5.6 Observation for Idea Generation

You should also consider yourself and your personal observation about what is going on around you as a key source of ideas. Having a “nose for news” generally means that you are tuned in to your surroundings and can gauge when something is “off” or different and worth checking into. For example:

  • Mike Linksvayer: Public Domain

    Noticing the long lines in front of the automatic teller machines, for example, may be the start of a PR effort for your bank client to improve customer service

  • Observing that a waterfront is eroding from the massive number of people who jog by the lake shore can lead to a series of news articles on conflicts between the goals of recreation and preservation in park systems.

  • Seeing “teachers wanted” classified ads may signal the education reporter that a decade of teacher layoffs is ending.

  • Standing in the grocery checkout line behind teenage shoppers can alert the advertising researcher to do further study on which family members purchase the groceries.

Keeping your eyes open, being curious about what is going on around you, listening in to what people are talking about – all of these are ways that you can generate new ideas or develop fresh angles on a topic.

Bus stop posters, bumper stickers, bulletin board copy, T-shirt messages, and other informal messages visible in every community (and in digital sites like Pinterest) can also trigger ideas or perspectives for the more formal part of the information strategy.

If you are in charge of an advertising account for a shoe manufacturer, being attuned to what people are wearing in different situations might give you an idea for an interesting approach to take in an ad campaign.

If you are writing about light rail issues, attending meetings where community members express their concerns will give you tips on aspects of the topic that you need to research more deeply.

Communicators need to keep their eyes open to these informal information sources. They can provide clues about changing public opinion, lifestyles and attitudes in an area – and can signal emerging trends.