One of the biggest roadblocks content marketers face is developing original, relevant and engaging content – content that people actually want to read and most importantly share with associates. Just like song writers, everyone wants their content (song) to be a hit and reach the number one spot on the charts.
According to CMI’s 2015 B2B Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends research study, creating engaging content is the number one challenge faced by content marketers (60% of respondents). That’s followed very closely (57%) by producing content consistently. Make it good and do it often is the goal!
Cultivate’s recent Milwaukee Area Content Marketing Survey showed a similar pattern: 52% of respondents say they have trouble producing content consistently, while 45% say producing engaging content is their number two challenge.
Who would have thought!? Creating good content is hard work and most people simply don’t have time between everyday meetings and putting out fires to produce engaging content. People can only stare at a blank computer screen so long in hopes of churning out something alluring to read or view.
“Me-too” content is no longer good enough to command attention and connect with the reader. What’s needed are unique, creative approaches, delivered on a consistent, ongoing basis. Sound impossible? Here are seven brainstorming techniques designed to generate content ideas that will break through the noise and command attention:
1. Create a swipe file of remarkable article and blog post headlines
As you do your daily reading, watch out for eye-catching headlines and story concepts. Make a note of them in a paper or online file. Soon, you’ll have a list of inspiring examples that you can adapt to your needs. Another way you can do this is to visually scan a magazine rack in a bookstore. What headlines jump out at you? Make notes of them, and then brainstorm ways to adapt them to your content needs.
Read The Onion and National Enquirer for headlines, and then tone the theme back to your reality. Headlines that get readers to think “WTF??” can be very effective.
2. Challenge a key assumption in your industry or profession by asking, “What if?”
This simple question helps you to imagine different possibilities that are outside of your habitual ways of thinking and the commonly-accepted industry or professional “rules.” For example:
- “What if our audience viewed us as a trusted publisher, not as a firm that’s always trying to sell them something?”
- “What if we could predict our audience’s needs with a high degree of precision, and then deliver the information they needed, just in time?”
- “What if we could get wild monkeys to fly out of our pockets?”
Start repeating “what if” as you walk around the office and something will come to you.
3. Use the “board of directors” creativity technique
Force yourself to think about your audience’s problems or challenges from unique perspectives. One way to do this is to create an imaginary “board of directors.” These people can be anyone, living or dead, famous or obscure, real or imaginary. Your goal is to leverage their unique thinking styles to help you see things differently.
For example, how would Steve Jobs create amazing content? Richard Branson? Gandhi? Gumby? Captain Kirk? Dilbert? Martin Luther King? Imagine you’re standing in front of them; picture in rich detail the answers they would give you.
3. Do a Google search – but with a twist
As you type your query, watch the suggestions that appear. These are similar queries that other people have already made. Some will be unusual and intriguing. Use them as stepping stones to unique content ideas. By the way, this method really does work, especially after a glass or two of Cabernet.
4. What do you wish your audience knew?
Make a list of the knowledge gaps or incorrect assumptions that your audience seems to have. Remember, not all of them are rocket scientists and look to your content to help them figure things out. What’s routine to you may be amazing to them. Brainstorm ways to help them understand each of these topics correctly and completely.
5. Perform a PEST analysis on your profession or industry
PEST analysis is a valuable tool for understanding the external macro-environment in which your business operates. It can help you better understand the range of trends, influences and forces that may represent either threats or opportunities to your audience.
PEST stands for Political, Economic, Social and Technological. Brainstorm around the mega-trends that are occurring in each area. Explore each one in depth. How can you help your audience capitalize upon these trends in their early stages?
6. Use an online idea generation tool to brainstorm unique content ideas
Our brains are rich “association engines” – they love to connect ideas and concepts together. Brainstorming tools like Free the Genie leverage this capability by presenting you with random stimuli to get your creative juices flowing.
7. Attribute listing
Divide your audience’s problem or challenge into its attributes. Once you’ve done this you can think about each element separately. Think of ways to address each one in the form of content.
It’s time to get creative
If you’re committed to creating original, relevant and engaging content that your target audience finds interesting enough to spend time reading why not give one or more of these techniques a test drive? I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results!