The thought of it still sends a shudder down your spine. Be it a blank computer screen, an empty piece of paper or the void of a whiteboard. You quietly whisper to yourself “Ok, NOW is the time to think creatively, Lets go … “
The biggest problem you face is that you’re likely in the least creative place on earth. Your office. Even if you work at LEGO with its slides or Google with its rooms themed like the inside of a submarine, there isn’t always an easy way to get into the flow state. It just doesn’t work like that.
The worse case scenario is often when someone tries to instigate a “brainstorm”, or even worse a “thought-shower” this usually leads to two outcomes:
- 95% of the group looking around whilst umming and ahhing desperately trying to pull ideas from thin air
- 5% of the group wildly shouting random ideas, whilst robbing the room of oxygen like everything they throw out is a pearl of wisdom “We need a blog post about how Inbound Marketing is like 18th century military strategy” or “… our next Facebook Live should be filmed by an otter on a ferris wheel contemplating the meaning of life”
As we can see. Neither of these approaches is optimal and more often than not the content ideation task can fall to an individual, You. The problem is that there are deadlines, agencies to be briefed and content calendars to be filled. All of these can create pressure, when you need it the least.
So how can you create an environment to give yourself the space to think and create?
Here are five suggestions:
As we said at the start, ideation can often feel like an artificial chore. Spoiler: WE CAN ALL FEEL LIKE THAT. Don’t worry everyone has a creative block from time to time, it’s just about how you get over it. It’s like falling asleep, if you lay there thinking you’re never going to fall asleep, you make it harder to fall asleep. It’s all about creating a headspace where you can be open to ideas, and let them flow. Maybe you’re struck by inspiration whilst walking round the block or looking out of the office window whilst getting coffee. Identify the moments when you have the headspace to think and embrace them. Often.
To Have A Great Idea Have A Lot of ThemThomas Edison
2.Understand Your Buyer Persona
So, we’ve prepared our mind and we’re ready to rock. The easiest way to stop this process is to be unclear why you needed the content in the first place. Ever heard the phrase “Don’t Try And Boil The Ocean”, it means don’t try to undertake an impossible task or project or to make a job or project unnecessarily difficult. The best way to avoid that is to always go back to the buyer persona. For example: Our buyer persona is a first time mom who needs advice on getting her baby to sleep, so she can get some well deserved sleep herself. With that in mind create some targeted content that answers her question. Remember by being narrow your content can reach a very specific audience where you can add real value, this helps search engines drive the right people to the right content.
3. Decide Where the Content Will Live
So, we have the headspace, the buyer persona in mind and the ideas are bubbling. Before we go any further we need to understand where the content will live, is it a Facebook post? A tweet? A piece of video content? Email content?
This can be critical as it informs what we are going to create. A 140 character tweet and blog post copy are two very different things. How do we decide? Go back to your buyer persona, and let them tell you where the content should live. Not 100% sure? Test and Learn. If we return to our buyer persona the Sleepy Mom: The last thing she probably wants is a 1000 word article right now, she wants a quick and immediate answer as she’s probably Googled the question with a griping baby in the other arm. Make the content as quick, easy and useful as possible. Maybe its a short listicle, or a 2 minute video. Make sure that you get to the right advice as quickly as possible. What you’re trying to avoid is trying to hold onto Mom for too long, she’s busy and tired, if you help her now don’t worry she’ll come back when she needs your help again.
4. Don’t Be Afraid To Make Mistakes
Everyone gets things wrong ALL the time. That’s life … we’re humans. So it can be nerve-wracking to create lots of content as there is usually a cost attached, and if it’s the “wrong content”, meaning it doesn’t work (more on content analysis later), there is a potential it’s money wasted.
PRO TIP: The “wrong content” rarely exists, if you had the buyer persona firmly in mind and were trying to add real value when creating the content it’s highly likely that your content might work, maybe the content was published in the incorrect place?
If your boss asks you why the content didn’t “work” try this. Simply say “It’s the right content, it’s just in the wrong place”. Going back to our sleepy mom. Maybe the content was relevant, but perhaps it would be better placed in an email that mom could read after she has managed to put baby to sleep and she can read at her leisure at 3.20am. Maybe thats the perfect place, as she could feel supported when the rest of the house is asleep around her.
5. Be Ruthless In Your Analysis (But Don’t Beat Yourself Up About It):
You’ve made it, you stimulated ideas! You focussed on your buyer persona, you considered the channel of publication and then you published and … it didn’t “work”.
This can often be a reason why content creation gets stifled. Too often the cost and effort of content creation is explained away by saying it wasn’t successful. The way to overcome this is to be absolutely clear in the objectives for the content before pressing publish. Too often content is asked to do two things when it was intended to solve one. Back to our sleepy mom, the content we created was supposed to answer the question of how to get a baby to sleep, it was never intended to drive product sales, think about it. As a mom you’re tired and need help, whats going to put you off a brand the quickest? Correct, a product message just when it’s not wanted. Be agnostic and give useful advice. That’s how you build trust. That’s how you get people to come back.
In short, being specific about objectives and realistic in your expectations can mean that you develop a wider understanding of the value of content. Remember once content has been published it can have a lifespan much longer than any initial campaign, and the right content can keep bringing people back to your site again and again.
For the record: This post was composed on a Sunday morning, in a dressing gown, with a couple of cups of coffee before the kids woke up. The initial idea for the post had been on a list of draft posts that I had created a few days ago, and when I got up I used that list as a stimulus. Not quite as spontaneous as you might think.