A Cheat Sheet for Getting Creative

As PRs, we are tasked on a daily basis to deliver ‘creative’ pitches, campaigns, events, content, display ads, videos – you name it. We are considered ‘creatives’ alongside advertisers, photographers, graphic designers – but it can be challenging to continually come up with great ideas that pack a punch and deliver a message in an impactful and thought-provoking way.

According to a study by Adobe, only one in four people believe they are living up to their own creative potential and 75% said they are under growing pressure to be productive rather than creative, even though they felt they were expected to think creatively on the job.

With that in mind, I’ve dug around the internet (to save you time) to find five methods for unleashing your creativity:

Make unusual connections – In the past we have organised media events linking the retro computer game, Space Invaders, to programming language, COBOL, to show how something considered ‘old’ can be reinvented to become relevant today. There is an abundance of cheat sheets to help you get your connections flowing but one of my favourites  is from Idea Champions.

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Listen to music – According to Daniel J. Levitin, a professor of neuroscience, music is one of the most exquisitely effective ways of allowing you to enter the mind-wandering mode – the state the brain enters into most easily to come up with creative ideas, without it being exhausting. At our office in London, we have a playlist for almost anything, like Motivational Mondays and Turn it Up Tuesdays.

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Work on the fun part first –Google’s take on the Genius Hour is a brilliant concept. At Google, engineers are empowered to spend 20% of their time to work on any pet project of their choice. By working on something that interests you, overall productivity will go up. As a result, 50% of Google’s projects have been generated during this time period. We can all take a leaf out of this book to fuel our minds with something we are naturally passionate and excited about. Work on nailing down an aspect of your idea that you can’t wait to do first – who knows, it could snowball into something entirely different but amazing!

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Watch inspirational visual content – Staring at your computer, struggling to think of an idea can be painful, which is why I tend to wander over to websites such as Pinterest, upworthy, lifehacker and Buzzfeed. There is nothing like looking at a visual listicle to find ways to bring your idea to life and make it more appealing to your audience. That’s why Pinterest now has 70 million users, and videos shared on Facebook receive 12x more likes than text posts and links combined.

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Research your topic – Scour the news every morning and bookmark interesting stories. Read an analyst report on the topic matter and even your company’s product data sheets (genuine gold dust) to help provide context to your idea. This way, you can quickly decipher the true USPs and more easily piece together the messaging that will resonate with both your audience and your boss.

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Outside of these tips our view here at Racepoint is that the abiding key to creativity is a healthy dose of curiosity. Intellectual curiosity is one of our company values and we absolutely hire by it (if you’ve met any of our staff you’ll know what I mean!).  That combined with a serious passion for learning new things fosters a work environment utterly ripe for brainstorming, and it generates some interesting, unusual and fun results for our clients.  Check some of them out here!

My Global Exchange: Liam Kirkham

Having worked closely with the San Francisco and Boston teams for well over two years, I decided to throw my name into the global exchange hat with hopes of jetting off half way round the world to meet face-to-face with the chaps across the pond! We’ve a really close knit team here in the UK and it was my intention to make it transcontinental. Having already met a few teammates who had visited the London office I was already off to a flying start and couldn’t have been more thrilled when I got the go ahead to pack my bags and make my way to Heathrow terminal 1.

San Francisco

First stop was a quick pop in to the Boston office, Racepoint HQ. As well as meeting with the team, another of my main reasons for visiting was to get up to speed on the latest and greatest digital services Racepoint has to offer. We’d been doing some really cool creative work with infographics, creative campaigns and of course, video.

LobsterBut it wasn’t all work, no pleasure. And so I was treated to the local delicacy, lobster, over at the Barking Crab. Wearing a suitably white shirt and handed nothing but a pair of shell crackers and a pointy stick (for some strange reason?!) I proceeded to cover myself and colleagues in delicious, delicious lobster.

After that display, they’d had enough and I was promptly jetted off to my final destination, San Francisco, California – home to multiple bridges, Super Duper Burgers and hills. Lots of hills. An exhausting amount of hills.

Sf high rises

So many hills in fact that Sony decided to throw colourful bouncy balls down them just to make a point of how wonderful its TVs are.

Anyway

San Francisco! With four days in the West Coast office I would be fully integrating myself with the ARM team as they taught me all about the US media landscape and the nuances that differentiate US & UK media interaction. As a team, we a do a lot of global events and launches on this account, and so being there gave me a much clearer picture of how everything is run from a tactical perspective. I also got to peek behind the curtain on all of SF’s new business initiatives and talk through some of the exciting new innovations going on down in Silicon Valley. Needless to say, this was the place to be for tech innovation and so it was interesting to see how Racepoint engaged with cutting edge companies that are miles ahead of the curve.

After the week was through I’d cheekily booked myself a week’s holiday in California to see the sights, trek around Yosemite National Park, and take a road trip down the US 1.

On that note I’ll leave you with some of my favourite moments captured on camera:
US landscapes

Now comes coding…Digital has gone granular

Following Social Media Week in September, marketers are reflecting on the reminder it gave us that no matter how well versed in strategy and steeped in experience we are, we can’t escape the fact that digital and social are the new old terms. But digital is taking on another, new and more technical edge (yet again). Companies at social media week offered coding workshops – reflecting the upswing in the popularity of Web development, boosted by our very own UK based Silicon roundabout in London and US sitcoms aired in the UK such as Silicon Valley.

Free coding workshops and coding websites such as Code School and Code Academy are also gaining ground in the popularity stakes and inches in the media as they do. These courses offer everyone from any profession the chance to get hands on Web and app design and experience. Why do they want to? Well, the age old adage remains true; knowledge is power. And in this case, having a technical mindset, one which helps you to remain on top of the processes behind the most important digital platform – the Web – is becoming increasingly helpful. From understanding how to change a colour on a webpage to getting to grips with the latest content management system, even basic coding knowledge can help all to make small efficiencies in the day to day project management process.

racepoint_commsblog_nowcomescoding_digital15This is the part where this article may give you pause. You may be asking whether you really need to know how to code or whether it’s enough to rely on that cool looking digital guy or girl in the hooded sweatshirt? The truth is that digital has gone granular. Strategy for content and earned media used to be able to cut it, and then digital came along and tweeting and posting on Facebook was the thing to engage customers in a two way conversation. Then automated marketing tools enabled the ability to track and really understand our customers before engaging with them. Programmatic added another dimension by enabling marketers to launch real-time in a box campaigns to multiple regions meaning we could better reach customers in real time. Now comes coding – it’s not new but it’s certainly a new way of looking at how to manipulate the platform powering these marketing tools. And it’s in this ability that we can really drive efficiency benefits and personalise their services.

There is absolutely still a need to focus on the macro – content strategy and development is the cornerstone of every good marketing plan. But those who create the content – marketers – are often the most likely to also take informed decisions on how content is disseminated and the budgets, strategy and design that accompany the new digital landscape – videos, apps, infographics, websites and logos. For this, knowledge of coding is necessary.

In fact, this knowledge has multiple advantages. In learning the basics of Web languages – HTML, CSS and Javascript – that help to build marketing tools across common platforms you’ll be able to communicate more readily with development teams, have a better grip on development timeframes and how to customise you content management system for your unique requirements.  So coding isn’t just another fad that is going to pass while we all sit tight. It’s certainly one I’m still trying to get to grips with, and will continue to.

In praise of Ada, storytelling and unsung heroes

When Racepoint met with Suw Charman-Anderson back in March this year we were struck immediately by her story.  Suw is the founder of Ada Lovelace Day, which she established in 2009 with the aim of raising the profile of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (often abbreviated to STEM).

Suw

Spurred by a lack of visibility of women in STEM, Suw set out to use the power of role models to inspire a new generation of innovators and inquisitive minds, while reminding the world of the inspirational work that has, and is being done, by women in scientific and technical fields.  As the first female computer programmer – Ada Lovelace was the ideal person to represent the cause.

Six years later and Ada Lovelace Day has evolved to become an incredible example of what can be achieved with determination and passion.

O'Reilly Media sharing stories

Oreilly media– sharing stories for Ada Lovelace Day

This year, in celebration of Ada’s 200th anniversary, Ada Lovelace Day has seen 130 independent events taking place in 67 cities, 19 countries, across 7 continents, generating a huge amount of buzz and participation across social channels and major media outlets.  The real power in the movement has been in the storytelling – individual passions, challenges and accomplishments detailed with meaning and relevance as well as a good dose of heated discussion stirred up with hashtags and brand campaigns.

Norway celebrates Ada Lovelace Day

Norway celebrates Ada Lovelace Day with a record-breaking coding class

As an agency with a close involvement in science and technology, we were inspired by our meeting with Suw to take a closer look at the work that is being done around STEM skills and diversity.  What we’ve discovered so far has been fascinating – watch this space for our first report.  It’s been incredible to speak to individuals who, like Suw, are driving change in how science and technology is perceived, taught and promoted and the efforts being made to ensure STEM careers, skills and knowledge are made relevant and accessible to more people of all ages.  These efforts are critical in the quest to foster greater participation in, and understanding of, the digital world we are shaping and making.

Working at the intersection of technology development and consumption we see first-hand how technology is redefining industries, markets and the way we live.  It’s never been a more exciting time to be involved in STEM-led fields as innovation breaks down barriers and creates new opportunities. However, we are charting new waters.  It now widely accepted that new skills and fresh perspectives are needed as technology becomes more embedded in our work, rest and play.  This is driving interesting discussions across education, government and industry, especially around the role of creative thinking, arts, problem solving, communication and the humanities and putting the STEAM in STEM.

And this makes Ada as a STEM role model all the more interesting.

Not only was Ada Lovelace regarded as the first female computer programmer, she was also a creative thinker – terming her approach to combining imagination and technology as poetical science (a strong link to her father, the romantic poet Lord Byron perhaps?).  According to biographical accounts, she thought holistically about the bigger picture, the role and purpose of technology and its potential to society.  Because of this, Ada Lovelace is a great symbol not only for women in STEM but the quest for greater diversity.  STEM shapes our everyday experiences and we can all benefit from greater awareness of the role it plays and the developments underway that will affect our future.  It will be interesting to see how the Ada Lovelace Day cause evolves as a champion for inclusivity.

The Ashley Madison post

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will realise that AshleyMadison.com has apparently been hacked and its data leaked on to the open web. The hackers claimed that they wouldn’t leak the data if Ashley Madison closed down it’s site. The brand didn’t shutdown.
Google Trends shows how the hack drove a massive amount of search interest. We can see how search interest quickly recovered from the initial hack news. Looking at social conversations, its is obvious where key points in the story broke; this drove conversation with an estimated 4 billion impressions on Twitter alone. sysomos

The story has become a touch point for wider political issues, the most retweeted posts were about the wider debate on gay marriage in the US.

And the wider debate around privacy.

Time magazine was the top ongoing mainstream media news source about the hack on Twitter. What is fascinating about this debacle is how Ashley Madison not been able to control the story at all. With 9.7 GB of data on tap, there are sure to be more stories. PRs can check whether their senior executives run the risk of being exposed by running checks using Have I Been Pwnd?