A 6-Step Process for More Effective Client Brainstorms

It’s officially planning season and agencies worldwide are putting their best brains together to conceptualize and craft the best possible plans for 2018 clients. But getting smart brains in the room is hardly enough. To be truly effective – and efficient – when it comes to brainstorming, you need to have specific guidelines and expectations spelled out in advance.

Here at Litzky PR, brainstorming season is a big deal. It gives junior employees the chance to shine, senior employees the chance to flex creative muscles, and teams the chance to come together in creating cohesive plans we’re excited to execute in the New Year.

We’ve refined our brainstorming process over the past several years, and here are six key learnings we’ve had to help you get the most out of planning season.

1. Set expectations ahead of time

Some people shine during brainstorms; others need more pushing. Either way, it’s not up to the brainstorm moderator to make sure everyone feels involved – it’s up to the employees to insert themselves and shine with their best thinking. The best way to push employees to get involved is to set guidelines ahead of time, expressing how vital it is they come prepared to speak up. The whole “your boss is watching” nudge can go long ways in inspiring employees.

2. Provide pre-brainstorm materials

To ensure everyone’s not just ready to speak but prepared, compile and share briefs and outlines ahead of the brainstorm. This information will ensure employees are versed on the topics ahead of time, and gives them the opportunity to do their own “brainstorm before the brainstorm” so they arrive with top thinking.

3. Keep the groups small

Not only is it easier for employees to “hide” in an agency-wide brainstorm, it’s also tougher for some employees to get a word in edgewise! While yes, some of it is up to the employee to speak up, it’s also up to the brainstorm planner to know how many people is too many. We know “PR people” can get pretty chatty, so getting too many of us in one room can get a bit disruptive. Our magic number is eight to ten.

4. Provide snacks

Everyone loves free snacks! But, in all seriousness, you can’t get your best thinking if you’re hungry or un-caffeinated, so make sure you provide snacks – and snack breaks – to help everyone recharge. We offer bagels in the mornings, catered lunches in the afternoon, and, if it’s a long day, a happy hour post-brainstorm to ensure everyone feels rewarded.

5. Keep it brief

If you spend hours and hours brainstorming for just one client, you’ll undoubtedly burn out your brains. Instead, prioritize what’s most important and start from the top priority down. Also, keep your specific campaign brainstorms to one or two hours. You can leave it open ended and give people the option to send you additional thinking via email, but sitting and requesting ideas for one specific campaign for hours and hours is typically a waste of time.

6. Share results with your team

Your team puts all this time into brainstorming – make sure they hear the results! Whether it’s sharing how a client loved a specific teammate’s idea, or expressing how excited the marketing team was with another teammate’s tagline, the more feedback you provide, the more confident your employees become. And the more confident your employees become, the better (future) brainstorms you’ll have!

Looking for more ways to brainstorm successfully? Read on for additional tips and tricks from PR Couture!

About This Author

Michele Litzky is a seasoned generalist and strategist who has driven top-notch PR results for a wide array of clients – from small start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. She founded award-winning boutique lifestyle and family entertainment PR firm Litzky Public Relations in 1988 with just one client, Matchbox Toys. Today, she’s grown the Hoboken-based agency to nearly 25 employees with a full client roster, ranging in categories from toys and baby gear to lifestyle brands and social good campaigns. The agency’s primary objective -- bringing clients strategically into the spotlight – is accomplished through traditional and digital marketing and publicity initiatives that reach media, influencers and strategic partners. While her agency has experienced exciting growth, so has her family. Her three adult nieces, Rachel, Alison and Samantha, prepared her well for the newest jewels in her crown, her grandchildren, Emma, Jack and Henry. To connect with Michele, follow LPR on Instagram (@litzkypr) and Facebook, or visit www.litzkypr.com.