Pandemic, economic recession, social unrest, home/work/school changes and you’re supposed to come up with some clever ad headline by the end of the day?

Working as a marketer inside a credit union or community bank is hard enough already:  daily fires to put out, last-minute rate changes to promote, and other departments clamoring for Marketing’s help. Believe me, I know. As a Creative Services Manager at one of the nation’s largest credit unions for years, I felt the pressure to constantly be creating, often at the drop of a hat.

And now there are additional stressors in play which we haven’t ever experienced – on the business side as well as personal – how in the world can we find those creative connections when there’s so much going on?

Here are five of my favorite tips for finding some creative energy and getting those ideas flowing!

1 Be nice to yourself

“Wait, what? That doesn’t sound like a practical tip to me.”

Hang in with me here – giving yourself lots of grace is key. That’s why it’s the first tip! Acknowledge the stressors. Accept these aren’t ideal environments to promote innovative, creative thinking. Don’t expect brilliance to happen. It might very well show up, but expecting it to will only create undo and unhelpful pressure. This all feeds into the need for our brains to have a psychological safe space in which to operate. To think freely, our brains want plenty of room to play. If our brains are crowded with pressures, worries, anxieties, there’s very little room for those magical connections to happen. So while it might be hard to change the environment, and eliminate those worries, just acknowledging the environment and its impacts will help tremendously.
Action Steps: take a moment to recognize the situation, cut yourself some slack, and take a deep breath.

2 Do something else

“But, the deadline!”

Yes, this tip sounds counter-productive, but studies show creativity happens more often when we are doing something else. It’s using the diffused state of thinking  which is how many of humanity’s most impactful discoveries have come about.
This diffused state just means our brains can make some pretty amazing connections when we’re doing something else, usually something like walking or taking a shower or even just daydreaming. Something that moves our bodies, but doesn’t require us to think about moving our bodies.
Remember Archimedes  and his famous “Eureka!” moment? He was taking a bath when his inspiration hit!
Action Step: Take a walk!

3 Browse For Inspiration

“But I want our ad to be something new!”
I’m not advocating ‘borrowing’ someone else’s designs or copy, that’s the LAST thing I want you to do. But take advantage of a great Google search to help jump start your idea process. Go beyond searching Pinterest for ‘great auto loan ads’ or ‘credit union marketing ideas.’ Think of your target audience. Explore the magazines, websites, and other resources they might be using. Review the advertisements, articles, and other elements with an eye for the styles, colors, tone of voice. It’s a great way to expand your visual and voice inspirations while getting to know your target audience better.
One cautionary note here: The key is to browse NOT infringe on copyrights.
Action Step: Look through your target audience’s favorite magazine (digital or print)

4 Collaborate

“But there’s no else in the office who gets marketing”
Sometimes it just takes talking through your project and ideas to help loosen up your creative juices. Find a creative cohort, someone you can bounce ideas off of, someone who understands advertising & marketing. Need a good cohort? Join your local advertising (AAF), marketing (AMA) or public relations (PRSA) association. They are full of people, like you, who are often the sole (or one of few) communications person in an organization. It won’t take long to find someone who could use a cohort as well!
Action Step: Find a creative cohort

5 Call in Reinforcements

“But there’s no time!”
Lean on outside creative experts! Your deadline may not allow you to use them for the entire project, but a call or email with them could bring about fresh ideas for you. They live and breathe in the creative space and would likely love to chat up ideas! This is when it’s helpful to have a well-established relationship with a soloist or small firm who specializes in the creative side of marketing & advertising. That relationship will come in handy for these types of phone/video calls!
Action step: Contact your favorite creative professional! Don’t have one? Call me!

The next you’re feeling stressed, can’t think of any ideas, or just plain need a mental break, follow any or all of these tips and set your ideas free!