October 21, 2020
One of the key components to a successful content marketing campaign is conceptualizing ideas that are newsworthy, relevant and impactful – and ideas that require as little groundwork as possible before being pitched to a client. This is especially important in the current climate, where an ever-changing news scene requires research teams to be reactive and be able to pivot or rework an idea with minimal resource loss. And although you may feel as though your ideation sessions yield positive results, there’s always an opportunity to tighten up the process and make your life easier later down the road.
At Blueclaw, our ideation process has gone through numerous iterations to suit the way we work, our team strengths and our clients – and now, having navigated almost seven months of remote working alongside an influx of new campaign concepts, the process is the most streamlined it’s ever been.
For us, conceptualising a new campaign is now much more than regurgitating tried-and-tested methodologies that hundreds of other agencies have already used, or reshaping previously-pitched ideas to fit new briefs. It’s something that our team gets genuinely hyped for, meaning our sessions now generate campaign ideas that we’re enthusiastic about, confident in, and proud to pitch.
But it’s important to strike the right balance between thinking of campaign ideas that get the team excited and those that fit the brief, in that they’re relevant to the client, easily doable within budget constraints, and that they’re likely to get picked up by journalists. Although this often seems like an impossible task, it’ll become second nature once you have a solid process in place. Below are some of the ways we recommend streamlining your ideation sessions to help you make the most of your campaign conception, refinement and execution.
Preparation is key to any successful brainstorming session, so you need to make sure you provide every member of the team with a detailed brief well in advance. It’s not really enough to shoot your core ideation team a quick email the morning of where you confirm the budget and target site – ideally, you need to send over a comprehensive document that includes the following a few days before the session:
It’s fine if you don’t have every single detail you need before the ideation session, but the more information you can pass over right at the start of the process, the more back-and-forth you’ll save when it comes to pitching. Regardless of the details you have, make sure that you set a dedicated hour or two aside before your meeting to come up with ideas – better still, try to do this at least a day in advance in case inspiration strikes in the interim. And don’t feel like you can’t pursue a concept just because it’s occurred to you outside of working hours – you can always make a note of it and refine it further once you’re next in the office.
Gone are the days where team members bring half-baked ideas to an ideation to feel like they’ve contributed while knowing full well that their concept will fall through when it comes to the refinement stage. You can reduce the risk of this by establishing a core ideation team based on who’ll be working on the campaign; this should generally consist of the researchers, the outreach team and the design team, and occasionally the SEO account lead if you feel they’re required. Then, the onus is on every member to bring something valid to the table that they’ve vetted for validity, newsworthiness and feasibility.
Once you have a campaign concept, you should search for potential data sources – never the other way around unless it’s an exceptional circumstance. Newsworthiness should dictate everything you do if your aim is to build links, or else you’re essentially rehashing existing data without a clear understanding as to why. It always helped me to think of it like writing an essay or conducting an experiment – you need your thesis first, so you know what you’re trying to prove or disprove when carrying out the research.
Some tools that are great for narrowing in on a campaign concept include AnswerThePublic, which allows you to see what consumers are searching for within a topic field, Google Trends, which shows the relative popularity of related search terms and indicates when they peak over a set period of time, and Statista for access to numerous datasets and reports.
A campaign concept is worth bringing to a session if it has a clear thesis or hook (for example, you want to see which country cheats the most while playing video games), a clear dataset or methodology (such as a survey), clear outreach targets (gaming, nationals and men’s interest) and you’re confident it’s doable within the budget. Investigate the extent to which it’s been covered before, by who and how recently, and decide whether your idea fills a gap in the market or still holds relevance either way. You should also try to clarify what form it could take – such as an infographic or megapage – but it’s fine if you don’t have that solidified as the design and development team will advise on that in the session.
That being said, don’t feel like you can’t also bring less developed or top-level ideas to an ideation. Some of the strongest campaigns I’ve worked on have resulted from collaborative brainstorms where we’ve taken a seed of an idea from one person and worked together to reach a solid concept. It’s always worth including a more informal discussion at some point in the session just in case there are any hidden gems that need to be fleshed out.
A personal favourite lockdown discovery has been ideation tool Ideaflip, as it allows collaborators to stick their ideas on aesthetic virtual sticky notes on a shared interface and include internal links, images and handy buttons to indicate their reception. Best of all, the ideas stay in their dedicated boards indefinitely, so you don’t have to worry about someone coming into the meeting room after you and wiping clean the whiteboard or deleting an important document.
Make sure that everyone has time to run through their ideas and is able to explain their reasoning in a session before opening up the floor to questions or feedback, as this can make a massive difference on how people present ideas moving forwards. Ideations should be spaces where people can express their concepts and work as a team to strengthen them, rather than tearing them apart or speaking over one another. Once you’ve all run through ideas, it’s important to allow every member to place their votes on which idea they feel the most confident about and which they feel need more work, to ensure that you’re not pitching anything that the team isn’t invested in.
The final step to any watertight ideation process is to further refine concepts and ensure everyone on the team is happy with the end result before putting them in front of the client. This is essential even if you feel like an idea is good to go once the session is over, as you never know if the researcher has missed a similar campaign or updated report that could derail your idea. If it wasn’t done beforehand, now is the time to double check how recently your idea has been covered – if at all – and what data sources you can use.
When you’re adding them into a pitch deck, it’s also a good opportunity to test the ‘elevator pitch’ concept, whereby you’ll have to summarise your campaign concepts in a few sentences while ensuring that the client understands your intention. Within the slide you should touch on the campaign focus and goals, the methodology you’ll use, what form it will take (whether it’ll be static, interactive or a series of press releases), what sectors you’ll target and what potential headlines you envision resulting from the research. If you can’t put together those for your campaign idea, you may need to revisit it or refine it further.
You should share the finished deck back around the ideation team to get their final approval before discussing it with the client. Not only does this allow you to iron out any kinks or miscommunications before you commit to doing something, but it ensures that everyone knows which ideas are under consideration with which client. Everyone must be happy – at least for the most part – with the campaign ideas before they progress, even if it means going back to the drawing board for one or two more concepts after the deck is done.
Finally, we also recommend building a resource or vault with all previous campaign concepts detailed in – preferably sorted by client, sector or budget – so you can pull a solid idea together in a pinch. Although it seems extensive, putting in this work early on allows you to produce campaign concepts that you’re genuinely excited to work on, and makes for a more enjoyable outreach experience on the whole!
For more information on any of the tips mentioned in this blog, or to chat about how we can conceptualise a content campaign that’s right for you, get in touch with our Content and PR experts today at https://www.blueclaw.co.uk/contact/.