Let's talk about… brainstorming culture & creativity in PR
In our "5 questions with…" section, we regularly introduce you to our PIABO colleagues and share their expertise in communication and PR strategies. For todays World Creativity and Innovation Day, it’s Steffi Müller’s turn. She is Communications Director and PIABOs lead contact for strategy building, creative workshops and brainstormings. She told us how to brainstorm properly, which tools to use and why start-ups and tech companies also benefit from creative conceptions.
1. Steffi, you are Senior Communications Director at PIABO. You are also known internally as an expert for creative sessions and brainstorming. Can you tell us something about your daily work?
For most of the clients I work with, I'm on the team as a supervisor, which means I look at the accounts very strategically, I'm a sparring partner for the teams, and I make sure that everyone can work well and that we keep the clients' respective goals in mind. I am available to the clients for strategic questions and to provide input on account matters.
The strategic thinking with vision that is necessary for these tasks is what appeals to me about PR. For me, this also means not thinking in terms of boundaries, but focusing on what the customer needs, what the target groups look like, and how we can best reach them through communication – preferably across multiple channels and touchpoints. Such holistic communication is also much more in line with how we all absorb information today – no one consumes interesting things exclusively through the newspaper, or through social media, or any other medium. What matters is a good variety.
Creative ideas facilitate implementation. They can be the umbrella of a campaign or enable an interesting story that people like to read, listen to or watch. I've been involved in the creative process for quite some time. Additionally, I also advise my colleagues on creative methods and brainstorming, while acting as a moderator. I immensely enjoy the constructive processes, because it's great to see how energy is generated in a brainstorming session and how it results in many different ideas.
For me, the topic of creativity provides balance to the operational and administrative tasks that naturally also exist in PR. The variety of topics and tasks is an absolute benefit of my work. It never gets boring.
2. Let's shed some light on creativity in communication. What unique creative hacks can you share? And are there any particular tools you can recommend?
The topic of tools depends on whether you're meeting in person to create or it's a hybrid or remote brainstorming session. For a creative process implemented in person, you should have enough flipcharts, pens and post-its or even a good whiteboard on site and use an appropriately large room to work together in and move around. Then ideas can bubble up. Hybrid and remote are good tools for collaborative work that function visually, while allowing everyone to participate. I often work with Miro, but I also like Conceptboard as a DSGVO-compliant alternative. Basically, a tool should be easy to use and, similar to a physical whiteboard or flipchart, provide varied display options and rearranging of ideas and thoughts. Often there are also great features included that can support the ideation process, such as a timer that can turn tasks into a timed game or a voting feature that can help select idea approaches.
Ultimate hacks for me are three things:
1) A creative process needs structure. This sounds strange and uncreative, but it's not. It is important as an initiator to think about what the goal of a brainstorming session should be and how to get there: Is an exchange enough, which creative method could help, what all do I need for it, etc.?
2) A creative process needs time. Time pressure stalls creativity, because it limits free thinking. Everyone who was under pressure trying to find great ideas in 30 minutes will most likely fail.
3) The start should be a good warm up. A warm up helps one forget the urgent emails and the upcoming appointments and allows participants to fully engage the brainstorming session. The important thing here is to do something completely different from what is otherwise on the daily schedule to stimulate the mind anew. For brainstorming sessions that take place in the presence, I also recommend standing up and incorporating a game that requires movement as a warm up. For remote and hybrid calls, there are many great suggestions for online warm-ups on the internet.
3. Many of our customers are already very innovative companies that often present themselves to the outside world with a great deal of creativity. Why do such companies also need support in designing creative PR measures?
That's right, our customers are very innovative and have good ideas for their companies. The energy they have motivates us at PIABO to communicate this to the media, via social media at events, etc. However, this transformation into communication via various channels also requires good ideas, which brings us back to the topic of creative processes and brainstorming.
Our clients trust that we can do this transformation, plus advise them on it and develop appropriate ideas. That's why it's important to have a good brainstorming culture, which is exactly what we at PIABO are able to do. By now, we have even initiated joint creative processes with some customers to achieve a communicative objective. This again promotes cooperation at eye level – at PIABO we see ourselves as partners of our clients. In addition, the basis for the implementation of ideas is once again different: If an idea has been developed together, everyone is very ambitious to realize it.
4. You advocate for a “brainstorming culture” in companies. Do you also see this form of culture at PIABO?
Yes, I see it and I also believe it to be vibrant. As I already described, ideas are the basis of our daily work. Thus I am glad to be able to support my colleagues in the area of idea generation and brainstorming and to give impulses for our brainstorming culture.
Finding ideas together in an intimate process strengthens us as a PIABO team, even across accounts. This is because the brainstorming sessions usually connect employees and customers, both adding very different expertise. The different ways of thinking and the various perspectives enable something new to emerge from this mutual creative process that would not have been possible otherwise. So everyone who participates is important, and that's exactly what strengthens cohesion. And of course, it's also fun to work in a brainstorming session in a completely different way than during the rest of the day: It's very playful, everything is possible and we can first "spin" ideas freely, as I often call it. It's great to be able to create something together with my colleagues.
5. Finally, are there any moments from brainstorming sessions that you particularly like to remember? What tips would you pass on to others who also want to be creative?
I remember many incredible brainstorming sessions, and I can't really pick just one. The best thing is when I notice that everyone is involved and we are free to let ideas bubble up in the protected space of brainstorming, where anything is possible. This has a unique dynamic and energy.
That's why I would like to present three tips for everyone who wants to get creative, and I'll follow them up with my hacks from above: Take your time and be open to see the idea generation as a game and then have a lot of fun with it!