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From the Trenches

10 Ways to Generate New Content Ideas

Yvonne Lyons | January 16, 2014

So you got a little behind the eight ball. You were on top of that editorial calendar but then your job and your life got in the way and all of a sudden your once-robust content queue is full of nothing. Your stomach kind of lurches, maybe a little bit of panic creeps in. Every idea that comes to you seems to be something you have already published. Why is that?

Rest assured you are not alone. Even the most prolific content marketers run out of content ideas. Aside from keeping a notebook with you wherever you go so you can jot down brilliance when it strikes you, how do you come up with new content ideas? When you’re really in a content jam and feel that the idea well is completely dry, here are 10 things you can do to get unstuck.

1. Repurpose something you’ve done before. This should be on a good content marketer’s list of New Year’s resolutions. Use the subject matter from something you have already created — like a blog post — and create a video, an infographic, or an eBook. Boom! You have new content.

2. Listen on social media. Do you have an engaged audience that comments on your social media channels? Listen to what they’re saying or asking, and let that be an idea source for you. If your audience isn’t commenting, tap into other social media sources in your industry and investigate trending topics. Remember, though, you’re not reporting on them, you’re talking about why they’re important and why your readers should care.

3. Create crowdsourced content. Email industry friends and colleagues a thought-provoking question and create content from their responses. This works really well for a blog post, but it is also a great tool to add credibility to something like an eBook, and the material that comes in might spur ideas for other types of content. Check out how we used crowdsourced questions and answers from content marketing industry experts in our eBook, “How to Grow Your Business with Content Marketing.”

4. Hold a brainstorming meeting. This is a great way to generate ideas fast. Your staff and colleagues are very likely a wealth of ideas — you just haven’t tapped them. Putting everyone in a room (with snacks is very helpful) for a limited amount of time to brainstorm can leave people feeling like they have contributed to something important, often generates some content volunteers you didn’t know were willing, and is a quick way to get a lot done. Just follow these editorial brainstorming rules so everyone stays happy and you leave content rich.

5. Make a prediction. You might not always be right. And even if you are only occasionally right, as long as you are interesting and have something valuable to say, you will generate buzz and probably a lot of commentary. And that means that your audience is engaged, which is a great thing.

6. Talk to your sales people. What are the questions that your customers or prospects ask your sales people? Clearly, these are the things that are important to the people who are spending money in your industry (and hopefully with you). So answer those questions in your content. Get a list going and create a blog post out of each one. Then turn each one into a video, or collect them into an eBook, or if appropriate, create a how-to in SlideShare.

7. Check out what your competition is doing. I’m not advocating that you copy anyone, but looking at what your peers are producing will spur some ideas that you can spin off. And it’s important to keep an eye on what they’re doing, right? Borrowing ideas from the competition isn’t illegal. Just don’t steal content. That part is illegal. And you might be surprised to see that what they are doing is not as good as what you are producing. Then you can give yourself a little pat on the back.

8. Recap an event. Have you been to a tradeshow, webinar, panel presentation, interesting speaker? Just the standard recap can sometimes be a little dull. Use your notes and the Tweets of attendees or other already-posted material on the event to create something more newsworthy. Just make sure to attribute what you include to its rightful author.

9. Interview an expert. Who are the experts in your field? Email them a few questions and turn the answers into a post. Or if you want to put a little more effort into it, set up an in-person interview. Cloaked as an innocent conversation to create content and get to know the expert and his/her company, this is also a “Trojan horse” opportunity for you to introduce yourself and your company’s expertise while you’re sitting there. Very slick.

10. Be newsy. Pay attention to what is trending in your industry by subscribing to blogs, watching social media, and visiting websites that cover news related to what you do. When you’re stuck, see if something’s going on that is worthy of commentary. But be quick. You can’t take two weeks to come out with your content. It’s news after all. And make sure you don’t just report it — you have to have some kind of opinion on it. People can get straight news in lots of places. They are looking to you to add some value to it. Tell them why it’s important to them, how the news will affect them, and what they should do about it.

You might feel like you’ve said everything there is to say, but that’s probably not the case. You can always dig in a little more and come up with some new, remarkable content. Try a few of these ideas to alleviate your idea drought. You’ll be creating better content and your editorial calendar will stay full.

Once you latch onto a great idea for your next blog post, do you know what it should include to make it stand out in the sea of mediocre content? Download our “Remarkable Blog Post Checklist” as a guide.

Have any good tips for generating content ideas? Let us know in the comments below.

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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. You can find Yvonne on X (formerly Twitter), connect with her on LinkedIn or read her other posts.