Digital PR Ideation: How To Come Up With Ideas

Stuck in a digital PR rut? Struggling to brainstorm fresh ideas that will resonate with your audience? There’s no denying that the brainstorm is one of the most important parts of any digital PR campaign. After all, great brainstorms produce great ideas which generate great results. But what makes a great brainstorm?

This blog will provide practical tips to fuel your next brainstorming session and generate effective campaign ideas. We’ll explain exactly what to do before, during and after a brainstorm to make it as productive as possible.

Before Your Brainstorm

  1. Research, research, research

The more research you do prior to the brainstorm, the better your chance of success (as the saying goes – if you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail). Research your brand, as well as the wider market you’re part of. Your ideas, and eventual campaign, will need to deeply resonate with your brand’s messaging and the values of your audience.

Explore the media landscape – what publications are you hoping to feature in and what sort of content do they publish? Analyse their audience demographics and dive deep into understanding their content to ensure your campaign and outreach is tailored effectively.

Research your competition and assess the sort of content they’re producing. Keep tabs on digital PR Twitter, LinkedIn and industry blogs and newsletters to see what is working well. Competitor research can be used to spark original ideas – look for recurring themes and identify insights to inform your own strategy.

It’s also important to carry out a review of all the sources already available on your topic; your campaign needs to be adding value to the data and expertise already out there. Examine the existing data and studies published on the subject, and perhaps research experts on the topic that you may be looking to work with. Scout out how people have been tackling this topic and identify opportunities to explore new territory beyond what others may have already covered.

  1. Choose your participants wisely

Don’t overlook the brains behind the operation! Choosing the right people for the job is key to success and we’d recommend thinking outside the box. Don’t just limit yourself to the digital PR team, consider bringing in people from other parts of your business, as they might be able to provide new insights into the brand, or provide a fresh perspective. 

A member of the SEO department may be able to provide useful intel on search trends relating to your campaign topic. Equally, your PPC team could be harbouring demographic knowledge that could help refine your PR strategy to reach the target audience. 

  1. Provide a detailed brief

It’s a good idea to share a brief with the participants before a brainstorm. This will ensure that everyone in the session will be able to sufficiently prepare, or at least begin to start getting some ideas flowing. Send your brief a week before the brainstorm to allow everyone to fully absorb the details and come prepared.

What should you look to include in a briefing document? Here’s our checklist:

  • ☑️Outline the brand
  • ☑️Include details on the target audience & publications
  • ☑️Highlights from your research
  • ☑️Guidance on what you’re hoping to achieve with this campaign (point out key products or focus areas)
  • ☑️Specific areas you can/can’t discuss
  • ☑️A couple of points of inspiration (campaigns and topics that are working in this space)
  • ☑️Perhaps some preliminary ideas to get the ball rolling 

During Your Brainstorm 

  1. Icebreakers 

Before jumping straight into the ideation, we recommend leading a couple of icebreakers to loosen people up and get them feeling creative. Don’t overlook how nerve racking it can be to share ideas in a group of people, especially for newer team members. Creative warm-ups can help everyone relax and let their guard down to make sure you have the most effective session.

Another tip is to use AI to help you with these icebreakers. Include details in the prompt on how long you’d like to spend on the warm-ups and core topics you’ll be covering in the brainstorm. You’ll receive a list of fun icebreaker ideas tailored around the subject of your brainstorm to help generate a relaxed and creative space at the start of your meeting.

A couple of our go-to icebreakers are:

Alternative Uses: Give each member of your brainstorm a different item and challenge them to come up with as many alternative uses for that item as possible within 3 minutes e.g. a charging cable could become a bracelet, a measuring tool, a cat toy or even an organiser to other cables!

Two Handed Drawing: Give each member of your brainstorm 2 pieces of paper and 2 pens or pencils. Then ask them all to either write a certain word, or draw a certain image. The challenge is that they have to do the same thing with both hands, at the same time! The idea behind this warm-up is to engage both the left and right sides of your brain.

  1. Share sources of inspiration 

Ask your team to bring along some examples of relevant, successful campaigns they particularly like. Ahrefs’ content explorer tool is great for diving into topics and reviewing the pieces that have gained the most links. You can also use Buzzsumo to track content across social channels; enter a topic to discover the content people have been talking about the most. The reality is that some of the most effective campaigns stem from ideas found elsewhere and repurposed.

Competitors can also provide great inspiration. No one likes a copycat but keeping an eye on the content competitors have had success with is a good idea. Ahrefs again comes in really handy here. After you’ve entered a domain into the Site Explorer tool, you can sort by ‘Best by links’, which shows you the resources and content the website has published which has gained it most of its backlinks. Examine each of these, reviewing the sources that linked to these pages and the specific aspects they highlighted about the content.

  1. Log everything!

There are no bad ideas (at this point) – make a list of everything that is discussed and don’t discount anything at this stage. Have someone note everything down on a whiteboard. Or, if the brainstorm is held remotely, you can use shared worksheets like Excel or Google Sheets to ensure nothing is lost.

After Your Brainstorm

Now is the time to go through everything and pick out the best ideas. To give our campaigns the best chance of success, there is a rigorous process we put all of our ideas through, asking the following questions:

Simplicity: Journalists need to ‘get’ the story quickly and easily. Can you explain it in a couple of sentences?

Newsworthiness: Why should a journalist write about this now? Are people already talking about this, or a similar topic?

Emotive: What emotions would this story make a journalist and their readers feel? Stories which elicit an emotional response are more likely to get clicked, read and shared.

Timing: Does this idea all revolve around one date, or will it have a more evergreen appeal? How will the timing impact our production and sign-off processes?

Broad appeal: Will this idea provide us with a variety of different angles for outreach, allowing us to target journalists in multiple different press verticals?

Originality: Has this story been told before? If so, do we have something new to add to the conversation?

Data: What data does this story need to make it a success? Where will we get it from? Is the source credible?

Relevance: What is the link between this story and the brand? Does it make sense for them to be talking about this topic?

Execution: Where will the content sit, and what does it need to bring it to life?

Budget: It’s important to make sure that the campaign idea you’re deciding on is within your ball-park. You’ll need to consider what methodology you’re going to need.. Are you going to need tools or equipment to develop your campaign? Do you need a survey platform as part of your research?

If you’ve landed on a promising idea, remind yourself of the original brief and goals and double check that it will deliver the required KPIs. At this stage it can also be useful to seek additional perspectives from experts in the wider team. They may be able to provide some data or an extra angle to turn a good idea into a great idea.

Land Links And Coverage With Cedarwood Digital

At Cedarwood, our team of PRs has decades of experience under their belts; they know exactly how to take an idea from conception to tangible results for your business.

You can take a look at our success stories here or, better still, contact us today to find out how we can help you spark high-impact ideas.