Much of successful public relations has to do with spotting good ideas and recognizing their PR value.
Generating good press for businesses and brands also means coming up with fresh concepts on a consistent basis, especially after the cool new product has been launched or the buzz from a seasonal campaign has died down.
Consider these ways to generate ideas for the times when your creative juices threaten to go dry.
Spot trends. People who are great at formulating PR ideas aren’t just naturally creative; they consume and analyze media constantly. While reading the latest pop culture story of the week or getting up to speed on international politics, look for common threads that seem to converge, and make the connections for brands. Is your tech startup client’s growth on pace with other small businesses? Does a new product appeal to an emerging demographic? Is it part of a growing trend, or does it buck that trend? All these things are good fodder for visibility.
Borrow other brains. Ours is a collaborative business, so when in doubt, pull others in. Include people similar to you as well as those with a different perspective or bias. Make it fun and worth everyone’s time by throwing in treats and making it an official brainstorm, or maybe just pull in two colleagues at lunch. Above all, let the conversation flow. Don’t object to any ideas (no matter how off-target) and write everything down. An off-the-cuff remark can lead to a great idea.
Use the calendar. I’ve never been a fan of “fake” holidays (no offense, National Bobblehead Day), though if you’re really clever, it can work for PR. Nonetheless, there are plenty of legitimate calendar events to work with if you think it through. There are the major holidays, as well as anniversaries, milestones, and the changing seasons. Then there are pop culture events (Super Bowl tie in? Oscars angle?), school-related milestones, elections, and anything else happening, really. Make your angle relevant by pegging it to something timely, and it’ll become a natural fit.
Try something wacky and fun. Often when thinking up ideas for generating press, we tend to be serious, putting on our “smart” hats, which is good and necessary. But once in a while, let yourself think about what would be really fun to do with the business or brand. If your product is a food or beverage, come up with a creative contest and offer to stock a party for the winner. If it’s a business-to-business service, try a competition in which the winning company gets the service free for a month.
Consider a stunt. A successful stunt doesn’t have to be huge or expensive, though strong visuals can help. Think in terms of a limited-time offer, photo opportunity, or even a prank. (Remember when Taco Bell announced it had bought the Liberty Bell? Or when Burger King said it had removed the Whopper from its menu?) It’s even better and less risky if the execution results in people being helped, like this New Year’s campaign by a British company which offered to dry clean suits for free for anyone who was unemployed.
Michelle Han is a senior account supervisor at Crenshaw Communications. A version of this article originally appeared on Crenshaw’s PR Fish Bowl blog.