It’s probably one of the most common frustrations for content teams, and yet we keep on doing it: You’ve booked the meeting room, filled it with the best and most creative minds in your company, and you kickoff the meeting with, “Ok, time to brainstorm some killer content ideas!”
Yet, you encounter only silence.
This is the familiar frustration of what happens when inspiration and content planning meetings do not align.
Of course with some prodding, the ideas come eventually, and you do walk away from the meeting with something. But when you go back over what you and your team have achieved, there’s not much to write home about. Then next month rolls around, and you find your competitors are killing it with great blogs and content, while you are treading the same old water with your posts.
This is why it’s time to start thinking outside the box when it comes to content ideation and planning. Sure, meetings serve their purpose, and you should still be getting your team’s collective heads together to thrash out key points. But your great content ideas… well, they’re probably not hatching inside the four walls of a conference room.
We’re going to be diving into this today, so read on and discover how to re-energize your content ideation, planning, and production flow.
Reposition Your Content Planning Meetings
It is important to recognize, right off the bat, that I am not advocating for doing away with content or editorial planning meetings. Instead, it simply might be time to reposition these meetings somewhat and to reconsider your goals for each session.
Rather than “coming in cold” and expecting the ideas to flow, why not have a session of narrowing down the best ideas that your team members have come up with that month, or more deeply developing ideas that have already been put forward?
With this kind of foundation in place, you are likely to secure much better results.
Adopt the “Shower” Ethos
The old adage, “the best ideas come to us in the shower”, has a great deal of truth to it. The fact is, inspiration can, and does, strike at any time, and mostly when we’re doing something other than working. But how often do we actually write those ideas down?
Legendary writer Joan Didion famously described the idea of keeping a notebook as akin to that of ” keeping in touch “, and staying aware of and alert to flashes of inspiration enables you to keep in touch with your creative side.
While your team might not be setting out to produce a towering work of literature or an incisive piece of investigative journalism, it is still important to ensure that all members adopt this approach.
The first step is to set the expectation that your team members need to bring ideas to the content planning table. Then encourage them to jot thing down when inspiration strikes. Perhaps give everyone on your team a nice moleskin notebook, or make sure to have a never-ending supply of sticky pads in the supply room. When you’re ready to ideate like a pro, leverage a cloud-based idea storage mechanism like the DivvyHQ Parking Lot to store ideas for future discussion.
No Inspiration Too Big, No Inspiration Too Small
Encourage your team to use an open-minded approach when inspiration strikes. Dismissing flashes of inspiration because they are too big — read: “too complex” — or too small and insignificant, could lead to your team missing out on getting an exclusive on the next great piece of content.
This is what your meetings are for. Make sure you and your team are gathering each and every flash of “inspo”, so you have something to talk about around the table.
Hit Those Trends
It’s great to have your own editorial agenda, and you should certainly aim to act independently when it comes to planning your content, but your agenda should be supported by topic ideas that get right to the heart of your industry discourse. And how do you succeed in this? By aligning with current trends.
Trend tools like BuzzSumo help you to understand what users are getting excited about on social media. Find the trends relevant to your industry and check them off each month.
Reach Out and Speak to People
No one knows what your audience wants better than your audience themselves, so talk to them! Whether you aim to encourage customer reviews of products and services, ask questions and interact across social media, or head out there onto the street and meet with the public directly. Your audience’s voice should be a key part of your content planning.
This is a sure-fire way to boost engagement, as well as a rich stream of potential ideas for future endeavors.
Collaboration is Key
Who are your partners in the industry? Whose work do you respect in your field? Is anyone using your products and services in a unique and innovative way? Find out, and then reach out to them to build content together.
This kind of collaborative approach makes for content that is far more useful for your audience, and this concept of “usefulness” should be a key objective for your content planning.
Consider Idea Generation Tools
There are times, of course, when the ideas just aren’t flowing, and it becomes really difficult to get inspired. For these times, you and your team will be grateful for a little head start. This can come in the form of an idea generation tool.
Tools such as Portent’s Idea Generator allow you to plug in any topic or keyword (great for SEO BTW) and the generator will spit out countless, unique angles that get your creative juices flowing.
For example: I plugged in “content marketing” below. You may or may not see this headline on our blog in the near future.
Collect and Collate Inspiration
I already touched on the idea that no flash of inspiration should get lost in someone’s brain or be considered too big or too small. This is where a storage facility like the DivvyHQ Parking Lot comes into play.
Get inspired and add each and every idea to the Parking Lot. This gives you and the rest of your team a torrent of ideas to work with, and a queue of prioritization to work through.
The key takeaway here is not to panic. Sure, those wasted meetings get frustrating, but by reconfiguring your approach you can get back on track and get the most from your content planning practice.
Last thing… Should you need help with the format or agenda for your content planning meetings, we have you covered (below).