Effective Brainstorming Activities to Build Your Content Calendar

You can have the best content calendar software on the planet, but to succeed, you need to fill it with great ideas. And if you’ve been around the block in the content game, you know that your well of ideas can run dry from time to time.

Hopefully you’re in a situation where you have a team of people feeding off each other and contributing ideas regularly. But even then, ideas don’t always flow. Sometimes we need to shake things up. Other times we need to get back to basics and study the metrics.

The famous, 19th century philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein, once said,

“If people never did silly things nothing intelligent would ever get done.”

With that in mind, here are several brainstorming activities to get your team’s creative juices flowing. As TechnologyAdvice.com’s Emily Bonnie points out, “it [brainstorming] can actually be…fun.”

1. Pile on Ideas

When brainstorming sessions happen, some of your team members might hold back, says Bonnie. Especially the introverts—whose minds often hold the most ground-breaking ideas. The aforementioned Wittgenstein, for one. Einstein, too.

And probably some of the most talented members of your content team, I’d argue. Try this activity to draw out their inner muse.

Have your team write down ideas on a sheet of paper. After they’ve jotted them down, ask them to put them into a pile. Next, have them draw someone else’s paper out of the pile.

The second person, then, will write ideas that build on the first person’s ideas. After they do, ask them to pass them to the person to their right. Rinse and repeat—several times.

Finally, gather up all the papers, read each one of them, and allow the team to hash out their ideas without anyone’s identity disclosed.

2. Turn the Page

Bob Seger may be retiring, but his iconic song title is the perfect springboard for a brainstorming exercise. But in this case, you’re not turning the page on another gig—but rather your top-performing content.

Take a deep dive into your content analytics to find your best performers. Break up their titles into their main parts, each on a separate index card.

Next, put the cards on a large table. Here’s where you flip the script. Ask your team to look at the title parts and come up with several alternative titles, using only the parts of your top performers.

3. Draw Mind Maps

Since some of the most effective content helps your customers solve tough problems, why not make one of these problems the focus of your brainstorming session. As HubSpot’s Dani Mansfield shows, this strategy helps drive content that focuses like a laser on these customer challenges.

First, write out the problem your customer needs to solve on a whiteboard. Next, narrow down the problem, surrounding it with more focused terms.

For instance, if your customer needs more website traffic, you’d write down “more website traffic,” and surround it with terms like “blog strategy,” “content authority,” “SEO,” “organic traffic,” and other components that go into building website traffic.

Next, have your team suggest ideas that can improve each of these component parts:

  • For “blog strategy,” your team might suggest “devote more time to content creation,” “dig deeper into analytics to learn more about your target audience’s needs and preferred channels,” and so on.
  • For “SEO,” your team might suggest “research keywords,” “hire an SEO expert,” or “leverage video to drive traffic.”

You get the picture. Finally, put these problem-solving ideas into titles that will go on your content calendar.

4. SCAMPER Your Way to New Content Ideas

Another Dani Mansfield method for getting the creative juices flowing, the SCAMPER activity takes an idea on which you’ve already produced content, disrupts it, and transforms it into new content ideas using words that begin with the letters in “scamper.”

Here’s how it goes:

  • S – Substitute: Have your team suggest ideas about what would happen if you substituted one idea in your previous content for another.
  • C – Combine: Ask your team to think about what you could produce if you combined your previous content with another idea.
  • A – Adapt: Ask your team how they could adapt this content for another context. For example, adapting a blog post to become a topic for a podcast, or adapting an article about SEO for musicians to one about SEO for a sports team.
  • M – Modify: See what your team can come up with to modify your past content to create even more value. Whether it’s updating content to reflect industry trends or new legislation—or taking a deeper dive into the topic—your content team will likely come up with plenty of ideas to populate your content calendar.
  • P – Put it to another use: Ask your team to think about what other roles your previous content may play. Whether it’s the foundation for an explainer video script or using parts of it to populate your website’s FAQ section, you’ll get a ton of ideas that can find their way into your content calendar.
  • E – Eliminate: Find out what parts of your content your team could eliminate to simplify it. Add these simplified ideas as shorter-form content—Twitter posts, short blog posts from white papers—the sky’s the limit.
  • R – Reverse: Discover how your team might approach the topic from the opposite angle. For instance, for a blog post called “10 Ways to SEO Success,” your team might suggest another article that takes the opposite tack—like “How to Fail Miserably at SEO.”

Simple—yet effective. Not only do these brainstorming activities produce actionable content ideas, but they stretch your team’s perspective on each topic.

5. Bring in New Blood

Forget the silos for once. How about bringing in some people outside the content team to contribute their two cents’ worth during some of your content planning brainstorming activities?

According to Search Engine Journal’s James Brockbank, that’s exactly what your team probably needs to spark their idea engine.

  • Don’t you think your sales and customer service teams—the front line in customer relationship-building—might just have some insights on your customers’ pain points, goals, and deepest fears?
  • Don’t you think your engineering team might be a fantastic resource to suggest ideas for that new widget they created, but you can never remember the name of?

Of course, they would. You only need to ask.

These are only a few of the many effective brainstorming activities that will yield an editorial calendar so fresh it should be in the salad bar at the company cafeteria. All you have to do then is put your ideas to work.

If you would like to discover more about brainstorming great ideas and a content marketing platform that puts those ideas to work for your business, get in touch with us today.