“How on earth does selling ideas work?” “You do what?” “Are you making this up?” “Is that even a job?” How do I get in on this?”
These are just some of the reactions I get when I tell contacts, friends, family or acquaintances what I do for a living. Ideas are at the hub of everything, from business to faith, from politics to the arts.
But they are so often neglected as an isolated part of a process. Some people are great at selling, organising, leading or creating. But not all of these are great at ideas. Which is where I come in.
Selling ideas is a sensitive business, which relies on subsuming ego. After all, our ideas are what make us who we are. Letting someone else put their name on your ideas means losing all the glory, as most people or businesses don’t want to admit to going elsewhere for idea. That is why a lot of my ideas work clients are not listed here.
But as someone who has hundreds of ideas a week, letting go is actually a good thing for me. Releasing ideas into the wild means that great things can come of them, and it also leaves brain space for new ideas to flourish.
So, how does the process work?
How do you buy and sell ideas?
Mostly, the process begins with a business or individual approaching me. They may have a desire or a project in mind. Or they may just want a blanket set of ideas as to how they can promote their business.
I usually set up an initial two-day contract. One day for learning about the client and one to have ideas and writing them up. This can increase for large projects, such as re-branding. But two days is usually enough to begin with.
The ideas are then presented as a report, with notes about their execution or variance. These ideas vary from the safe to the brave (and, often, the extreme), as I am freed up from internal politics, potential for toe-stepping and massaging the egos of whichever department head usually gives these things the nod.
There may be critiques of current practice, ideas that counter the business’s usual narrative or ones that delve into its data or heritage. The ideas could include prompts for anything from an office party to new products and new markets. It’s a mixture of business thinking, scriptwriting, storytelling and connecting the dots. It is all those blue-sky, outside the box business jargon clichés, but for real. It could undo a business disaster, find new ways to keep my clients’ own clients happy or finally nail what a brand is.
But mostly, clients want to know how they can get noticed, get in the papers or become a wow on social media. In a world where every PR idea has been used up, it helps to be someone who knows how the media works and has a track record of innovation outside of the PR world. After all, if you don’t start with an idea then you don’t have a clue. Which means you don’t have a hope.