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From the Trenches

Editorial Calendar Stress? Content Brainstorm Could Spell Relief

Yvonne Lyons | May 9, 2013

Is the lack of new ideas for your company’s blog stressing you into insomnia and nail biting? It’s daunting to be the one who has to keep the editorial calendar filled with blog post concepts on an ongoing basis. I get it. I’m charged with not only ‘inspiring’ the folks at Right Source to produce content marketing brilliance on a regular basis, but I oversee the editorial calendars of five or six of our clients, too. To produce a quality post twice a week throughout the year, you need more than 100 ideas. And that doesn’t include ideas for any other types of content you might want to create – case studies, videos, eBooks, Slideshare presentations, and more.

Do you have 100+ ideas floating around in your head? Yeah, I thought not (me, either). So, where do you get all those ideas if they don’t pour out of you each morning and into your editorial calendar?

You don’t have to do it all yourself

You don’t have to shoulder the burden alone. There are probably people lurking in your organization with great, untapped ideas for posts—they just haven’t been asked. A brainstorming session can bring some of this unmined creativity to the surface, yielding tons of ideas to fill your editorial calendar. A session that is facilitated well will be seen as productive—and even fun—but one that is not run smoothly can lead to boredom and frustration on the part of the participants, who often feel that they are doing you a favor by showing up.

Here are seven tips for getting the most out of your content brainstorming session:

  1. Establish a clear objective—Just saying you’re going to come up with some topics for the editorial calendar is probably going to have the meeting jetting all over the place, as opposed to brainstorming ideas around a specific topic. Identify one, or choose a few topics and spend 15-20 minutes of the meeting generating ideas on each topic: maybe a holiday, a particular goal, specific pain points in your industry, a new product launch, etc.
  2. Assemble a diverse group—If you are a small company, your invite list may not show a lot of variety, but if you are larger, try to choose from diverse areas of the organization to get differing ideas. Think about how many people you’re going to put into the room, too. This is not a case where more is better—shoot for between six and 12 people.
  3. Throw out the first idea—The goal is to generate good ideas, not to feel awkward because no one wants to go first, and you know that no one ever wants to go first. Just plan to throw out the first idea to get things going.
  4. Compile more than just a few ideas—Don’t jump into deep discussion on the first few ideas. The idea here is to amass a big list of ideas. They won’t all be big winners, but sometimes, crazy ideas lead to great things.
  5. Capture anything and everything—There are lots of ways you can do this (white board, easel, giant Post-it Notes, Evernote) but keep track of what you come up with, even the stuff you decide you won’t use. When you conjure an idea that sparks conversation, put it in the center of a “web” diagram and encourage the group to come up with other ideas to spin off the original, like a spider web.
  6. Set a time limit/Come to some conclusions—Set a time limit for the idea generation portion of the meeting so that near the end, you can take a look at your list(s) of ideas and dive in a bit deeper to form conclusions.Categorize your ideas based on your requirements for what makes a good piece of content. Group them into the ones that lend themselves really easily to creating a great blog post, those that might need more discussion, and those that maybe aren’t blog posts but have alternative potential—can they be adapted into other types of content? Perhaps a webinar or a white paper? During this analysis process you might also be able to identify some new writers or subject matter experts you didn’t realize were interested. Is anyone in your brainstorming group willing to write a post based on one of your new ideas or contribute as an “expert”?
  7. Stop while everyone is still happy—You’ve heard of the law of diminishing returns? At a certain point, you don’t get more out of the situation by continuing, you get less. If the silences get long, people yawn, and the ideas seem to be, well, not great, you probably should have stopped ten minutes ago. Wrap it up. Better yet, cap the meeting at 60 or 90 minutes and move through your topics so people don’t feel like the meeting drags. If everyone is happy at the end you can ask your new creative geniuses if they are willing to brainstorm with you again.

Truth be told, there are lots of ways to run a brainstorming meeting. The key is to be organized about it and come out with good, actionable ideas. Sometimes, the ideas are harder to come up with than creating the content to complete those ideas. But without ideas, you can’t create content.

Do you have creative ways to come up with content ideas? Leave us a comment. For more information about creating content for your business, download our eBook, How to Grow Your Business with Content Marketing.

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About Yvonne Lyons:

Yvonne Lyons is Right Source’s vice president of creative services, overseeing content and design for all of our clients. She ensures that all creative produced at Right Source is of the highest quality and is aligned with our clients’ business strategy and goals. Yvonne received a bachelor’s degree from the Johns Hopkins University in writing and literature and has more than 20 years of experience in marketing, branding, and communications.