When a client asks for a creative idea or strategy, our team gets giddy to put our heads together and lay ideas on the table during a brainstorming session. Brainstorms: where creative juices flow freely and no idea is a bad idea – but that doesn’t mean your brainstorming sessions can’t be structured.

Earlier this month, Ralph Katz of CooperKatz & Company, Inc. in New York hosted a Public Relations Global Network (PRGN) webinar on brainstorming best practices. The session was full of great tips and helpful reminders to make brainstorming sessions more productive and efficient.

  • There’s a difference between the owner and the facilitator in a brainstorm process. The owner is the individual who possesses the problem, such as an account lead, and is responsible for gathering research. The facilitator objectively leads the brainstorm and does everything from clarifying ground rules to encouraging ideation to maintaining group focus.

  • The facilitator should write down EVERY idea using exact words and including “joke” ideas. If an idea is suggested more than once, write it more than once – odds are, it’s a good idea.

  • Provide refreshments for brainstorm participants. It’s also not a bad idea to have toys – yes, toys – to stimulate the brain. Ralph said they have even used Etch-A-Sketches and Playdough in the past!

  • Include your brainstorm participants in selecting the final idea for implementation. Hold ideas up against a set of criteria. Give everyone five stickers and let them vote on their favorite ideas.

  • Examples of appropriate criteria might be financial (must cost no more than a certain amount), timing (must launch during a certain month), tone (must invoke the brand, but appeal to a certain market) and results (must do something, like change customer behavior).

  • Finally, don’t just use brainstorming sessions for client issues. Look for challenges within your agency that could benefit from your team's creative juices.

Brainstorming sessions can feel like the fun, lighthearted task of your day. But, maximizing your time spent brainstorming can lead to a more cohesive team and better client results.

Image via CooperKatz & Company, Inc.