Your Focus Needs LESS Focus

Recently, I’ve been lucky to participate in brainstorming sessions for several clients to discuss upcoming social media ideas. The two that stand out to me involved fall & football and the other was holiday planning (yes, holiday planning in September!). The reason both of these stood out to me was two-fold: the mix of participants and the free-flowing of ideas.

First, both of these sessions included social media team members, creative/graphic designers, project managers, non-profit specialists, email marketers, and business strategists. The participants also ranged from 22-year-old interns to 64-year-old business veterans. Some were so new to the company they didn’t know where the coffee was yet (which we helped them find before we started!) and went up to the most tenured associate (moi) and even officers of the company. No one was left out and neither group included the same mix (a few key players were the same but the rest were a grab bag).

Second, no idea was shot down. With the thought that “money isn’t an obstacle” but timeframe could be, we were given the mission, purpose and desired results. And from there we just laid out ideas. These could be well-formed ideas that included concept, possible development technique & marketing ideas to general concepts that had the hint of an idea but nothing concrete behind it. Discussions were held about the various feelings and emotional responses desired for the season, what triggered those, what was most wanted by the associates who met the personas specified by the client.

So – how does this translate into something usable for you and your event? As always, I’m glad you asked!

Hold a Focus Groups with LESS Focus

Essentially, what this comes down to is how to hold a brainstorming session – a focus group with less focus or direction. Here’s a few steps to plan and execute such a meeting:

  • CREATE YOUR FOCUS GROUP: Invite people from within your organization that are different ages, experience levels, skill sets, focus areas, and social status (married, single, parents, childless, male, female, etc.). If you have some external influencers – board, volunteers, donors, sponsors, etc. – that you believe would be able to speak to you goals and mission, by all means include them!
  • SEND OUT PRE-MEETING INFORMATION: To be sure everyone is on board with the purpose, send out mission statements, budget, timeline, and other details that might have an impact. Letting people know this information up-front can skew your results, but will make your meeting a little more focused without spending time discussing these issues at the beginning of the meeting.
  • SET A CLEAR GOAL FOR THE MEETING: If you’re getting ideas for fall, be sure you state that you’re looking for fall, for football, for back-to-school, for Halloween, etc. If you’re looking specifically for one holiday, be sure they know that. If you say “in June” that could be Father’s Day or Graduation – be sure your group knows if you’re looking for ideas on both areas or just one of those. Also, let them know the desired outcome – are you looking for increased engagement, ticket sales, donations, or just new followers before next year’s event?
  • LET THE CREATIVITY FLOW: Don’t shoot down any idea – they all can have merit. For our holiday conversation, someone suggested “12 Puppies of Christmas” which we all found completely silly…until it was fleshed out, discussed and found to be a fairly acceptable idea with some minor adjustments. If you don’t completely understand an idea or not sure how it could work, write it down anyway and try to get additional thoughts on it later, post meeting.
  • KEEP IT TIMELY: Don’t spend more than 5 minutes discussing any one idea. Keep the ideas flowing by keeping the meeting moving. Don’t get frustrated if you don’t understand a concept or let one person dominate the sharing. You aren’t discussing how feasible each idea is or why you should or shouldn’t do it, but rather just getting LOTS of ideas that you can parse out later into actionable items.
  • HAVE A LIST OF CONVERSATION STARTERS: If there’s a stall, have some jump-starters in your pocket. At one point, our holiday conversation slowed down and the moderator simply did a round-robin and asked everyone what their favorite part of the holiday season is. This got us thinking about the traditions, spirits, decorations, gift-giving, etc. and that started more ideas flowing on how to work those in. The next stall? We discussed our least favorite part of the season and how things could be made better. And again this made us think about those ideas and how we could work toward that.
  • DON’T LET MONEY BE A LIMITER: There are a lot of tools, applications and add-ins that you can utilize to help create Facebook pages and other ideas. Many of your options will be free and your expenses really come from the people-time to execute. You never know where you will find less expensive options, find someone interested if doing it for you as in-kind or you might get a sponsor or donation to cover the cost.
  • SEND A FOLLOW-UP MESSAGE: After the meeting, send out a list of the ideas and details that were shared. This might garner a few extra suggestions and additional details for the existing concepts. There might also be ideas people weren’t comfortable sharing to a group, thinking it might get laughed at or misunderstood that they might feel better sending just to you. Be sure to THANK your participants and let them know their thoughts are always welcome.

As you head in to holiday planning (yes, in SEPTEMBER) I hope you put this idea in motion. Then, be sure to go back and check out my Holiday Scheduling series to make those ideas into reality (What to Post, Where to Post and When to Post).

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