As I wrote yesterday, understanding and articulating the problem (“a less than ideal state”) is a crucial step in creative thinking.
Once you have the problem written in a way you and your brainstorm sponsor agree, the next step is to brainstorm ideas which either remove or control the problem.
One of my favorite brainstorm techniques helps do exactly that – and it, has a great name to boot: Stop It or Mop It.
Originally created and defined by Dr. Robert Harris, a retired professor of English at the University of California at Riverside, Stop It or Mop It is based on the two primary ways to address problems, either by focusing on its Cause, or by focusing on its Effect.
Cause addresses head-on the source of the problem, including the reasons for the cause.
Effect addresses the result or consequence of the problem as well as its symptoms.
Harris writes there are three ways to address the Cause: prevent It, eliminate It or reduce it.
That said, this approach is perfect for issues and crises management, which is nothing more than a brainstorm of worst case scenarios. (This is also one of the few times you’ll want to invite the most negative people you know to the issues/crises brainstorm.) As PR people know better than any other management position, it’s always less costly to fix a problem before it starts. (“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Grandma Eklund.)
One other thought: this is a good approach to research best practices. What have other companies done to address a similar or parallel problem?
That said, I’ve also seen this approach used in humorous ways. When the caffeine beverage Mother changed its taste due to customer feedback, the PR team very publicly destroyed the old bottles with a tank. Regardless of whether it’s humorous or serious, tactics in this approach tend to be extremely visible: public events and stunts, followed by intense traditional and social media relations.
Harris goes on to say there are three ways to address Effect: treat it, tolerate it, or redirect it. In communications, these approaches might be taken as passive, so the tone and style of the campaign should be overtly proactive.
The problem with spin generally is two-fold: it makes it harder for the listener to determine what it true, and the opposing point-of-view often feels like an accusation or blame. For example, when I was a MasterCard spokesperson, I was often attacked by reporters for not taking full responsibility in encouraging teens to spend beyond their means. They were loath to acknowledge our opinion: that the parent must shoulder some of the burden in teaching their children
If I learned one thing about this approach, it only works when you – as a spokesperson, as well as the overall campaign’s tone – is transparent, lucid, sensitive,
and offered as another perspective. It works less well when the messages are “we’re the right position” vs. “you’re the wrong position.”
What other approaches or strategies have you used to address problems in your campaigns or projects?
You can read about other brainstorm techniques by visiting the category of Brainstorm Techniques, Games and Icebreakers.