Content planning, while essential to your content marketing efforts, can feel like an uphill battle. In the early days of a new content marketing effort, there is likely no shortage of content ideas. But if you’ve been at it for a while, the idea tank can run low, which means your team needs to spend time brainstorming. In this post, I’ll be discussing how to brainstorm writing ideas for genius content planning.
Team members don’t always welcome brainstorming exercises. Some people think they are a waste of time. Others may be easily distracted. But when executed well, brainstorming can be an activity that helps flesh out exceptional content themes and topics.
Brainstorming is essential to content planning because good ideas are often hard to come by. DivvyHQ’s own research found this to be true as many content marketers deem coming up with creative ideas as a major challenge.
Brainstorming isn’t a perfect art, and there are many variations to it. Depending on your team dynamics and other factors, some brainstorming tactics may work better than others. You’ll need to have a strategy for your brainstorming efforts. Otherwise, you’re likely to be left with ideas that aren’t very attractive.
Tips for Effective Content Planning Brainstorming
To kickstart your next content planning brainstorming process, experiment with one (or more) of these six techniques.
1. Start With Stories
Storytelling is really the heart of content marketing. Your goal of a brainstorming session should be to come up with stories. When you head into content planning with this mindset, you start at the crux of your audience’s challenges and pain points and then build stories around them that offer critical insights.
Many times, your content creators will head into content planning sessions focused on the quantity of ideas and formats. That needs to come later in the process.
Instead, kick off your brainstorming meeting by asking team members to share details of any recent customer interactions where unique challenges or solutions were discovered. Creatives feed off of these real-world scenarios, and even a small detail can grow legs when a complete story is built around it.
2. Build a Swipe File
One of the most powerful ways to feel inspired is by taking the time to study campaigns that were successful for others. This could be content from your competitors or a business you admire in a different industry.
The results of this research and any ideas that come from it can be collected in a swipe file. One of the best places to park these ideas is in your content marketing platform, which likely has an idea storage area or you could create a content calendar to house your swipe file. Having a designated, shared place where your team can place inspirational material helps build a robust swipe file that other team members can feed off of.
When you sit down to actually brainstorm, your team can go over a few of the things they added to the swipe file and then discuss why it worked.
3. Look at What’s Working in Other Industries
Don’t limit inspiration to your industry. Sure, that will give you more specific ideas but it could also limit ideation. And sticking to only that which is common in your industry may never allow you to push the boundaries into new territory. You can literally steal ideas from other industries and there’s no need to feel bad about it.
Source: Content Marketing Institute
Explore some successful campaigns from other industries and think about how the concepts, angles or format could align with your audience. Try to establish why they worked—the secret recipe so to speak—so you can reverse engineer the content.
Ask these questions:
- What’s the hook?
- Was it timely and relevant?
- Was it data-driven?
- Do we have the creative and technical capabilities to do something similar?
Then go and compare this to the content you produce. How does it measure up? What’s your takeaway?
4. Examine Past Content That Failed
Brainstorming for new ideas is also about looking back at past content. While you, of course, want to talk about content that performed well and define ways to replicate this, it’s also useful to look at what failed. You’ll know from your content analytics whether or not a piece of content had a positive ROI.
Try to figure out what went wrong. It probably wasn’t the quality of the piece, but maybe it just missed the mark because the topic wasn’t interesting or didn’t resonate with the audience. Perhaps the format was wrong. You may learn over time that your audience appreciates visuals rather than whitepapers, for example.
In breaking down what went wrong, it can help you build better stories for the future.
5. Facilitate Topic Mind-mapping
Topic mind maps aren’t new, but they can still be an effective exercise. Begin with your key topic then start to write down associated topics, branching out as far as you can go. Stop only when ideas are depleted or you start to get too far away from the central topic.
Let’s say you start with a topic like AI in manufacturing, which is rather broad. Then you branch that off into:
- Different types of manufacturing
- Big data
- Machine learning
- Sensors and cameras
- And so, on
From those sub-topics, you keep branching off until you get more specific. There are no wrong answers in this exercise. You’ll be able to condense and clarify later on—at this point, it’s just a way to spark ideas and enhance content collaboration.
6. Invite Other Stakeholders to Your Brainstorming Session
Content ideation isn’t solely the responsibility of your content team. There are many other people in your company who could provide insights, from sales to product managers to customer service. They each have their own expertise and may engage with your audience in different ways.
These team members aren’t marketers, and that could be a good thing. They’ll have a different perspective and may be able to come up with fresh ideas that marketing would have overlooked.
They add value by giving you insight into the actual problems of the audience that could be solved with new content. They may be privy to questions and concerns marketers would never hear.
Some of the best ideas can come from those one step removed from the content process. They aren’t as biased as content producers, and they can get you to dig deeper into a topic you may have dismissed.
Find What Works for Your Team
Brainstorming isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. You’ll have to customize it to fit your team and culture. By following these techniques, you should come out of a session with some genius ideas for new content!
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