If you want to stand out from your competitors and be a success, you need to think differently. As a PR professional you are faced with constant hurdles that are thrown your way and you need to be able to think on your feet to overcome them.

Instead of feeling helpless when faced by a challenge, why not *add a little spice* and get creative?

Bryan Mattimore, cofounder at the Innovation Agency Growth Engine touched on three creative ways to solve challenges in PR. Here, we unpack these strategies.

Let’s get right to it:

1. Use the design thinking process

Firstly, what is design thinking? According to Rikke Friis Dam, cofounder of Interaction Design Foundation, “It is a non-linear, iterative process that teams use to understand users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems and create innovative solutions to prototype and test.”

This process involves five phases, namely:

Empathise — As a PR professional, you need to empathise with your client to better grasp the challenges they are facing. This involves actually sitting with them and communicating to get a clear understanding of their hurdles and why it is so important to overcome them.

For example, if your client is going through a PR crisis, it is essential for you to really get to grips with what they’re going through. Having that understanding will allow you to resolve the challenge a lot quicker, as you’ll be able to see things from their brand’s perspective, allowing you to develop the best form of communication possible.

Define — In the second phase, you will look at how to define the problem that your client is facing. You will also be stitching together what patterns are commonly found within these problems. For example, does this client often find themselves wanting to change their products' names? And if so, why?

Ideate — The third phase is where you can get super creative and start generating ideas. Here, you can come up with new and improved ways to make your client happy.

In his TED talk, Mattimore talks about using ideation to solve a problem. He gives an example of a case he had where Ben and Jerry’s wanted to name one of its new ice creams, which is strawberry and fudge flavoured. The company didn’t give him much time to come up with a name, so he had to think on his feet.

He got out a slang dictionary and ripped pages from it, giving them to different teams and assigning them with the task of coming up with a new name. At the end of the day, they came up with ‘Snafu’, which is strawberries naturally “all fudged up”.

Prototype — In the fourth stage, you will create a smaller model of the product to test. In the PR industry, you don’t necessarily work with anything that you can make a model of, but you can take your client’s offerings to social media in order to test the waters.

Social platforms allow you to create polls, meaning you can get valuable feedback from consumers on a particular brand’s product or service. This way, you can see if the consumer will like the new idea or change that your client wants to implement.

Test — In the final stage, you will have actual consumers engaging with the prototype. Here, you can advise your client to feature the newly developed product in front of the store. This way, you and your client can see how consumers will feel about it.

If it’s discovered that this new idea will definitely work, you can start posting about it on social media and focus on getting it published in relevant publications.

*Image sourced from CareerFoundry

2. Exercise your brain

As a PR professional, you constantly need to come up with new ways of doing things. Over time, this can become harder and more draining. In order to avoid burning out, try stimulating your mind by making use of brain exercises.

Here are five ways to train your brain:

1. Be curious — Staying curious and asking questions will stimulate your brain, which will help you come up with new innovations and ideas for your agency or clients.

For example, have you ever wondered why so many people confuse PR and marketing? If so, why not start a conversation on social media, asking people what they think about the two terms overlapping?

2. Think optimistically — Nothing kills creativity like stress and anxiety. Constantly thinking ‘this won’t work’ or ‘my client will probably hate this’ will certainly not help you be creative.

That’s why you need to rewire your brain to think optimistically to avoid letting negativity get in the way of your train of thought. Take it from Elizabeth Scott, contributor for Verywell Mind. “Positive thinking can reduce your stress level, help you feel better about yourself (and the situation) and improve your overall well-being and outlook.”

3. Read — Reading encourages creative thought as you make use of your imagination to picture, for example, the different scenarios in a book, the characters in a novel and the outcome of a theory placed in an academic journal.

Reading other people’s ideas allows your brain to position them in a manner of thinking that aligns with your own. Additionally, seeing other people’s creative work will also spark entirely new ideas of your own.

4. Try new things — “When you experience something ‘new’, that actually ‘stimulates’ your brain!” says Zoe B, blogger for Simple Life Strategies. So, if you are always sticking to the same old ice cream flavour it might be time to try out that Ghost Pepper Peppermint that has been scaring you for a bit.

5. Train your memory — Having a better memory means you’ll be able to solve difficult challenges creatively. This is because a good memory, or ‘working memory’ allows you to think outside the box. This is opposed to those with low working memory (the forgetful ones) who stick to what they know, limiting their creativity.

Now, this doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy an expensive piece of equipment. Simple things like memorising phone numbers or remembering your grocery list without writing it down is a great way to train your brain.

3. Place the subject in a different light

When an obstacle arises, it can send you into a swirl of panic and stress; all this does is lock away any good ideas that are beneath the surface. Placing the problem in a different light lets you free your mind from any limitation that could arise.

For example, if a client phones you with a challenge that needs to be addressed urgently, instead of being negative or stressed out about it, rather look at the situation from a new angle.

You could see it as an opportunity to try out exciting new methods to solve this issue. Perhaps you’ve been wanting to implement a new strategy, and now is the perfect chance to do so.

Placing the challenge in a new light forces you to think about the situation differently, and not as something that is stressful. This will stop your brain from ‘shutting down’ due to feeling overwhelmed.

How else can PR pros generate creative ideas? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Want to learn more about how to be creative in PR? Then be sure to read about Tracy Jones’s take on creativity in the PR industry.
*Image courtesy of Unsplash