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5 ways to test the quality of your creative idea

Posted by Joe McNamara on 3rd September 2013

If you work in PR, marketing, advertising or any industry that requires creativity, you’ll have been told on multiple occasions; there’s no such thing as a bad idea in a brainstorm. Well I’ve got news for you – there is.

The truth is we all come up with bad ideas sometimes. Some get scrapped straight away and others are binned reluctantly at the last minute. Yes, bad ideas are a necessary evil, as sometimes they can feed the creative process and inspire a better idea, but a good creative melting pot needs quality control.

Creativity doesn’t come naturally or easily to a lot of people. There’s also a lot of fairly unhelpful advice out there such as ‘take a walk’, ‘have a lie down’ or ‘tell it to a child’. Well, I’m not saying there isn’t merit in any of those things, but no single activity turns you into a creative genius. Creativity has to be earned!

Even to those who do tend to be ‘ideas people’, turning those ideas into something useable is a punishing process of project management. You have to develop your idea, combine it with new ones and find different ways of presenting it. You usually need someone to sign it off or buy into it at the end. For example, working with technology companies, we work alongside our clients on a daily basis to present their technologies in entertaining and media-worthy ways.

Brainstorming can only take you so far – the truly creative bit is coming up with something that works in practice. Here are just a few ways of putting meat on the bones of your ideas to convince others to buy into them:

–        Let other people solve the problem. Network and take on board what your peers have to say. Run your idea past as many people as you can and let them find flaws you can’t see and suggest alternatives that you hadn’t thought of. They won’t give you the silver bullet answer but the more responses you get, the more a pattern emerges.

–        Healthy debate. Debates are a good way of getting people to feel passionately one way or another. Pitch ideas against each other and people are more likely to think creatively when they’re fighting their corner. Don’t pick a winner – take on board the pros and cons and look for a winning combination.

–        Escape the vacuum. You and all your colleagues that know the industry your idea applies to inside out might think you know it all, but try asking someone with different expertise what they think. Think about who your audience is and see if they can give you any insight into what they want to see and use that feedback to tailor what you have so far. Focus groups, for example, are an excellent way of doing this.

–        It’s all been done before. Not much is actually completely new anymore and anything that is new is seized upon and becomes the norm within days. Don’t kill yourself trying to make something absolutely unique and fresh. Use approaches that you know have worked in the past, but mix them up, apply them to different areas and you can come up with something that your audience hasn’t seen presented in such a way before.

–        Visualise. Presentation is the key. The best idea in the world can become pretty tedious when it’s packaged up as a chunk of text. Visualise your idea and how to paint the best picture of what it is. Experiment with new ways of telling the story.

–        Multiple channels. Think about how you want to reach your audience and what different channels you’re going to use. For example, it’s probably the case that something that works well as a B2B education campaign will need to be presented very differently to succeed on social media. Think about what works best on each of these channels and apply them to your idea.

Photo courtesy of Nariana.

Joe McNamara