It’s virtually impossible to pass a day without hearing or seeing something about content creation. Whether that content is a blog post, a webinar, a white paper, or something else, the marketing world these days has a love affair with content creation.
The problem is that most people who talk about content creation expect that you have fertile soil in which content ideas can grow. They tend to focus more on how to use your content to get leads or how you can repurpose one piece of content to work in other ways. What if you don’t have any ideas, however? How can you produce “content” if you are not fortunate enough to have a muse at your shoulder?
I have been thinking over the last week about how ideas pop into my head. There is one overriding trick that few people talk about, but I think it’s really true. When you dedicate yourself to creating content, your brain ALWAYS needs to be receptive to ideas. That means that no matter what you are doing and where you are doing it, you have to be ready for an idea to pop into your head. That doesn’t mean you have to write the content on the spot, but you need to create some sort of mechanism to capture that idea. With that one big trick in your pocket, here are some places where my muse hangs out. Maybe you’ll find your muse in some of the same places.
- History: I’m a big history buff, so I am often watching documentaries or reading about historical figures and events. There are countless lessons there. Humans have always been humans, after all!
- Movies: A movie doesn’t necessarily have to have a big moral of the story in order to spur on a blog post. Sometimes it’s a funny quote that magically becomes a blog title in your brain. Yes, it can be depressing that movie-watching becomes inexorably tied to your work, but such is life.
- Television Shows: Especially if there is a television show tied to your business. I have written posts based on scenes from Arrested Development because there are certain elements of working relationships that are explored there.
- Sports: What can be more riveting than a close competition, regardless of what the sport may be? Each sport teaches different kinds of lessons. What kinds of lessons are you looking for? For examples of how to use sports as fodder for blog posts, visit Lou Imbriano’s blog.
- Other Blog Posts: I sometimes read a blog post that makes me want to write about something I hadn’t thought about in a long time. Sometimes I disagree very strongly with a blog post and write my own post instead of writing a mile-long comment. Sometimes blog posts inspire me to do research, which creates an entirely new idea.
- Business Publications: Every day I comb the websites for AdWeek, AdAge, and B2B Magazine, among others. Often I find articles there that raise issues that are key to our business or are relevant to what I am doing at that particular time. Sometimes reading one article will lead you to other articles, and you find yourself wanting to write a series of posts instead of just one.
- Your Customers: Does your company get a lot of questions from customers? Do you find that often time the same question, or the same sorts of questions, get asked all of the time? Instead of answering those questions individually, write up blog posts that answer those questions. For more on that check out this talk by Marcus Sheridan (aka @thesaleslion).
- Your Life: This year I started running, originally with the intent of training for a marathon. The ups and downs of that process have provided a lot of good fuel for blog posts (endurance, perseverance, blisters on feet…). What is going on in your life right now? Are you raising kids? Getting married? Moving? Starting a new job? These are experiences that other people have gone through or will go through, and that will make your content, whatever it ends up being, universal and easily accessible for your audience.
- People Watching: I enjoy watching people. I encounter people while I’m running, and I encounter people while I’m doing everyday things like going to the grocery store. People are full of idiosyncrasies that make them do weird things. Are there lessons that can be learned from what these people do? Maybe it could make for an amusing “hook” to some content, right?
- Songs: Songs, like movies and television shows, are full of meaning and emotions and universal experiences. If you find songs that many people would be familiar with (I once wrote a post using songs by the Beatles) you will have a greater chance of connecting to your readers.
These are 10 places I go to when I am looking for ideas. It doesn’t matter if I’m trying to work on a blog post, an e-newsletter story, or something else. The biggest challenge is always keeping your mind open and ready for ideas to pop in. Once you have gotten used to that, you will find that ideas come with greater ease. In fact, your new problem may be too much content and not enough time to write it all!
Do you have special places you go to when you need ideas for content? I’d love to hear what your experiences have been in this arena!