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20 low-cost (or free) creative comms ideas

Think you can’t do creative comms on a budget? 

Then think again.

Take a leaf from the books of these big brands…Just this month, Morrisons unveiled a new value range of over 250 products from just 20p, British Airways has launched its new super cheap basic fares on long-haul flights and Lidl is selling a budget version of Meghan Markle’s  £120 Finlay and Co swanky shades for £2.99, just in time for the summer …

Inspired by these bargains we’ve put together this comprehensive list of ways you can work to a tight budget and do fabulously creative comms on a shoestring – no fancy comms bling required.


#1  Enlist ‘local cheerleaders’. Recruit a core team of staff from all departments across the business to help support the roll-out of campaigns and initiatives and to feed back the voices and opinions of others. This is particularly useful when you’re a ‘team of one’.

#2  Discover your goldmine of skills. Do some research into the wealth of knowledge that exists around you before calling in a costly expert or consultant. You might find that Fiona from finance is a whizz with a camera and Alan from accounts is a graphic facilitation guru… Build and cultivate internal skills to help save money and boost engagement. 

#3  Contact community and art groups. Speak to a local group or college about how they can get involved in your campaigns. Not only are they likely to be keen to support a local business, they’ll help you develop something unique and super creative. 

#4  Borrow with pride. If you like something that someone else has produced, inside or outside of your business, don’t be shy, get in touch and ask them if you can repurpose the work. Find it, get permission, and give credit where credit's due!

#5  A little help goes a long way. Keep the cost down by asking an agency to ‘kick off’ a project but implement the work internally or vice versa - get a project ‘almost there’ and then hand it over to a supplier to give it a polish. 


#6  Storyboard it. Craft a storyboard to communicate your ideas clearly, plan your videos effectively and tell your stories creatively. Canva’s stock library includes over a million stock images, graphics and illustrations, many of which are free of charge.

#7  Shoot your own stories. A smart looking video needn’t mean you have to hire costly equipment or employ the services of a full production team. It’s perfectly possible to shoot short and professional videos on your own phone. 

#8  Get everyone involved! The award-winning Seenit app is a video collaboration tool. It allows you to produce high impact video at scale by getting your community involved and is significantly more cost effective than a film crew. It encourages employees to be content creators and helps turn them into brand advocates at the same time!

#9  Terrific typefaces. If you’re looking for some funky fonts, free of charge, then look no further. This article from Creative Boom shares 16 different sources all generously offering some super creative typefaces.  

#10  Make your own Gifs. According to some reports, more than 80 percent of communication in 2018 will be visual. Use your own photos or videos to create these little animated beauties with Giphy’s free Gif maker to remain on-trend.

#11  Find the right photo. Remaining on the subject of visuals, stock photos needn’t cost a fortune. Sites like Unsplash offer high quality, free images that you can use for any purpose, no attribution required. Or try Pikwizard, an excellent new stock photography website that has over 100,000 high-quality images, with 20,000 of these being completely exclusive. Pikwizard prides itself on its high-quality images of people, which are rare on stock photo sites. (A note of caution here – there’s no substitute for images of the actual employees that represent your organisation, so keep it real when it comes to your people shots.)

#12  Listen up! Add music and sound effects to your videos and animations for free by using resources like Bensound, freesound or Free Music Archive who work under the Creative Commons License. You can generally use the music for free as long as you credit the producer with a link.  

#13  Create engaging animations. Create attention grabbing animated videos without the need for a large budget or a team of animators. Try apps like PowToon, GoAnimate or Adobe Spark. Each has a free version, as you’d expect.


#14  Join groups on social media and engage! LinkedIn groups for example are populated by like-minded comms pros from across the globe that are ready and waiting to share their experiences. Before trying out potentially costly exploratory ideas, run them by a network of people who are likely to have been there and done that.

#15  Have less meetings! (or get smarter with the ones you do go to) Meetings take time, can be costly affairs and often don’t even accomplish the desired outcome. Try not to drag colleagues around quite so much or even consider a remote WhatsApp meeting. Your time is valuable - too many unnecessary meetings will eat into your creative thinking time or crush it altogether. 

#16  Repeat after me. Try to implement techniques that have scope for repeat use. Even if there’s an initial outlay, choose a solution that can be used time and time again. A templated approach to your comms works wonders for saving time and keeping costs down. 

Personal development

#17  Be a bookworm. Book Clubs like CIPR Inside’s #ICBookClub are a great way to soak up a new subject and they often recommend discounted comms books too. Try tools like Blinkist - they pull out key insights and explain them in an easy-to-digest, 15-minute summary of over 2000 non-fiction books. With the free version you can only read the daily pick but the paid version, at less than £5 a month gives you access to a stack of inspiring reads. Try Big Magic, Creativity, Inc or Deep Work to give your creativity a big boost.

#18  Research free or low cost knowledge sharing events. Consider taking managers or colleagues along as part of their personal development journey. Comms2Point0 for example run some excellent free or low cost events that are packed to the rafters with creative comms experts, bursting with top ideas and inspiration. 

#19  Join a free webinar, tutorial or online class. There are loads of classes, webinars and podcasts that you can watch, listen to and learn from on a lunch break. Many offer free trials or heavily discounted options. They’re short, bite-sized sessions that ensure you’re up to date with some of the most creative topics of the day. Keep an eye on creative thought leaders like NowGoCreate, CreativeLive or Lynda.com to see what they’re offering.

#20  Sign up to receive inspiring emails. Ensure you have a fresh supply of inspiration delivered directly to your inbox every day by signing up to receive emails from creative comms greats like All Things IC, Bananatag, Poppulo, Comms2Point0, and Helen Reynolds’ Comms Cartoons. They’re always packed with top ideas, case studies and brilliant best practice and you’ll frequently find something a little different.

High-impact, low-cost comms

Technology, fancy new tools and pricey platforms will always be available for those who have the cash. But that doesn’t mean you should sign up to them all. We blogged about this very point - how Magpie Syndrome can entice us towards the latest shiny tools. Sometimes, getting back to basics is good enough, often it’s even more productive and allows you to try out something new without committing to a significant outlay. 

So get your creative shizzle on and try out some of these super cheap ideas.

We’d love to know how you get on.

Tweet us @alivewithideas to share your thoughts and experiences.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

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