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Where do ideas for blog posts, columns, videos, campaigns – anything creative really – come from?
The short answer: Anywhere.
This idea for a Valentine’s Day campaign started with a breakfast conversation with my wife. This April Fool’s Day campaign came out of a casual chat as well.
It’s important to keep an open mind, listen, and to some level, keep thinking about user experiences. Then ideas can come from anywhere.
If you talk about it…
A good rule of thumb: If you catch yourself wanting to talk about something it might be worth blogging about.
I’ve worked as a newspaper writer, video producer and communicator and ideas for news articles, video projects and articles have come from just about anywhere: A person’s comment in passing, an eye-catching headline, something said by my kid or even some thoughts – that appeared random at first.
A lot of times it comes down to listening to the environment.
[Tweet “Pay attention and you’ll spots stories worth sharing”]
Sometimes words spoken by somebody else – even if out of context – can trigger an idea. For example, somebody said: “I’m working with so and so on a plan.” The word plan triggered my thought that “Any plan is only as good as the people executing it.” Now, in that case I did end up tweeting something related to this:
Any game plan is only as good as the players running the plays.
— Christoph Trappe (@CTrappe) March 22, 2013
But I could have done and might still do a number of other things with that thought. I could write several blog posts:
- How to come up with a 30,000-foot idea.
- Breaking plans down into manageable and doable pieces.
- How to define what roles are needed.
- What technology is needed to implement a plan?
Many ideas can be built upon and can produce additional or related – sometimes barely related to the original idea – articles.
Sometimes, you have to trust your intuition when it comes to ideation. We discussed that topic in this podcast:
Examples of finding ideas
I’ve gotten ideas in many places. Some of those include:
- At a security checkpoint: Officers talked about the strange things they confiscate. That turned into a story on that topic for The Gazette where I worked as a public safety writer.
- A conversation in a coffee shop: A friendly conversation turned into a video project.
- A chat in the lunchroom about the Academy Awards: This turned into an Academy Award-style volunteer recognition event.
- Conversations, just about everywhere: For example, I was at an event and said “Hello” to somebody I only knew from Twitter. That started a conversation with the rest of the group about how social media and offline connect. I later blogged about the connection.
- In meetings. One time, somebody mentioned a fact about a program. I listened and knew it was worth mentioning online. Not a blog post per se, but this fact came out from an quick comment: United Way 2-1-1 answers “your calls to United Way 2-1-1 on average in 23 seconds. We don’t make you wait.”
- With the emergence of live streaming expert interviews I also get a ton of ideas producing those and listening to those experts.
- Old and existing content. For example, I’m currently going through old content to see if I can repurpose it with additional ideas.
What does the idea have to do with your goals?
Somehow the idea should be tied back to your goal. It helps to understand what stories to share to begin with. We discussed the topic at length on this podcast episode.
I typically save ideas in Notes.
How do I decide which ones to get to? I tie them into business goals. For example, my goals for the blog:
Share thoughts around communication, technology and content performance cultures to help advance the art of corporate authentic storytelling, marketing and to build relevant community.
In other words, if a thought has something to do with communication issues (how would you say that? for example), technology (what technology might work for a specific project?) and how to tell stories (this post, for example) I will probably blog about it.
Ideas don’t always appear the moment they are mentioned. Sometimes they crystallize at 3 a.m. the next day.
[Tweet “Ideas percolate over time.”]
I do think the key is to keep an open mind, listen to the environment and then translate experiences, partial experiences or a combination into a blog post or other creative project.
Consider adjacent ideas
You hear me talk about the importance of being clear about what your content niche is. This is the content that you are an expert in and that you have a defined audience for and that you share on your (company) blog and other channels.
Everything we produce and then distribute needs to fit into that category. For example: Our target audience is chief marketing officers who care about problem XYZ. So all content produced and that we spend time on needs to fit into that model.
And often times that is a great guide for finding and then sharing those useful stories. But sometimes it can also be a hindrance when we overthink it.
And sometimes, there is currently nothing going on that would be of interest to those audience members in that narrowly defined topical area. And some kind of marketing experts might say that we just shouldn’t publish anything at that time. Don’t play into the content marketing rat race and publish stuff that’s less than perfect. By the way, what ever is completely perfect? Not much.
Instead of not publishing anything I would recommend to publish something that’s slightly off center of the main topic.
Sharing related stories to our main expertise and still with our target audience in mind actually offers value.
For example, on this blog I write about storytelling and content marketing tactics. Often times I tie them together with journalism topics. So that’s that in a nutshell, but some of the stories that perform the best are stories about very specific social media tools and social media problems.
- How to change your personal Instagram account to a business account
- How to do Instagram Live
- Are TikTok trends worth it?
- How to edit your LinkedIn status?
- Why is the text on my Facebook Live backwards?
And others just like it. Many of my core topical posts get good readership as well but the slightly off center topics get more views than I would’ve expected, given that they’re not the main focus of the blog.
But they’re related. Today’s corporate marketer and communicator needs to use a wide range of tools and networks to actually share their stories. And while the storytelling aspect is important we still have to know how to use the tools to actually distribute them. The best stories after all win! But it’s actually the best stories that are also the best promoted and distributed that win.
So that’s why those related topics are also very important to the main readership. Plus thinking about additional ideas can also help us broaden our ideas the right on target.
Why this matters
Doing a corporate blog can and will pay off when done right and well. One of the biggest challenges usually is to stay on a schedule and create content that people actually want to consume and that at some point helps your organization drive more business.
When our topic is too narrow it might be too hard to produce those regular posts. What’s a regular posting schedule look like? I would recommend at least once a week just as a goal. I post a couple times a week on here sometimes less but usually more. At least once a week.
But if my topic was too narrow it would be very hard to actually get to the point of publishing. Blogging about related topics to my main topic helps me continue to share my stories and – more importantly – figure out which pieces of the over arching topic the audience reacts to the most favorable.
I would recommend giving it a try and seeing which exact topics and related topics your audience reacts to. Planning is great but don’t overthink it and don’t let it stop you from sharing stories that can have an impact. Stories not shared can never have an impact.
and even if most of these ideas don’t move forward, they can help us create even better ideas that we do end up using.