Content creation is a tricky beast. You may be given limited material to work with, yet you’re expected to constantly develop new content. The well goes dry sometimes, especially when you’ve written about the same topic three months in a row. So, how do you make sure your fountain of ideas never runs out?
The first thing you must do is expect to come up with new topics. When you’re weary of coming up with new ways of saying that Frank’s Floorng has the best deals in town, it’s easy to fall into the mindset that you won’t come up with any new ways to say it. That’s what we like to call a self-fulfilling prophecy. You can’t tell yourself you won’t be creative and then expect your mind to see through itself (!) and be creative. Approach your content development with an open mind and a willingness to find inspiration in random places.
Where might inspiring content ideas come from?
1. Your old work
You’ve had great ideas in the past, and some of them are probably due for a little recycling — with a twist. Look at some different things you’ve written, and see what you can combine, restructure, or update.
Say you once wrote about how consumers make their purchasing decisions: You discussed how everything, from sales to store displays, impacts their choices. You later wrote about how stores are trying to make shopping a social event, playing club music and making a point to have sales associates chat with shoppers.
Why not combine the two ideas and approach the topic from a new angle? You can write about how the mindset of shopping as a social activity has changed the types of promotions that retailers offer, as buy-one-get-one sales and coupons for a shopper and a friend become more common.
2. Someone else’s old work
Don’t look at your direct competitors’ websites. In fact, try to avoid sites that relate to your field at all. Your most creative insights will come from completely new industries. If you normally produce content on internet marketing, for example, try researching car-related content for inspiration.
Reading websites on car design and manufacturing may inspire some new ideas about your work. You may realize that internet marketing is like a car — a thousand small pieces get fused together to create one sleek whole. How to make these many small pieces appealing and cohesive is a great topic you might not normally think of.
3. Your conversation starters
We all have them: those topics we can’t avoid, no matter how much we try. They’re the subjects we want to discuss around the water cooler, and they’re the things we bore our friends with at parties. What are yours?
Do you like to wax poetic about management issues? If you are constantly refining your ideas on what makes a good manager — or what most certainly does not make a good manager — then your thoughts are probably ready for publication. Some of these topics, like management strategies, are universal in their appeal, so they’re the most likely to provoke conversation. Increased chatter about your content is always a plus.
4. Your readers
The people who read your content surely have something to say about it. You may not always like their feedback, but it likely reflects the concerns and thoughts of your customers, which makes it important for you to address. The questions, criticisms, and requests they post are valid and deserve your consideration.
For example, when you wrote about being an efficient manager, did three different readers ask how to best delegate? That’s an entire article right there: You can talk about how to determine the proper person for the task at hand, how to train the person to handle the work, and how to evaluate his results.
You probably have a mental list of the things you think other businesses could do better, and you can likely think of several different things you’ve been told to fix over the years, or things you’ve recommended your friends and family change.
Why not share your insights and advice with your audience? Many of them might benefit from hearing that customers are turned off by their practices, or that they’re behind their competitors on key aspects. If you have suggestions on how to make changes, because you’ve lived them yourself, let your experience write your content for you.
When you’ve hit a wall because you’ve been staring at your computer too long, get away. Most great content is produced because people lived the experiences it contains. Be open to encountering inspiration at any place, any time, and expect to find it — it will probably have been under your nose the entire time.