For office-based digital marketing agencies, one of the biggest impacts of the Covid-19 crisis was team collaboration – specifically when it comes to ideating content campaigns. While video conferencing helps with day-to-day communication, many marketers will have struggled with ideations away from brainstorm-filled whiteboards and bustling meeting rooms.
And now, with many agencies considering a full-time shift to remote working once the pandemic subsides, it’s never been more important that teams look to utilise tools that can help make teamwork easier and increase the chance of campaign success.
The following ideation tools have become a central resource for many teams during the outbreak, as clients look to pivot their marketing strategies and agencies are tasked with conceptualising newsworthy, empathetic and impactful stories to cut through the noise.
Ideaflip is the perfect substitute for teams that are used to crowding around a spider-diagram-filled whiteboard for ideation sessions. A real-time brainstorm and collaboration tool, Ideaflip allows multiple collaborators to pop into a shared dashboard ahead of video calls and populate colourful ‘sticky notes’ with key ideas, as well as offering embedded images and links to add further context to a concept.
One of our key discoveries when using this tool is the ability to create a master sheet, which allows people who aren’t shared into a particular client’s board to still access it in the future if needs be. This allows teams to create a vault of ideas – which is something that’s proven invaluable to our own content marketing in the past – but saves someone having to jot down everyone’s thoughts during a physical meeting, which runs the risk of misinterpretation.
Users can also create categorising ‘boxes’ which allows sticky notes to be moved from ‘ideas pending’ to ‘ideas to further refine’ or ‘ideas to save for later’. Once the board is ready to go, all the team needs to do is jump on a video call and present back their findings, while collaborators can add small symbols – such as a question mark, lightbulb or happy face – to record everyone’s reactions to each idea. This is also particularly useful for visual learners.
Other examples of similar whiteboard-like tools include:
You might see Google Trends as more of a data source than a tool to be utilised during ideation, but it’s proven very useful when gauging how a topic compares to Covid-19 coverage. Google Trends allows marketers to see what people are searching for and how the interest in a topic has changed over time, which can help determine which campaign idea is worth pursuing in the current climate, and which might be best left for when some normality returns.
Search data has risen in popularity as a data source across many campaigns due to being user-led and global, so it makes sense that Google Trends can provide a strong basis for data-driven ideations that target specific countries. Searches can be narrowed by time, location and related topic, so you can get a comprehensive picture of how successful your campaign is likely to be within your target market.
Other sites that allow you to analyse search data include:
Although many agencies are likely already using slack for internal communications, you might not be aware that there’s a plugin that allows you to vote on direct messages the same way you would during a brainstorm. Simply set up a thread between everyone that works for the client, put forward your ideas and let everyone vote to help narrow down which end up getting pitched to the client. You can also call each other using the app if someone needs further clarification.
What’s more, you can create your own to-do lists within the app via Slackbot reminders that can help delegate idea refinement or pitch presentation creation after votes are in. Important messages can be starred to help you access things you might need later, you can integrate Google Calendar to ensure you’re all chatting at the same time, and you can even poll your teammates through the Polly shortcut if there’s a joint vote.
Other useful direct messaging tools include:
- Microsoft Teams
- CA Flowdock
- Google Hangouts
This tool is perfect for teams who are experiencing a massive drop in motivation due to the lack of face-to-face contact, or who want to mix things up after a string of ideations. Meetingroom.io is special as it’s a virtual room that allows teams to edit and save digital whiteboards together, while appearing as avatars that make it seem like you’re actually in the room together.
The VR service offers a reference wall, which consists of whiteboard tools with a set of templates that allow teams to brainstorm quickly, a collaboration wall that can be filled with sticky notes, and a presentation wall for those who want to share a prepared slideshow. Understandably, it is a little pricey, but can prove a worthwhile investment if your team struggles to work outside of a familiar office environment.
Other VR meeting room apps that are available or in development include:
- HTC Vive Sync
Tips for collaborative brainstorming at home
Ultimately, the success of any ideation session depends on a team’s ability to work proactively and produce strong campaign concepts. It’s important that agencies identify how to streamline processes in a way that works operationally but also encourages creative collaboration, or else the ideation process can suffer. Our top tips to keep ideations strong while working remotely are:
Invite the right people
While it’s best to keep the number of attendees low to keep within budget, inviting a diverse and productive team is crucial to success. Make sure that the team includes individuals with different skills and across different departments, and that each person has a working knowledge of the client or sector. You should also send an introductory brief detailing key campaign considerations – such as budget, topic focus and timings – ahead of time, and ensure everyone knows how to use your collaboration tool of choice before the session.
Set clear expectations
Some brainstorms need to result in a comprehensive campaign strategy with clear methodology and hooks, while others may work as a general discussion to point a client in the right direction. Make sure everyone in the session knows exactly what’s expected of them and has time to prepare what they need. Since everyone’s working from home you’re more likely to get enthusiastic participants who’ve been able to focus completely on ideating strong ideas, so take advantage of minimal disruptions where possible.
Identify next steps
It’s important that every ideation session ends with every member of the team knowing exactly what’s required from them next. Delegate refining ideas to someone who’ll be executing the research, let multiple people work on the pitch deck and loop everyone in who’ll be working on the project into the end result. If needed, make sure you book in a follow-up session to make sure everyone’s on the same page before pitching to the client.
If you’re a brand who’s been struggling to adapt to the current climate or are concerned that your campaign ideas aren’t strong enough, we recommend consulting an experienced agency as to what will work best for your business. Digital marketing is set to grow increasingly competitive as brands turn to alternative revenue streams during the pandemic so it’s important to invest in successful campaigns to help you compete.
Written by Emily Garner, Content Specialist at Blueclaw.