Some of the most talented writers spend countless hours writing alone…organizing a captivating story, editing transitions and crafting the perfect sentence. For PR writers, the pressure may be on you to simplify a complex idea into a short tweet, position a difficult topic in a whitepaper or create an unexpected surprise for your audience during a creative campaign—all while under deadline.
Want to be more efficient, strategic and creative with your words? Here are some brainstorming techniques that you can use to push your thought patterns in new directions and challenge your own assumptions before and while you write.
- Put pen to paper. Close your laptop and silence your phone. Write whatever comes to mind even if it is not about the topic. If you have trouble concentrating or feel you are wasting your time, set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes. This activity puts you in a creative state of mind where you are free to explore. Focus on the art and craft of being a strategic writer rather than on exactly what you need to say in the piece—go where your pen takes you.
- Put values into words. Take a minute to reflect on the identity of your client or organization. If you could describe the business in 3-5 words, what would these be? Then, write 1-2 key messages, or full sentences that describe the most important things that audiences need to know about your client or organization in any piece that you write. Use this as a guiding voice—no matter what you say, it will need to be uniquely like you and only you. Remind readers of who you are.
- Get out of your own head. Step into someone else’s shoes. Just because you love your organization or believe in your client - and what it does and how it lives and who it serves - does not mean your words will automatically make sense to an audience. One of the best ways to start writing is to make a list of the questions your audience has or will have that need to be answered with what you write. What do they want to hear, and how will they see your point of view?
- Speaking of lists…make more of them. Take a few minutes to simply list words and phrases that connect to the topic. If you are writing about a product, you can list product attributes or identify phrases that people would say to describe the product. If you are writing in response to crisis, you can make two lists: one of negative words or phrases that could be used and another of the positive choices. Lists can become a thesaurus of sorts, showing you new ways of saying the same thing.
- Look for the “wow.” As you draft content or even when you edit your final piece, look for the moments where you can pause and say “wow.” This process can not only point out parts of your work that are redundant or boring, but can help you identify a place where you’ve achieved something and push you to do more of that.
One criticism of brainstorming is that it is traditionally a group process—and perhaps only the most animated voices get heard. As a writer, your goal is to break the boundaries of your own voice, so you can write with a fresh perspective.
Albert Einstein once said that, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Try and keep this in mind when you start your next writing project. You may be surprised at how easily the ideas flow when you write with an open mind.