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The challenges of being a creative communicator 

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The challenges of being a creative communicator 

At our recent CIPR Inside Ask the Guru event, we brainstormed some of the key blockers to creativity – and how to overcome them…

When you tell someone you’re an internal communicator, there is often an assumption that creativity is as natural to you as breathing. Yet, for those of us whose job it is to always be armed with ideas whenever a creative brief comes flying our way, we know the reality isn’t quite that simple.

Being creative can be exhilarating, frustrating, rewarding, exhausting, and fun. But there are days when it’s just plain hard work. So, along with attendees at our recent CIPR Inside Ask the Guru event, we’ve identified some of those common blockers to creativity and shared our advice on how to overcome them.

“I’m too busy”

How often do you respond to the question “how are you?” with “busy”. We’re betting most of you and chances are it’s completely true. But when does busy cross over into procrastination, and when does important become urgent?

Distinguishing between these two states can be key to unlocking time in your day. If you really want to be creative, you’ll find the time. Whether that means prioritising it over something else that actually isn’t that urgent, or realising that your emails can be filed another day giving you half an hour to do something you really want to.

To be truly creative, we need to give ourselves time – time to think, time to try, time to do. But we can be our own worst enemies, especially when it comes to our next point…

“What if people think my idea is rubbish?”

Being creative involves putting your thoughts and ideas out for public consumption. That can be truly terrifying. It can feel like your credibility, reputation and ultimately your feelings are on the line. So, of course it’s safer to say you’re too busy, than to actually get down to the business of creativity.

And sometimes it’s not your fear of failure that’s the issue, but your stakeholders. Asking senior stakeholders to take a risk and do something different is fraught with difficulties. Even if they tell you they want something creative, chances are when it’s presented to them, they’ll go with the way it’s always been done before.

It’s really important to remember that when it comes to creativity, there’s no such thing as failure. Even the wackiest ideas can be shaped and fine-tuned, or spark an idea in someone else. But if you never say it out loud, you run the very real risk of not having any impact or adding any value.

Keep in mind this gem from Albert Einstein: “The definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result. I regret the error. However, this is where the fun begins.”

“I don’t have anyone to bounce ideas around with”

The seed of an idea might come from the mind of one person, but it’s often developed by the mind of many. Creativity loves company, so if you work on your own whether as an independent consultant or you’re a team of one, being creative can be tricky.

But the internal comms world is a pretty tight network of awesome people doing impressive things, who would be more than happy to listen and share their feedback.

Although sometimes hearing other people’s opinions can cloud your own thinking, or take you backwards when what you really want is to continue moving forward. Saying it out loud to inanimate objects (ideally when you’re by yourself), mind mapping, or looking for inspiration in places like Pinterest, could be just as useful for developing your idea as collaboration.

“My boss doesn’t understand the creative process”

For people who don’t spend their days being creative, the creative process might seem strange. Sharing ideas before they’re fully formed in order to get feedback and develop them can lead to them being misinterpreted. Stakeholders or colleagues might not ‘get’ your idea when it’s at such an embryonic stage and dismiss it out of hand.

Explain to them that creativity doesn’t start with a fully formed idea, that you want to be able to run things past them without expectation or judgement, to develop something really great. They’re likely to be more supportive if they understand that from the very beginning.

“I have a really small budget”

Only a lucky few IC pros have seemingly endless budgets to make their creative ambitions a reality. However, the idea that creativity must cost money is simply not true. You only have to look at some of the great work being done by charities and public sector organisations to see that creativity often involves using the resources you have around you in an interesting way.

A great place to look for inspiration is award winners, as many have achieved their accolade through being creative and resourceful despite budgetary restrictions. You’ll find plenty of case studies on relevant industry body websites or at conferences.

What creative blockers would you add to this list and how do you overcome them? We’ll be discussing this again on our CIPR Inside webinar on 19 May, along with why creativity is important and hints and tips on how you can become a more creative internal communicator.

You can book your place on the CIPR Inside website to join in the conversation – we hope to see many of you there!

By Helen Deverell for Alive!

“The guys at Alive understand the complexities of our business which means we don’t need to explain the detail of every project or design piece – they’re already on it, which keeps things moving and delivers the results we need.”

Emily Stoten — Head of Marketing, Selecta

“I feel like they own and care for the project as much as we do! I would not use anyone else for my creative work and think Alive is ahead of the game.”

Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

“Thanks for all your help. We are delighted with the campaign, both in terms of the creativity and messaging but also the thought taken over the rollout of the materials. All looks absolutely fabulous!”

Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

“We went to ‘Alive’ for ideas on how to run a specific employee program in Europe. Alan and his team were brilliant in coming up with fresh, creative and practical approaches. The team took charge and executed brilliantly. We are pleased with the progress made so far and hope to have the same level of partnership and commitment going forward.”

Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

“So glad that we chose Alive to create our new website. As well as taking the time to get the visual side of our requirement right, they worked with us to understand us, our business and our clients and reflect this across the site. We loved their flexible approach, which, coupled with the right level of challenge has replaced our old, clunky site with one we can be proud of. ”

Victoria Ford — Perago

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

“‘We worked with the team at Alive to create our staff recognition video.
At a time like this, its never been more important to share the amazing work that our staff have done and continue to do on a daily basis under very difficult circumstances. We wanted to shout about this and recognise that when the time came, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stepped up to the plate. We didn’t want an ordinary thank you post on social media or a basic email sent out internally, we wanted something special. Enter Alive. ”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“The (Alive) team were able to creatively pull together and document (in just over 2minutes) everything our service has achieved over the last few months, from thousands of prescriptions deliveries to hundreds of phone calls made to the vulnerable. The final product was so powerful and reflective of what our service has and continues to achieve. It couldn’t have been better received within the service – thanks Alive for once again helping us to communicate our vision!’”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

“Boom!
Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

“Our company is fun, we have great brands, but most importantly we’re all about our people – and I wanted an agency who would understand that and help us bring it to life through our website and other comms. Straight away I felt that Alive ‘got’ us and provided the creative inspiration exactly where we needed it, as well as the technical expertise to deliver a well-functioning website.”

Keren McCarron — KP Snacks

“Alive were professional, friendly and great to work with. Most importantly they were creative, helping us to bring an extremely important safety campaign to life.”

Jack Grasby — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“We got 'Alive' involved to help us shift mindsets across our organisation and they delivered! Using simple, clear and creative ideas the team have delivered us a campaign which has seen a dramatic increase in idea sharing and development. They’ve also played a significant role in creating a culture of shared success. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with again, in fact, we already are!”

Gavin Buckle — B&Q