During my journalism days, I often heard editors say they wanted to hire “a great writer,” which always annoyed me. Maybe that’s because I never considered myself a great writer, or because I value idea generation above great writing.
It’s easy to execute great blog post ideas, at least in my mind. You need great writing to ride to the rescue when the well runs dry.
As a marketing writer, you’re only as good as your next idea, which leads us to the obvious question: How to consistently generate compelling blog post ideas when you and your staff are already stretched to your max?
Inc. Magazine’s Chris Winfield recently wrote about the creative benefits of being bored. “Spending every minute of every day engaged in some type of action absolutely kills your creativity,” he concluded. He even quoted acclaimed author Neil Gaiman, who once said: “Boredom is the place you create from in self-defense.”
Winfield went on to describe a study by University of Lancashire researchers who had 40 people copy numbers from a phone directory (they still exist?) for 15 minutes before being asked to come up with different uses for a set of cups. They compared those results against another group that wasn’t required to complete the boring copying exercise beforehand.
It turned out that people who copied the phone numbers found more creative uses for the cups. A follow-up study involved 30 participants copying phone numbers and 30 more reading them aloud. Both these groups were more creative than the group not assigned a tedious activity before interacting with the cups.
I’m no researcher. I’ve never heard of the University of Central Lancashire and have nothing but respect for the absurdly talented Gaiman, but the word “bored” bugs me. I don’t know about you, but the marketing managers I know don’t have time to be bored. They’re swamped.
I prefer “percolate.” Regardless of how busy we are, there are routines in our days that provide opportunities to come up with our next great blog idea. Give your mind time to wander and ponder during your commute or while walking, exercising or doing mindless household or job chores. When an idea does pop into our heads it’s critical to recognize and document it before it slips your brain.
Here are other ideas for marketers charged with generating daily blog posts:
- Keep an idea file and encourage your marketing staff to do the same. You may have a great idea but it might not work for the blog post you need today. File it away. You may sift through your idea file at a later date and find the blogger’s equivalent to a $20 bill in your pocket. Yahoo!
- Embrace your insomnia. I often toss and turn because I don’t have an idea only to have it come to me in the middle of the night. I keep a pen and pad on my nightstand for such occasions. Then I roll over and sleep comforted by knowing what I’m going to blog about next.
- Search the web. This may be obvious, but have you ever searched frantically for your keys only to realize they’re in your purse or pocket? It’s the same with buyer personas. Sometimes we forget what’s most obvious. What are they buzzing about? Find and engage in websites and media they engage in. Use daily headlines for “angles” that make an idea relevant on a specific date.
- Follow your own fascination. Remember, if you find something interesting, chances are, visitors will too. I often find myself telling a friend or colleague about some fantastic tidbit I came across only to later smack my forehead and realize it’s a great blog post idea. Duh.
- Have a go-to person or two you can brainstorm with and/or bounce ideas off. I always have someone I can call when I don’t have an idea or am trying to refine an idea who gives me honest feedback or helps talk me through a subject. I do the same for them. If you find the right person, the conversation often ends with both parties hanging up with a great idea they are ready to execute.
- Solicit ideas from your team. I once asked members of my eight-member staff to write down ten ideas. The person who had the most ideas published by the end of the quarter received lunch on me. Even team members not involved with blogging have eureka moments. This is a great team-building exercise, too, because it makes everyone feel like a valued contributor.
If after reading this you’re still struggling to come up with blog posts ideas, you can always copy or read numbers from a phone book until a great idea presents itself, provided you can find one, of course.
As you start coming up with new content topics, download our Editorial Calendar Template for an easy-to-use spreadsheet to help you organize these ideas into a cohesive, strategic inbound marketing plan!