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How to improve your creative thinking

Posted on June 28, 2016 by Catarina Carvalheira


Top 12 advices from Active, with love

Let me start this blog by asking you a simple question: What did you do differently today?

Did you take time to wish happy birthday to the security staff in your building? Did you bother calling a Client that you know is attending an important event just to wish him good luck, even though you’ve done your part in managing the event and inviting the media? Did you share an important link with your colleagues about a relevant article or workshop? Did you learn a word from a new language? Did you go to that gym class that you’ve been promising to go but never had the time to actually manage to do so?

If your answer is yes to half of the questions, you are on the right track and you must continue challenging yourself every day no matter what. If, on the other hand, most of your answers are negative, worry not as I am not here to judge but to tell you that you too can be a creative thinker and an inspirational leader.

As communications professionals, we bounce between pitches and Clients’ projects where we are required to go beyond expectations, mostly within tight deadlines. Creativity is a ‘must-have’ in our daily approach and we should always raise the bar in all activities we perform without being satisfied with the “good” and work instead to achieve the “great”.

In this blog, I am going to give you the Top 12 techniques to help your creativity spread its wings without any sweat, I promise. Why 12 and not 10? Well, Top 10 is already too mainstream and we are more creative than thatJ, remember?

  • Be a Dreamer: Creativity comes with no restrictions and it is important that you accept all your thoughts even though at a first sight they might seem ‘stupid’. Never forget that some of the greatest discoveries were done by mistake. Crazy ideas are great inventions in making!
  • Play games: Being it online or even board games, both represent a great way to enhance your strategic and creative thinking. Take the advantage from these games to study your mates or rivals’ moves in order to improve your tactics.
  • Go out. Visit new places and meet new people: No, this is not an excuse for you to get out of the office. However, there is a good explanation behind my advice. Don Draper, the creative director character from Mad Men, had most of his campaign ideas from social events and interactions with other people. There’s a whole world outside to be discovered and you should take advantage from that to reinvent yourself. Furthermore, you should take a break from your desk and the other mainstream places that are far from being creative. So, get outside and you will see how fast new ideas will rise!
  • Be a good listener: Given the previous advice, it is key that while you’re meeting new people you are also taking your time to listen to their stories, opinions and expectations. This behavior is very important when developing a communications campaign as the main objective of your strategy and tactics is answering the target’s desires and being relevant to them.
  • Learn something new every day: You don’t need to read a book every week or do multiple courses to actually learn something. Give yourself the daily task of learning small things in a different way such as improving your speed skills in math; to use your left hand to write notes; or even learn a word/expression in a new language. By forcing your mind to do new activities you will also be more willing to accept new approaches, see things in a different perspective and, hence have new ideas.
  • Think in the sustainable “add value” way: When thinking about a campaign concept and ideas to support it, try to stretch the brand profile and think on their different dimensions and how they can be applicable in your plan. Reflect on how the brand can best relate with the target audiences and how your tactics can be relevant for them. More importantly, build a campaign that has a sustainable continuity through the time and not only a static strategy. Coca Cola is just a drink but see how the brand has positioned itself among their target. They are more than just a soda, they are the happiness factory; the fun afternoons with friends and family; they are the special moments that we share when having Coca Cola.
  • Use the Flipchart: Laptops are our best friends however it can take a while to draw an idea through their programs. Therefore, flipcharts can be your second ‘bestie’ while developing campaigns. Use it to draw pros and cons, brainstorming ideas, research facts, among other data that will be crucial to the development of your creative concept.
  • Have your notebook handy: This element is part of any ‘creative essentials pack’. Grab a notebook and make sure you write every idea you have during the day. “I will remember this tomorrow” – believe me, you will not. When I tell you to take your notebook everywhere you go, I mean it! Take it to your holiday escapes, to a dinner with friends, on the flight, to the boring doctor’s waiting room and even to your bed-side table. As mentioned in the first point, any idea is good and it can become a greater one if developed with more time.
  • Forget big budgets: It is important to break the myth of being creative requires big budget. A great idea doesn’t have to require a mass communication campaign with an excessive number of assets. Being creative is finding new solutions in the most sustainable way. Not every company can allocate big budgets to Marketing and PR and therefore it is vital to maximize a creative idea with the least resources.
  • Promote the creative spirit among friends and colleagues: You perform better when you feel the acceptance and support from others. Be the source of their inspiration and spread creativity in the room between your colleagues, friends and family. After all, everyone is stronger together and by promoting creativity, you are also promoting new approaches that will lead to better communication and successful campaigns.
  • Steal ideas: According to Rod Judkins, author of “The Art of Creative Thinking”, in the TIME article on “5 Strategies to Become a More Creative Thinker”, creative people often remake a work that has inspired and impressed them. I couldn’t agree more with Rod and that’s the reason why I had to ‘steal’ his advice. Unlike many people think, to develop a creative campaign you do not have to invent something completely new. Instead, you can get inspiration from some product or behavior to trigger your creative ideas.
  • Have the courage to face your fears: This is my last advice and although it might seem repetitive with the first one, this behavior requires more than being just an optimistic person. You have to be aware of the risks, accept your fears and know that as a human being you can make mistakes. With great creativity comes great courage. Don’t let your fears stop you from creating a great campaign and always believe in your ideas!

Rod Judkins finished his article mentioning that “the practical techniques creative thinkers use are an example of how almost any hurdle can be overcome with creative thinking”. I can only add to his quote my personal advice as to use creativity as a transversal element in your daily routine activities not only regarding your job but also in your personal tasks to reinvent yourself and the others around you.


Posted on June 22, 2016 by Active

By Guest Author: James Kelliher (CEO – Whiteoaks)

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting up with the Whiteoaks International Network (WIN), hosted this year by our wonderful partners in the Czech Republic.

The beautiful city of Prague was certainly a suitable setting for this meeting of minds, with more than 60 countries represented at our annual get-together.

Since it was founded in 1998, WIN has provided a real alternative to the one-size-fits-all approach of global agencies. The need for local expertise, cultural sensitivities and know-how is never more apparent than when set at a table with my colleagues from across the globe, discussing the future of international PR and sharing insights from a broad range of cultures.

With so much of our work taking place internationally, WIN is hugely valuable and continues to grow, enabling clients to swiftly and easily plug in international PR support to suit their requirements.

Interestingly, digital PR was high up the agenda. Not so much “should we be doing it” (I think there is consensus on that by now!) but rather its changing focus and role within PR in 2016. For instance, social is now being increasingly used as a tool to recruit and retain talented staff. HR PR, if you will.

Building on this, it was interesting to hear attitudes towards bloggers and influencers on YouTube, particularly the nature of engagement, with the consensus being a mix of paid and un-paid relationships to deliver true returns.

Another key topic of interest was convergence. Specifically, the convergence of owned, earned and paid media. This is an approach recently adopted by City AM, which announced earlier this month it is to allow brands to post directly to its website that appear as articles, rather than advertisements.

The nature of PR is always changing. I always leave WIN meetings heartened that we have the agility, flexibility and experience to exceed our client’s expectations, no matter what, where or when.

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When do you say no?

Posted on June 21, 2016 by Lovelyn Rodrigues

We have all experienced this situation where we either had to say no to our client or bosses or even a big no to ourselves. But before reaching that conclusion, it is important to know and be convinced that you have tried all possible ways without breaking any laws or you know that saying no would be in the best interest of everyone. Working in the PR industry for a while, I have come across various situations which have taught me to say a “no” at the right time and has helped manage client expectations. But behind this there is a lot of research, analysis as well as experience that plays a big role in taking such decisions.

Will you be able to get us coverage? This is commonly asked question. PR professionals’ bread and butter is getting your clients’ news out there in the media. But what if the story is not relevant to the region or the solution that has been launched will take ages to be launched in your region? Such stories can be twisted around, such as if the company is not based in the region, but the industry or vertical is existent here, we always know that there is scope for your company to expand its business and venture into new markets. Speaking to the media about this would generate interest as we know the Middle East region is growing significantly and with Expo 2020 in the pipeline, a number of companies have expanded into this region.

However, at this point it is necessary to manage your client’s expectation and put forth the solution, as well as inform them on the expected coverage. Also, strong media relations and understanding the target audience of the publications are very crucial when advising the client. There are niche publications who would be interested in your client’s story and we believe seeing ourselves in a magazine that would reach out to your audience weighs much more than having numerous clippings but no one interested.

Also, we have heard of agencies that sometimes refuse taking a client on board. What could be the reason behind it? There could be numerous reasons, but in my opinion when you know you do not have the resource to support your client, it is better to be honest and say no rather than wasting the client’s time. When you are sure about such things it also ensures you are not hampering the support given to the current clients.

On a personal front, I grew up being taught that saying no is a last resort. You have to try and when you know that you have exhausted all possible ways or saying no would be beneficial to all, it is fine to say it. Saying no does not make you less efficient or determines your performance. It is similar to eating. When you know you have exceeded you capacity, it is time to say NO. Know your capabilities are important and understand this better as we grow. Hence saying no comes with experience and knowing that you understand the situation the best. Saying no takes skill and practice and below are some attributes to keep in mind:

  • Know your priorities
  • Know your boundaries
  • Step into the other persons’ shoes and take your time
  • And most importantly – Be respectful


How virtual reality can transform businesses

Posted on June 14, 2016 by Tarek Hakim

VR image

VR (Virtual Reality) has been the buzz of the internet over the past couple of years ever since it debuted with the “Oculus Rift” back in 2012, and now with the Oculus Rift officially being released for consumer use along with other brands jumping the wagon like HTC and Sony. The next five to ten years will be huge for virtual reality. Already, VR promises to connect us, making geographic locations irrelevant and changing our ability to experience something that would otherwise be out of our reach. What does this mean to businesses?

VR extends to many aspects of life and isn’t just for entertainment. Imagine being inside the store without leaving your home, attending classes in the comfort of your living room, or even attending a meeting in another continent without leaving your office!  Trying to connect everyone by phone and talking to laggy, pixelated faces on a flat screen is probably one of the biggest let-downs in modern business. Virtual reality will change that and allow these sorts of meetings to take on a more personal and natural feel. As the technology progresses, hopefully it will be able to incorporate expressions, eye contact and other human elements we currently lack. This will make our telecommuting lives better and our meetings more productive. When fully formed, it might even reduce business travel significantly.

In 20 years, desk-based businesses may see office space as a wasteful, indulgent luxury, and their staff may not need to buy expensive, cramped urban property just to be within commuting distance.

VR means people can interact easily with colleagues across their entire department around the world instead of only seeing those close by. Confidential meetings can be arranged at the tap of a virtual shoulder. Nothing can match the in-person interaction experience, but VR may come close while vastly exceeding in-person meetings for convenience. Fewer offices and less travel may drive down energy use and the oil price with obvious knock-on effects on power producers, energy consuming industries like manufacturing and oil producing economies. Even the definition of “utilities” may shift to include elements of telecommunication infrastructure.

Communication will be a key aspect of VR; especially that the social media giant, Facebook, is already ahead of the curve by supporting the VR movement first hand. PR agents will be able to incorporate VR’s offerings into their business in many forms, and it isn’t just in hosting international conference calls. It will help break the “Sound only” barrier with our media connections, where we can meet up with our journalist friends without worrying about traffic and travel time. Not to mention being able to hold interviews with clients on the virtual space while they are by their stand at a conference in another country! The options are limitless!

It’s crucial that as communications and marketing professionals, we understand the impact the technology can make on our strategy. We don’t all have to be experts with the hardware, but we do have to be adapting it and knowing when it can be used and who to call upon to make it work. VR is here to stay. Get used to it.

The blurred lines of personal and professional social media

Posted on June 8, 2016 by Mara Carpencu


The days when you could leave work behind as you left the office are long gone. With BYOD and permanent connectivity, there is no longer a clear distinction between the 9 to 5 working hours and personal time. Just as social media is no longer used only for personal information. People tweet about what is happening in their office, they scroll Facebook feeds for news and check out competitors on Linked In, all during their official working hours, as well as late in the evening, before going to bed, or even first thing in the morning.

So why is that we still instinctively construct barriers between what we consider consumer media – for our personal lives and business media – for our work selves? Is Facebook really more “personal” than Linked In in the eyes of businesses?

According to the latest Hotwire report on The changing face of influence, decision makers are willing to consider relevant information across all social media platforms, regardless of the channel they find it on. This holds true even on channels which are traditionally seen as being alien to B2B marketing – for example Snapchat, Tumblr and Reddit.

Most strikingly, when asked which one channel they would turn to for information on a purchasing decision, 1 in 4 (24%) decision makers said Facebook would be their preferred social media channel, ahead of LinkedIn at 17% and far ahead of Twitter which, despite both marketers and IT decision makers saying they are using more than ever, would be relied upon as a sole source of information by just 6% of decision makers.

Why? Because decision makers look to the channels they’re using as part of their daily routine and these are the most used channels. The study reveals the average decision maker uses Facebook 18 days a month, compared to 13 for LinkedIn. This pattern is only likely to become more obvious as time goes on – 51% of senior marketers and 39% of IT decision makers think they’ll be making more use of Facebook to help with decision making in a year’s time.

This shift comes as no surprise considering Facebook’s recent efforts to make itself a business friendly platform and making its new consumer tools accessible to brands, with Facebook Live becoming the newest marketing platform. With the solid innovation and targeting ability behind its huge database, Facebook will undoubtedly grow its influence on decision makers in the coming years.

Despite these personal preferences, there’s still some way to go before vendors and clients alike start practicing what they preach. In Vanson Bourne’s Technology Marketing Monitor – marketers revealed LinkedIn and Twitter are still the go-to channels for digital B2B marketing. Facebook was fourth, with just 70% of marketers planning to make use of it – a stark contrast with how they find information themselves.

For our clients that use these social media platforms, these findings are a confirmation of their own experience. For instance, one of our global clients agrees that Facebook is growing, however, their most successful Social Media site has been LinkedIn, with over 30,000 followers, while Facebook has more than 2,400+ followers. Although they have hosted several marketing campaigns on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn continue to drive in the leads.

While the media have been quick in mixing business and consumer stories, the marketing community has been reluctant to blur the lines for fear of audience backlash and being cited as an example of bad form, but for the peers, this is not important.

Social media plays a crucial role in the purchasing process for decision makers and businesses that want to stay at the forefront of their customers’ selection process can no longer ignore this. The information transmitted on social media is even more relevant since it is from a brand that customers chose to cultivate relationships with and listen to, so their posts become believable and influential.

Considering a third of senior marketers will make use of social media in helping decide on which vendors to shortlist, it is crucial that the social media strategy not only focuses on raising awareness amongst new audiences, but also establishing that relationship with your followers and customers.

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Digital · Marketing · Communications