Diary of a PR Amateur

The Brainstorming Session

July 15, 2010
1 Comment

Oh, what a session it was yesterday. Ben & Jerry’s. Pringles. Great ideas. But there was a much more important outcome as well.

Here’s a minute-by-minute rundown:

10:00 – I am sitting in the conference room by myself, with all 12 pints of Ben & Jerry’s and all nine tube-cans of Pringles open and ready to be eaten. In addition, I have set up the room by basically wallpapering the room with those oversized post-it poster-pages. We are ready to roll.

We had the Ben & Jerry's, but would we get the ideas?


10:03 – The product marketing guys walk in. As expected, they go straight to the Pringles, each grabbing a tube-can and dumping out a hand-full of crisps. Strangely, neither says hello to me. They just sit down at the table.

10:04 – The VP of Marketing (and my boss) walks in. His jaw immediately drops, and he has a shocked look on his face as he takes his seat.

10:05 – The R&D head walks in and grabs one of the pints of Ben & Jerry’s. Chunky Monkey, I believe.

10:07 – I begin the session: “Thanks for coming, everyone. As you can see, we have a lot of snacks that will hopefully encourage your creativity. And you should feel comfortable helping yourselves … but only after you have said something that I will wrrite down on one of the poster-pages. So, Greg, please put back the Ben & Jerry’s. And Dennis and Chris, hand back the Pringles.

“Okay, the first issue we want to address is our logo. Do we like it? If not, how do you think it needs to be changed?”

10:08 – My boss points out that the company’s logo is not up for discussion, as well as mentioning that it’s not even my responsibility, so I should move on to the next topic. I quickly write this down, unshackling him from not being allowed to eat the snacks. And it pays immediate dividends, as he reaches for a tube-can of Pringles.

10:10 – After a bit of debate about whether we are free to discuss the logo – after all, it is a brainstorming session and anything should be fair game – we move on to the next topic, which is one of my favorites: the website.

10:11 – My boss once again points out that the company’s website is not part of my responsibility. I respond by asking him, “Fine, then what should we discuss?” The room is getting a little warm.

10:11:30 – My boss suggests we discuss press release ideas.

10:12 – The product marketing guys begin to rattle off a bunch of ideas, reaching for the Pringles as they speak. “Not so fast,” I say. “I’m not so impressed with these ideas.”

This is no environment for creativity. You have to spice it up ... and stick poster-paper on the walls!


10:13 – My boss corrects me and says that all four of their ideas would make solid announcements. I grudgingly add the four ideas to the poster-paper behind me.

10:14 – The head of R&D, who minutes earlier picked up a pint of Ben & Jerry’s without my permission, and kept holding it, even when I told him to put it down, adds three ideas of his own, concerning development milestones that are coming up. I add them to the list.

10:15 – My boss asks me why I had to use money from his budget to buy so much junk-food, when I could have just as easily just walked around to the participants’ offices to obtain the same information.

10:16 – “Any other ideas?” I ask around.

10:16:05 – My boss leaves the room, and then everyone else begins to shuffle out as well, grabbing pints and tube-cans on their way out with one hand … and high-fiving me with the other. “Great party,” adds Chris.

10:18 – I remove all the poster-pages from the walls and take stock of how much food is left. We still have 10 pints of Ben & Jerry’s that have not been opened, and six tube-cans of Pringles left over. I smile.

You see, a brainstorm isn’t so much about how many ideas can be generated. It’s about instilling a jolt of energy into the team. And if upper management is not going to do it, I sure as heck will. The guys left that room smiling yesterday.

And I’m smiling, too, because all the extra food came home with me.

I’d say that’s a success. Wouldn’t you?

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