Need a creative idea? Turn things around by turning things around

14 Nov 2017 by Brian Mairs.

Brian Mairs, former Global Head of Communications at Thomson Reuters and seasoned communications strategist shares his inspiring insights on conjuring creativity in this week's Thought Leaders Connected.

Need a creative idea? Turn things around by turning things around

Here’s a quick and astonishingly simple way to spur some new thinking. Set down in words what you need, then re-arrange the words.

The phrases we use in everyday speech can lose their currency pretty quickly. After a while they lose their meaning, or the meaning changes. The best way then to retrieve the original concept – what they actually originally meant – is to flip them around.

If our clients say they want a press release, it might be better to think instead about how we might release their news to the press. Our clients are probably not demanding that we use that particular tool to convey their message: they know the outcome they want but they are (I hope) happy to take our expert advice on how to achieve it. They don’t necessarily want or need an actual press release: they want a PR campaign that delivers the goods.

Same with thought leadership. It might help to think instead about leadership thoughts. This needs to be insight that guides people: a genuinely new perspective that establishes the writer or speaker as an authority on the subject at hand. Thought leaders do not simply express others’ views: they provide something original gleaned from their own experience of leadership. There is nothing wrong with providing commentary on somebody else’s ideas or actions; it just shouldn’t be called thought leadership.

And there are a host of other compound terms we use to describe our activities as communications professionals.

How about social media? It can be a subset of online channels that includes Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn or it can be a challenge to think creatively about how our media message can be genuinely social and involve the wider community – how we might use these channels to generate conversations.

Content marketing becomes marketing using content: finding ways to achieve our marketing goals by creating materials to attract customers, or potential customers.

The language of business is full of these buzz terms that quickly move beyond their original insight and become instead the hoary clichés of meetings: dives that are deep; competencies that are core; disruption that is creative. And has there ever been a paradigm that hasn’t had to endure being shifted? Or a change that hasn’t been either a step change or a game changer?

These terms are fine as long as they provoke thought, but too often they can shut off creative thinking. It is all very well to think outside the box, but first we need to understand why we have a box, and what actually belongs inside it.

To turn those original terms around is to return to the original thoughts, and can provide a simple but effective catalyst for original thinking: a return to fundamentals that can result in some genuinely new approaches to work.

Give it a try, and let me know how it goes. It might even be a changer of the game …

Thank you, Brian.

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Brian Mairs
Global Head of Communications Financial and Risk

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