Where do ideas in content strategy come from?

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

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.

Word associations

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:

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. Take this article. This was first written in 2013 and I’m updating it in 2021 with new ideas and new content and new content assets – including podcasts.

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.

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.