Whether you form part of the content marketing team of a single company, or if you create content for a variety of clients, you may often feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of content assets you are called upon to create.
As content marketing across the web becomes more competitive, and as more companies and brands plan to spend even more of their total marketing budget on creating online content, you may find that your job of creating excellent content assets is only growing more and more demanding.
The problem, and the thing your employers or clients may not realize, is that you are not a content factory. You can't just mechanically mass-produce excellent content asset after excellent content asset. This is because the act of creating is nowhere near cold or mechanical. Whether you need to write a new online article, outline an info graphic, or make a script for video or podcast episode, you won't be able to truly create anything noteworthy unless you start with an outstanding idea.
And, as they say, ideas don't just grow on trees. So how can you brainstorm excellent ideas to help you create amazing marketing content that will dazzle your employers or clients?
A lot of brainstorming the average content marketer must do is alone. Even if you do work with a marketing team, often each member of that team is responsible for coming up with fresh ideas to present to the rest of the group. Or you may have an assignment that has been given to you, a task that is missing that one gem, that powerful seed from which the entire rest of your work will grow: a powerful core idea.
When you have to brainstorm on your own, how can you make the most of you are solo brainstorming session? Here are a few tips.
- If you let the stress and anxiety of your job get to you, the creative part of your brain will shut down quick. Instead, take some deep breaths and allow yourself to just relax. You'll be amazed how much more easily the ideas flow.
- Get a change of scenery. Sitting at your office desk with a white piece of paper or white screen in front of you is an easy recipe for writer’s block. Instead, why not go for a walk? Try brainstorming in the break room or out in the hallways. If you have the freedom, try having your brainstorming session away from your building and in a café down the street. Or, try brainstorming outside, such as in a nearby park.
- Use color and music. Writing notes in different colors, even using playful markers and crayons, can unlock parts of your brain that you wouldn't otherwise tap into. The same is true with music. If ideas aren't flowing with one kind of music, try listening to a completely different kind of music in the background. Studies show that different kinds of music can actually change your brain chemistry in that moment, perhaps unlocking an idea that was trapped somewhere inside.
The Group Brainstorm
Whenever you're beginning a new project, or when you're working on the marketing strategy your company will use, it's common for a marketing team to sit down and have a brainstorming session, so that everyone can bring their ideas to the table.
The problem is, not everyone works well together in a group brainstorming session. Often, such a session will be made up of idealists and pragmatists, introverts and extroverts, conservatives and revolutionaries, and such differences within a marketing team, while often serving as strength, can also cause problems in such a group session.
Here are a few pointers to make sure everyone gets the most from the brainstorming session.
- Make sure everyone gets a fair chance to talk. This doesn't mean forcing each person at the table to speak in turn, each having five minutes to have their say. But this does mean creating an atmosphere in which everyone feels comfortable enough to speak their mind. This may mean encouraging the quieter members of your team to speak up, or even telling the most talkative members to quiet down and give others a chance to voice their ideas and concerns.
- Set a time limit for the session. Often, group brainstorming sessions can stretch on for far longer than they were planned, and if a session is not set with some time limits, all that extra talking may really just be fluff, lowering the effectiveness of the meeting.
- Have a clear, but fair, leader in the discussion. If the session is a free-for-all, things can quickly get out of hand. But if there is someone leading the discussion, while not enforcing in iron will over everyone else, such a structure can foment creativity and keep everyone focused on the objective at hand.
Return to the Well...
While many companies are often looking for that "fresh voice," that "new edge" that will take their marketing strategy to the next level, it is often also valuable to take a look in the rearview mirror and see what has worked in the past.
Look over the content strategies implemented over the past few quarters. Did certain assets, or chains of assets, or entire strategies do extremely well for your company? What made them a success?
Brands and companies should not feel afraid to return to that same well, so to speak, and re-implement ideas that worked well in the past.
...But Be Unique
This, of course, does not mean that companies should get stuck in a rut, constantly reusing old slogans, old content strategies, or even repeating old assets verbatim, trying to recapture the success of yesteryear. Such a strategy is sure to fail. Why?
If a certain content strategy worked well last year, that does not mean it will work well again. Your company may have changed or evolved over the past year, as well as your ideal customers. In such a case, something that was successful just a couple of quarters ago may be devastatingly unsuccessful now.
So learning from past strategies is always a good idea, but it is more important to look beneath the surface to see why certain strategy worked, and that way you can see what core principles you can use again in future strategies, without simply copying past content.
Brainstorming can be a difficult aspect of content creation. After all, creating a sales funnel and implementing a content strategy, as well as the basics of the craft of excellent writing are all things you can learn from schooling or in a book. But getting good ideas is not something you can learn so much as something you must experience through creativity and brainstorming. Looking to the future, so as to be unique, while also keeping an eye on what worked in the past, is an excellent way of farming fresh ideas that are more likely to succeed with future strategies.
On top of that, making sure both your solo brainstorming sessions and your group brainstorming sessions are as effective as possible will help you get into the creative zone and find that spark you'll need to make your next creation a success.