naysayers by nature, so instead of saying, “no,” or “yes, but …” try saying “yes, and …” By doing so, you’ll make a good idea even better and encourage others to share their creative thoughts.

Other tips:

  • Give your employees dedicated time to work on “ideation” – the creation of ideas.
  • Hold your brainstorms in different places, not just conference rooms.  See the sun once in a while.
  • Keep the number of participants small for each brainstorm, so you have more time to explore ideas.  Wardle recommended four people as the ideal.
  • Invite “naïve experts” to join your brainstorm.  These experts come from outside your department or profession, so they aren’t constricted by the knowledge and preconceptions your team may possess.  For example, Wardle has invited chefs to join his team for brainstorm sessions that aren’t about food.

Our brainstorm sessions at Curley & Pynn have always resulted in fun ideas (especially when aided by my favorite brain fuel, ice cream), but I plan to start adding some of the above approaches into the mix.  Do you have any unique brainstorming tips?  Share them in the comments below.


Just One Bite.

September 4, 2015

by Roger Pynn

No.  This isn’t a diet tip.

It just struck me today while scanning one of the many sources I read for thoughts on communication, business and leadership that hardly a day goes by that I don’t get at least one bite from the magazines, newspapers, aggregators and blogs I follow … and that single morsel makes the investment of time worthwhile.

The folks who work in our firm – and most others like us, I imagine – probably often feel the pressure to “be billable” … to make sure they are doing productive client work.  And, yes, we want them to do that both because our clients expect it and that is how we remain profitable.

But they are also more valuable to our clients and to us as they grow from experience and from the accumulation of knowledge.  A Harvard Business Review item passed on by the Public Relations Society of America caught my eye with the headline “6 Ways to Reduce the Stress of Presenting.”  I found my bite for the day in four-time New York Times best-selling author Joseph Grenny’s  second step:  “Rehearse, but don’t obsess.”

I present a lot these days and I’ve found myself over-rehearsing instead of, as he suggests, rehearsing just three times:  once when he finishes preparing the talk, then the day before he is scheduled and, finally, a few hours before going “on.”  I like that cadence.

We live in an age of lifelong learning and thankfully technology surrounds us with a classroom without walls.  You don’t need to be a full-time, Web-surfing student at the expense of achieving your assigned responsibilities, but your boss will benefit when you take time to look for an intellectual snack each day.


The “L” Word

September 1, 2015

by Roger Pynn

People in our profession ought to see it as job security that so many articles on success in business are dedicated to communication.  For instance, my inbox today brought one from Forbes and another from Fortune.

On Forbes.com, SnappConner PR founder Cheryl Conner’s item headlined “3 Steps to a Billion Dollar Company” had a parenthetical subhead:  “A Hint: Communication is Key.”  One of those steps was “Tell the authentic story only your brand can tell.”

Fortune published a piece by Halogen Software VP of HR Dominique Jones titled “The single worst mistake that a manager can make.”  She shared a list of things managers should do, beginning with “Communicate goals clearly and often.”

You ought to read both of these.  They deliver things you probably already know, but they are good reminders.  More importantly, both make it clear that communication isn’t just about what you say.  What you hear is critical … which means you have to remember the “L” word.  Listening is just as important as sending messages.

Conner, who was talking about marketing communications, wrote “Figure out what people will want, and give it to them.”  That takes active listening … sometimes in the form of formal research, but in today’s world it more and more frequently is about listening to the countless conversations that go on around us.

HR exec Jones was talking about internal communications.  So what did she say is the worst mistake a manager can make?  Hiring people just like you.  But her remedy is the “L” word:

“It’s easy to fall into the trap of hiring employees whom you can relate to, but building a strong team starts with understanding the strengths and weaknesses of you, the leader, and your team members. 

“By simply listening to what employees have to say and responding to their specific issues, you can provide meaningful feedback that will not only help them in their current role, but also assist them in achieving long-term career aspirations.”

And that would make you the good boss.


Start with the “Why”

March 2, 2015

by Ashley Tinstman

Today, you have to write a news release.  Tomorrow, you need to finish two blog posts.  Next week, you’re planning a major event and managing a photo shoot.  You’ve got a list a mile long of things to do, but have you ever stopped to think, “Why?”  Why are you writing that news release?  What’s the goal behind that event you’re planning?

There’s a great TED Talk by Simon Sinek on this topic.  He illustrates it through what he calls the Golden Circle.  Take a moment and imagine three concentric circles on a sheet of paper—or better yet, draw it out.  The outermost circle is labeled “what,” the middle circle is labeled “how,” and the innermost circle is the “why.”  In other words, the “what” is your tactics, the “how” is your strategies and the “why” is your goal.

For most of us, our natural instinct is to start with the “what.”  It’s easy to tell people about our tactics and what we do.  Though slightly more challenging, many of us are able to define our strategies—the “how” of what we do.  But there are very few who start with and remember the “why.”

But when you do, it makes all the difference.  It impacts how you write the story, plan the event, pitch a journalist and the myriad other things you do as a communications professional.

So, how do you make sure you’re starting with “why?”  My suggestion would be to do what Simon Sinek does—map it out.  Draw an actual road map for your project, starting with your goal.  And if you don’t know what the goal is, it’s OK to ask or even be the catalyst that helps figure it out.  But once you build that road map, you can make sure that your strategies and tactics are always tethered to the “why.”

So, ask yourself:  Are you guilty of leading with tactics or strategies, rather than the goal?  If so, challenge yourself to go through this process.  You might find yourself looking at things through a wider lens.


Back to Basics

February 27, 2015

by Roger Pynn

After 30 years, I think I’ve seen just about everything in our business change.

But as I’ve written here before, the more things change … the more they stay the same.

And that is certainly true of the way to approach a problem.  I was reminded of that today when I’d wrestled with how to present for a client an overview of a strategy designed to get them out of a hole.

First I took an outline approach.  Then a narrative.  Then a graphic.

But in the end, what was missing was a clear statement of the problem … what we used to call the “situation analysis.”  So I wrote Situation Analysis on top of the page and described in three simple paragraphs just what we are dealing with … what the challenge is to the client organization and all of its stakeholders.

The rest becomes a piece of cake.  And it reminded me once more of our favorite quote from that legendary hunter Howard Hill, who sought out big game with just a bow and arrow.  He said:  “Unless you know your game’s feeding, sleeping and daily habits, unless you plan your hunt in great detail and follow your plan with precision, you are not hunting at all … you are just walking in the woods.”

So true.  Unless you can see and understand your target, all you do is futile.  Hence, the title of our blog.


If It Ain’t Broke

December 5, 2014

by Dan Ward

Thank you to the Boston Globe for reminding us that two rules for life and business are as true today as ever.

The paper’s editor last month decided that a new “bold approach” to the Business section required a new name for that section.  The focus of business coverage wasn’t changing; they’re still covering business news, only more prominently.

After several brainstorming sessions, a name was chosen – Business – thereby proving the continued relevance of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and “keep it simple, stupid.”

If the strongest human urge is to edit someone else’s copy, then the next-strongest may be the desire to re-name (or even “re-brand”) a product or service.  Too many of us in the PR and marketing fields fall into this trap, suggesting re-brands because they’re fun to do and, well, because everyone else is doing it.

But if a name simply and succinctly communicates your product’s purpose, then it ain’t broke.


The Ethical Gut-Check

August 1, 2014

by Kerry Martin

Almost every industry or profession has a moral standard to which they adhere.  Doctors have the Hippocratic Oath, lawyers have the Bar Association with its Rules of Professional Conduct and the clergy have a pretty big book.  For public relations practitioners, we have a code of ethics – both developed by the Public Relations Society of America and the Florida Public Relations Association (FPRA).

Yesterday during a breakfast meeting of the Orlando Area chapter of FPRA, Roger Pynn, APR, CPRC, gave the room of PR professionals a pop quiz on their knowledge of the Code of Ethics.  While no one could recite any of the 14 principles from rote memory, in every business scenario he posed to the group, the audience could point out the ethical dilemmas and what lines were crossed.

Throughout the presentation, I saw PR practitioners studiously reviewing the principles of adhering “to the highest standards of accuracy and truth,” dealing “fairly with the public” and exemplifying “high standards of honesty and integrity.”  But what Roger offered the group was perhaps more helpful than any pneumonic memorization device:  a mirror.

ethics_mirror

Roger’s advice:  If you want to know whether you are doing the right thing, take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror.  That’s the ethics gut-check you really need.


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