You’ve been there.

Your team comes up with the BEST.CREATIVE.EVER for a direct mail campaign. You just know this is going to get 50% response rate and win all kinds of awards. Then you float it around for feedback. Debbie, in her most polite voice possible, complements you on the creativity of it, but says it would really, really offend people in rural Appalachia. Um, what?

She Googles some of the terms you used and shows how they are also used as derogatory slang toward this group. Oh. You had no idea. You totally did NOT mean that and had no intention of offending anyone.

Well, shoot. That was your best idea and now you’re stumped. How in the world are we supposed to create breakthrough creative when we have to be concerned about offending everyone in the world? Advertising was supposed to be fun, and this is not fun.  

We know you’ve been there because we’ve been there, too. Several times we thought we created the greatest thing since sliced bread until we realized we hadn’t. Here are 5.5 tips we discovered to help develop awesome creative – and within the realm of political correctness (PC for short).

Know thy customer

Know your customers inside and out and what they love. Additionally, conduct research to know what can ruffle feathers or get in the way of your message. Steer clear of that.  

Know thy non-you

Get outside of your comfort realm and BEFRIEND people who look, act, think, and believe completely opposite of you. The mere act of personally knowing and understanding people from different cultures can help broaden your overall thinking (and creating) processes and patterns.  

Before you brainstorm, get your Politically Correct on — and out

Even before you begin the creative process, lay out on the table all the stereotypes you can think of as discovered in tips #1 and #2. (But aren’t we supposed to suppress this stuff? Yes and no.) A 2014, multi-university study revealed that identifying stereotypes and creating a safe place for communicating helps creativity reach new heights. “One of the biggest ways companies can put good diversity intentions into action is uncovering those biases that hold everyone back,” a Fast Company article on the study says.

Practice co-ed brainstorming

The same study cited that mixed-gender groups were more likely to uncover biases than single-gender groups, and the subsequent clear lines of communication helped creativity flow. “Political correctness facilitates more comfortable sharing of creative ideas in male-female teams by reducing the uncertainty or ‘fear to offend’ that people tend to experience when interacting with the opposite sex,” reports an article in The Independent on the same study.

Be choosy with brainstormers

Oftentimes, we invite everyone and his or her brother to a brainstorming session in order to be inclusive and get buy-in. Stop the train right here. The creative process is neither the time nor place for buy-in. The creative process is the place to be crazy and free. Invite a small group of smart, curious, culturally astute men and women who can dream up all kinds of crazy with all kinds of freedom (within legal limits, of course).

Don’t freak out. Just be kind

This tip is key, so it gets an extra half point. We are a world of 7.3 billion people and, therefore, 7.3 billion individual identities. You will never be politically correct to all, so don’t limit yourself in the pursuit of trying. Just try to be kind in your creative and avoid general negativity.             

The politically correct world need not be a buzzkill for creativity; perhaps it can even spark it.