Can You Teach Creativity?

A couple years back I was speaking to a class of entrepreneurs about digital marketing and the instructor posed a provocative question:

“Can you teach creativity?”

The short answer is no, because true creativity, like beautiful art or great music, comes from the soul (or the Gods!) and, well, you either have it or you don’t. However, that doesn’t mean that people can’t be taught how to put together creative executions for their web sites, blogs and social media channels.

Strong Coffee and a Viral Video

I hate mornings. It’s a dark time of day when my normally affable personality is at its lowest ebb, and my creative muse is still in bed sawing logs. That makes it extremely challenging to come up with creative social media content, especially for one of my favorite clients, Snyder and Insurance and Financial Services outside of Chicago. Thankfully, the business of socializing in the insurance world isn’t about pushing policies, but with talking about things on the periphery of insurance. That opens up a treasure trove of great content, but, again, it’s 8:00 a.m. and  it takes awhile for caffeine to hijack my neurotransmitters.

One Monday morning back in April, I was at a loss for what to post. I use Feedly to aggregate news and other content by industry keywords to find good starting points to write content for my clients, but there wasn’t anything particularly compelling in my Feedly threads for health, wellness or Chicagoland news,. There was a great story, though, about a video by a young pregnant couple, which documented their journey through pregnancy —from zero to 9-months BIG — using time lapse photography. It was scored with a sweet song that was written and strummed on camera by Dad-to-Be and You Tube celeb Tom Fletcher. It had already pulled in over 8M views, and it really took me back to the salad days before the birth of my own daughter.

From Dim to Glowing

I wasn’t half way through the video when a light began to flicker over my head, likely from the 2 additional shots of espresso folded into my morning Joe by the smiling baristas at my local Starbucks. No matter the source, I quickly realized that I’d found my insurance post for the day!

As any parent knows, the 9 month journey to having your first child is filled with anxiety. Life is no longer about you. It’s suddenly about “Us.” You have more questions than answers and, thanks to fiends and family, you get tons of advice. One thing I never heard, though, was about the importance of life insurance. Kind of a no-brainer, but what twenty-something broods over their own demise, especially with a kid on the way. That’s why having enough life insurance is so important, but most employer sponsored policies are pretty bare bones and need to be supplemented with private insurance. (As an added benefit, life insurance can be used as a strategic financial tool down the road, as well, but I won’t bore you with the details.) For an insurance firm like my client, that was an obvious important take-away from the video.

Nothing Creative About It

So, with a warm, fuzzy smile on my face, I  wrote a short introduction and embedded the video in a post to Snyder’s blog:

Absolutely love this video! Not only is it cool and really sweet, which probably explains why its gotten over 8M views, it’s also a splendid reminder of why life insurance is so important for young families. Life moves pretty fast and “something new” happens before you know it!

That formed the basis for similarly themed posts to Snyder’s Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages, as well as adding the video for their Life Insurance playlist on You Tube. My work was done, and I hadn’t even finished half of my Venti “Black Eye!” Here’s the whole process in an infographic:

Non-Creative Creatitivity 101
When I relayed this story to my social media class the next week, one of my students remarked that she wouldn’t be able to do something that creative, because she didn’t have my mind or professional background. Much to her surprise, I told her that it really wasn’t about creativity at all, and was actually something that any small business owner could pull off. All it requires is finding a serendipitous connection between a piece of content and your business, services or products.

That and maybe a supercharged cup of coffee.

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Pat McKenna is a digital strategist, social media manager/instructor, web designer and founder of MojoWeb Productions, LLC. in Milwaukee, WI. He can be reached via e-mail or by calling (414) 732-3397.