4 May 2024

How to improve your creative thinking in communications

Claire Stephenson takes a look at creativity and the crucial role it plays in effective communication and public relations campaigns.

Creativity is pretty much an essential skill in communications and public relations. You need it to create a buzz around a brand, structure a newsworthy story, connect strategy with actions, stakeholder management, turn bland content into something that has a spark, and social messaging that is both effective and garners interest…the list is long and wide.

What is creativity?

The Cambridge Dictionary defines creativity as the ability to produce or use original and unusual ideas. A brilliant book on the subject if you’re looking for inspiration – The Art of Creative Thinking by Rod Judkins – explores various strategies and techniques to enhance creativity. Through anecdotes, exercises, and examples from the lives of famous creatives, Judkins encourages readers to break free from conventional thinking patterns and embrace innovation. The book emphasises the importance of curiosity, risk-taking, and embracing doubt and failure as essential components of the creative process.

“Doubt is a key to unlocking new ideas. Einstein doubted Newton. Picasso doubted Michelangelo. Beethoven doubted Mozart.
That’s why they moved things forward.” 

Rod Judkins

Advertising great, John Hegarty – a founding partner of Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) – talks about the environment in which creativity can flourish. He reflects on chaos versus process and the need to find the right balance for the individual. Hegarty at BBH came up with the glorious poster ad and strapline for a Levi Strauss black denim jeans campaign: “When the world zigs, zag.” The line aimed to reinforce the angle of standing out from the crowd, not being one of the flock.

The 1985 poster kick-started the TV ads (and the career of the late model and musician, Nick Kamen) and the infamous launderette scene where Kamen made the Levi 501s into a coveted item, boosting sales by 800%.

Levi’s – A Stitch In Time by BBH

But how do you ‘get creative’?

Several methods can help you shift your mindset towards a more creative slant. Here are three tried and tested methods (by us!) to improve your creative thinking.

1. Mind Mapping

This was a technique created by the late education consultant and author, Tony Buzan. Mind Mapping is an excellent method of visually organising information. Buzan first became aware of the concept during his studying years, when he noticed that his neat and ordered paragraphs of notes were time-heavy to produce, compared with other students who achieved higher grades but with less tidy notes. Buzan noticed his peers used colour and drawings within their notes. Researching through history, he discovered that notable figures of creativity and academia used drawings and doodles accompanied by words to examine theories, further research and break down concepts into easier-to-remember formats.

Mind Mapping is an excellent method if you’re a visual person and you like to doodle ideas and thoughts on paper. This short video by Tony Buzan on YouTube explains the basic concept behind Mind Mapping.

2. Brainstorm

This is a great technique for idea generation that can be done solo or on a team level. It’s also good for team cohesion and driving a project forward. Even brainstorming can be broken down into different methods. Here are 10 brainstorming techniques to try as an individual or a team. If you’re brainstorming within a group, it’s best to have a structure as the conversation can rapidly digress off-topic and swiftly turn unproductive. An article in Harvard Business Review offered the advice of focusing on asking better questions rather than seeking answers.

Keeping brainstorming fun and fresh is the key – try moving out of your usual environment. Take a brainstorming session on a walk or to the park for lunch, for example! Shaking it up can help produce the best atmosphere for ideas generation.

3. Exercise

This is one of the most effective idea-generation methods for many people. It can help to free up mental clutter and refocus thoughts, unleashing creative thinking. Steve Jobs was a notable figure who used walking to brainstorm ideas and help formulate strategies. He also carried out meetings with colleagues while he walked.

There is a scientific element to exercise and creativity. The release within the body of endorphin hormones during workouts is known to improve mood and produce the neurobiological ‘runner’s high‘ phenomenon. A study by Steinberg et al in 1997 recorded a 25% improvement in mood following physical exercise, but the results also demonstrated that exercise had a marked improvement in creativity levels. A 2014 study by Oppezzo et al found a positive correlation between exercise and creativity, stating that “walking opens up the free flow of ideas” and creative thinking processes.

These are just three ideas of ways to boost your creativity if you’re not feeling the buzz. But if you’re looking for some extra power to your campaigns, contact us here for a chat to see how we can help you.  

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