No Office, No Problem: Remote Brainstorming Techniques & Tips for Digital PR

In an increasingly saturated field, good ideas are practically worth their weight in gold in the digital PR field. With more and more campaigns fighting for media attention, it’s important to make sure yours stands out from the crowd.

With many digital PR teams working remotely, how do you keep the creative juices flowing, even if your teammates are time zones away? 

There are several ways to brainstorm ideas, but how can you take your ideation beyond the traditional brainstorming methods? Which factor is the most important in brainstorming? And with finite time together, how can you get creative juices flowing to maximize remote brainstorming results?

Here are some ideas to help you get started and some remote brainstorming logistics tips for distributed teams. 

Do a Vertical Analysis

Sometimes the best way to get the creative juices to flow starts before the brainstorming session even begins. Do your research. Figure out which types of media publications you’d like to earn coverage in and go from there. So, how do you know what journalists in those beats are looking for? 

Pick a vertical and analyze it. Look at the types of subjects being covered, the style of headlines that are most (and least common), and which stories are getting the most traction on social media. As journalists pay more and more attention to where their stories get shared, creating content that aligns with their goals makes it all the more enticing for them to cover your campaign. 

A GIF saying "it's trending."

Once you have a more comprehensive overview, turn inwards and analyze past campaign successes and failures within that vertical. Do certain types of content stand out? Do surveys tend to get more links than trend analyses, or vice versa?

Look at everything from the title, to the length/depth of a prior piece. Review your top performing campaigns and use them to help set parameters for your next brainstorming session.

Recently, our digital PR team gathered to examine how our past sports campaigns performed. We have several clients who tend to use sports content and know that sports teams always have appeal. But some of our campaigns did better than others. After analyzing successes and areas for growth, we knew what sort of sports campaigns were more likely to succeed. 

From there, we had a non-client-specific brainstorm for sports campaigns with those parameters in mind. Bringing in sports-buff colleagues from other departments at DTC led to a very productive (and fun!) session. We generated more than 20 pitchable ideas for clients. Everyone left the brainstorming session remarking how much more inspired they were by having parameters in place, and excited at the quality of ideas generated. 

Brainstorm Bad Ideas

Sometimes the best ideas can come from the worst. Many creative teams stay so focused on finding the perfect idea, they get trapped in a certain way of thinking. One of the best ways to prevent this and keep an open mind is to find new warmups for your brainstorm. Instead of a traditional word association game, consider an outside-the-box approach: try brainstorming the worst digital PR campaigns possible.

a gift saying "seems risky."

It seems risky, but it’s not. This technique will not only be fun, but it sparks creativity and can inspire your team to think beyond one set of expectations and look at tired concepts with new eyes.

Instead of finding the best ideas, try to brainstorm the worst. You may be surprised to see how quickly that can get your mind moving. This technique often leads to discussion that wraps back around to successful ideas.

Taking just 10 minutes at the beginning of a brainstorm to do something different can make all the difference. It helps to set a positive tone and get creative juices flowing (and unconstrained). It’s difficult to replicate that “lightning in a bottle” feeling that in-person brainstorms often have, so shaking up your headspace is critical.

While our digital PR team of true-crime buffs will (sadly) never will execute a “States With the Most Unsolved Murders” campaign, that “bad” idea led to other creative and successful topics… did someone say, “zombies?”

Improve Old Ideas

In an increasingly automated world, the name of the game in digital PR and digital marketing generally is, “work smarter, not harder.”

Any like-minded digital PR team SHOULD be keeping a running log of all content ideas. This is key in digital PR training. It not only prevents your campaigns from cannibalizing each other, but it can also help you review previously rejected ideas.

Oftentimes, content can be saved even if a client rejects it. Revisiting old ideas and finding new angles or approaches can completely revitalize a topic and lead to a campaign that will deliver results. Finding new angles concurrent with news trends is another trick.

For example, if we ran a tattoo survey in 2015, the viral popularity of SoundCloud rappers (and their face tattoos) in the time since might create new questions and lead to a more interesting angle than before. 

Other examples of this include updating Airbnb content campaigns to reflect current trends. We’ve looked at unique stays, increased fees, evergreen themes like taxes or travel, and even workplace trends. Old ideas don’t need to feel old, focus on updating them instead. What’s new with that topic this year? 

Play Games

Watch a child create a world from nothing: play has incredible creative power. Whether it’s imagining a world (or a friend) as a child or creatively problem-solving as an adult, the no-judgment, low-stakes world of play is incredibly beneficial to get any digital PR team’s creative juices flowing. It’s hard to know how to be creative when you’re feeling stressed. Feel confident in how to brainstorm remotely, blow off some steam and PLAY! 

A list of games you can play to brainstorm ideas

Every brainstorm should have a warmup game, and the sillier the better. Whether it’s word association games or playing with word searches, crossword puzzles, or even something like “duck, duck, goose” in person can help a team loosen up and have FUN. This then allows creative juices to flow freely because you’re already having a good time! The unique enthusiasm that comes with accessing a play state will part the seas of creative blocking like no other. 

One particular favorite, use an online meme generator. Memes require a creative referentiality that taps into both humor and unique associations/tangential references. This can manifest into really great ideas. Pick your favorite meme format, a subject prompt, and give your team five minutes to provide the best meme they can! 

Another great game for your brainstorming session is a “social forced choice game.” Or, in the work-appropriate world, “takeover, merger, layoff.”

Come up with three companies, concepts, people, businesses, or something else and have your team make their choices and justify them. This kind of reasoning helps people think outside the box and make new associations with otherwise commonplace concepts. Forced choices often require creative problem-solving. 

Brainstorming Tools for Remote Teams: Tools to Get the Creative Juices Going Remotely

We get it – playing while working remotely is HARD. A Zoom or Teams screen will never be the same as gathering in person around a whiteboard, but if you’re wondering how to run a remote brainstorming session, here are some helpful tools for remote teams.

1. Mural

With more and more teams fully remote, it’s hard to recreate the in-person experience of jotting down ideas on a whiteboard, connecting them, and thinking non-linearly in the digital space.

Enter MURAL: an online ‘whiteboard’ that’s perfect for brainstorming, from its ability to draw connections to creating an ever-growing cluster of ideas you can move around like post-it notes. It’s great to add a visual, dynamic element to any group brainstorm- and you can keep the results saved both on the platform (in the paid version) or as a .pdf (even in the free version!).

Check out MURAL here.

2. reMarkable Tablet

Want all the tactile feelings of taking freehand notes and drawing diagrams or mind maps, but none of the paper waste? The reMarkable tablet is an e-ink ‘notebook’ that is super light and very, very good at taking and organizing notes.

Because it uses the same type of ‘ink’ that an e-reader does, it feels less like a piece of technology and more like a notebook. Not only that, but it can convert handwritten notes to typed text, upload to a desktop, and even display what’s on your tablet in meetings in real time.

Meticulously organize and store all your brainstorm notes by folder in the cloud- and access them anytime, anywhere (there’s wifi).

Check out the reMarkable tablet here. 

3. Bad Idea Generator

This wonderful, silly tool is a gift from the internet for any brainstorming warmup. It pitches a bad idea- usually a concept – and you can do the rest. We like to come up with outreach headlines about said concept and use that as our guiding principle for a brainstorming warmup.

Other ideas include thinking of said idea as a client and pitching tangential and relevant content ideas based on that.

Get creative and embrace bad ideas here. 

4. Meme Generator

Memes are a unique signpost of our postmodern society; they require comedic timing, a sense of referentiality (to both subject of meme and the meme itself), and a creative application of the two.

What better way to get the juices flowing (and spice up those Slack conversations)? Embrace your inner internet citizen and make some memes here. 

5. ChatGPT

At this point, nearly everyone has heard of this large-language model generative AI program. But did you know it could be great for brainstorms?

Consider having it write an article or media pitch on a subject of your choosing, and then retroactively create a campaign idea based on the pitch.  When used correctly, artificial intelligence programs can be some of the best digital PR tools.

Check out ChatGPT here.

Start Your Brainstorm Session

With these tools and approaches to getting the creative juices flowing, all you have to do is watch as your brainstorms become fun, energizing, inspiring, and creative: any digital PR team’s dream. While the industry never stays the same, and we must keep looking forward to what the next big thing is in Digital PR, but there’s one resource that will never get old or tired: embracing our own creativity. 

Want to see what the power of a good idea can do for your website? Get in touch today

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