How Powerful Brainstorming Led To a Global PR Award Win

In October 2021, Mutant Communications’ Heather Seet and Victoria Brown won Gold at ICCO’s inaugural Next Generation PR Word Cup, beating out global teams to bring home the top prize. Heather writes about the journey, and how they secured the win.

On the morning of October 21st 2021, Victoria and I were sending each other GIFs on Slack. Technically, we were sending one specific GIF, multiple times: 

Joey’s gracious loser face

We were in the Zoom waiting room of the ICCO Next-Gen PR World Cup virtual announcement ceremony,  and we were joking about the best ways to react if we didn’t bring home an award. But we never got around to testing the opposite, and when our names were actually called as the Gold Winners, we were almost too excited to speak.

But let’s rewind to the beginning. 

When Mutant first nominated us for the competition, I thought to myself: we’re in different countries, how are we going to pull this off? 

For a competition with a time crunch, it was going to be tough developing ideas with one of us in Singapore and the other in Malaysia. And while it definitely added a challenge, it reinforced the importance of clarity in communication, organisation in thought, and a robust approach to brainstorming.

The competition came with a hefty ask: create two award-worthy campaigns in very short timeframes. We had to come up with a regional consumer campaign in 48 hours, and a global corporate campaign and video pitch in five days.

Here’s how we did it: 

Rely on digital tools 

When Victoria and I first started working on the regional project – a consumer campaign for Singapore Kindness Movement to encourage a ​​kinder digital world – we sat on a Zoom call, unsure of the best way to enter a collaborative brainstorm. I had some things scribbled on loose paper, and she had some ideas typed up on a Word doc.

Instead of limiting ourselves to linear thought by sticking to a document, we got creative and searched for tools that would best suit our needs. After considering several digital tools, we eventually settled on using Google Jamboard, which allowed us to collaborate easily, as well as express and organise our thoughts.

Ultimately, we ended up with this:

Our Jamboard brainstorm for The Power of Words, our winning campaign for Singapore Kindness Movement

 While narrowing down which digital tools to use, Victoria and I found that the best tools are the ones that help to visualise processes, and allow streamlining of thought to distil the best ideas.

Say “yes, and…”

It’s a familiar phrase in improv acting, but it’s also extremely applicable to the brainstorming phase. We threw together all our wild, wacky ideas – even the ones that we thought might not have belonged. That said, we kept our objective clearly in mind, and when we found  ourselves veering off course, we didn’t just axe the route – we found a bend in the road to bounce off each other, and strengthened our ideas by saying “yes, and”.

After 30 minutes of pure ideation, we moved to grouping and categorising our ideas. This is the point  where the far-flung concepts got deprioritised, and our clearer concepts rose to the top to paint a coherent picture.

How we grouped our brainstorm session to identify consistent themes and progress areas

Messy is good, but only the start.

My personal favourite Jamboard slide is the one that depicts my true calling as an artist.

“Untitled” – Heather Seet, 2021

Once we started to prioritise the things that mattered, we took the time to clean it up. Not for the format – brainstorming is only a means to an end – but for clarity, so that we could clearly understand our flow of thought, and see how our process from start to finish responded to the brief.

This is also how we organised our final flow when planning the global-level corporate campaign which presented us with a challenging corporate brief from the International SOS Foundation. The campaign needed to educate C-Suite executives about Duty of Care. After our initial, messy brainstorm and the clean-up process, our Jamboard looked like this: .

Our thought process for Speak Up: Duty of Care, the winning campaign at the ICCO Next-Gen PR World Cup

With our brainstorming finished, our Jamboard organised, and our campaign goals clear, we were then in a great place to start taking these ideas and turning them into full-fledged campaigns.

Bringing our campaigns to life:

First up: The PRCA Next Generation PR World Cup APAC

At the regional level, our campaign for the Singapore Kindness Movement consisted of two phases: 

  • The first phase focused on raising awareness about cyber-hate in Singapore through a ground-up hashtag campaign.
  • The second phase moved to enact behavioural change through an interactive physical and digital art installation. 

Rooted in engagement with key stakeholders, our campaign focused on powering the dialogue on cyber-wellness, influencing conversations from individual activism to policy recommendations.

Our plan on a page for the PRCA Next Generation PR World Cup APAC

The Second Challenge: The ICCO Next Gen PR World Cup

Once we passed the regional phase and made it to the global level, we decided to switch campaign phases up a bit by turning the tables and starting from the ground up. By empowering the everyday workforce with the tools they would need to contribute their perspectives on employee health and wellbeing within their companies, we could enable them to speak up – and speak upwards – to key decision makers who could make a difference.

Our four-phase approach aimed to drive business leaders to implement organisational change, transforming their Duty of Care processes to create better workplaces that inspire confidence, peace-of-mind and employee satisfaction.

Our plan on a page for the ICCO Next-Gen PR World Cup

It was an incredible journey and an honour to represent our region and be awarded Gold as the inaugural winners of the ICCO Next-Gen PR World Cup. Holding our own and coming out on top in a global industry competition will always be a career highlight for me – and it wouldn’t have been possible without Victoria on my team, Mutant behind our backs, and some powerful brainstorming.

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