Good Content Creators are Good Content Consumers
While listening to a recent episode of Mitch Joel’s podcast, Six Pixels of Separation, Mitch threw out a thought that hit home for me…
“Good content creators are good content consumers.”
With his guest, Julie Burstein, they were discussing the amount of work that it truly takes to “be creative” and the unique processes that creative individuals employ to keep the creative juices flowing. As I listened and continuously nodded my head in agreement, my brain shifted and I started thinking about our customers and the challenges they face when tasked with creating content on a regular basis. Many don’t have solid processes in place. Are they doomed to fail?
I, personally, am a big fan of process. I’d even go as far as to call myself a process nerd. Whether documented or not, I have processes for all kinds of tasks that I accomplish throughout any given day. From spiking my hair, to writing this blog post from the mind map that is sitting in front of me, I am constantly executing processes that I’ve developed over time. DivvyHQ, as a content planning tool, has been built around a methodology and proven editorial planning and production workflow processes. But you, the practitioner, still have to fill Divvy with content ideas before it can become a process tool that can help you execute your daily content marketing tasks.
Depending on your creative background and your role within your organization, you may already have processes that you’ve developed to spark the ideas that eventually transform into pieces of content. But for many people that I advise, those processes don’t exist. They aren’t professional content producers. They are subject matter experts. They are sales people. They are business owners. And when tasked with needing to contribute ideas to feed the content beast, that lack of process quickly leads to writer’s block and issues with sustainability for the content marketing vehicles that their organizations have established.
So how do you avoid those blocks? What sort of processes can be established (either personally or across your team) to help you continually fill your editorial calendar (or your Parking Lot) with great content ideas?
Form a New Habit – Consume More
Mitch and Julie’s conversation really hit home for me because my habit of regular content consumption has been fueling my creativity for years. Note that I used the word “habit”. What was once a process that I developed to regularly find good content (that triggers ideas) is now a habit and part of my daily routine.
Besides playing the role of a content strategy advisor to our clients, I also try to ensure that their internal processes and team member contributions all lead to a sustainable content marketing or social media program. One key piece of this puzzle is helping team members set up mechanism for targeted consumption of content that will fuel a variety of creative, marketing and business objectives.
Targeted Consumption Mechanisms
Here are 7 different kinds of resources and tools that most content teams should be using.
- RSS Reader – If you do nothing else after reading this post, please use your Google account to activate and start using Google Reader. Spend a little time seeking out and subscribing to websites/blogs that are serving your industry (associations, industry news sites, etc.). Look for the blogs of industry thought leaders. Subscribe to your competitors’ websites/blogs. Look for sites that cover auxiliary topics that your buyers will also find interesting/valuable. Check your reader regularly to stay on top of industry happenings and get inspired by the thoughts of others.
- Podcasts – I get asked all the time…”Brody, how do you keep up with all this marketing and social media stuff?”. One word, podcasts. I regularly listen to more than a dozen podcasts that fill my head full of all kinds of marketing goodness. It’s not uncommon for me to go for a run, knock out a few episodes of Marketing Over Coffee or DishyMix and then return with several content ideas that I immediately plug into my Divvy Parking Lot. Jump on iTunes and do a search for your industry category. I’d bet money that there will be several to choose from. Can’t find anything? Perhaps your company can fill that hole!
- Mobile Content Apps – There are a plethora of mobile apps that you can install on your Android or iOS devices that will allow you to consume content anytime/anywhere. While in line at Starbucks, I’ll pull up Google Currents on my Android phone. In the evening, I’ll pull up Flipboard on my iPad while my kids watch the latest episode of Power Rangers.
- Social Search & Monitoring Tools – Social media is certainly one of the best places to look for content ideas. Plugging a keyword into Twitter or LinkedIn’s search box will provide a myriad of tweets and status updates from folks talking about your topic. If you have the budget, more robust listening tools are also available (i.e. Spiral16).
- Q&A Sites – Yahoo Answers and LinkedIn Answers have been around for quite a while, but my favorite Q/A site these days is Quora. Plug in a keyword or category and browse through the questions that have been asked surrounding your topic. This is a great way to learn what questions your content should be answering.
- Pinterest – In a recent post, we talked about how Pinterest can be used to help inspire your customers. Well the opposite is obviously true as well. Search for your category and browse the resulting visuals. Something is sure to spark your imagination.
- Books / eBooks – I love me some sticky flags. I can tell how good a book was just by looking at how many pages I flagged. A red flag indicates an idea that I need to get in the works immediately. A green flag is something I need to come back to in the future.
Set Aside Some Time
For many people, part of your day is probably already spent consuming media in some fashion. Why not spend some of that time consuming content that will spark new ideas? For me personally, I’ve found that listening to podcast during my commute to the office is much more lucrative than listening to sports radio.
Make it a Team Effort
If the industry you serve is saturated with content, split up your consumption and monitoring efforts between your team. This is particularly applicable when you have subject matter experts that cover certain topics or categories. Much like the section editors in traditional news organizations, your team can cover their various “beats” to ensure you have all your bases covered.
Work Your Process
When the spark hits, make sure you and your team at least have a place to store content ideas. We built Divvy’s Parking Lot for this very purpose. Each team member can quickly add content ideas and then they can be reviewed, assigned and scheduled during editorial planning meetings. It’s a great feeling to have a Parking Lot full of fresh content ideas each week (or month) when you’re plotting out your editorial calendar.
What did I miss? What other resources or tools do you use to get inspired?