Creative plans for engaging articles
How do you come up with story ideas? That’s one of the questions content writers get asked most often. In the second part of our blog series, we share our secrets for coming up with blog posts and articles that will increase your web traffic.
1. Ask your community
People who read your blog or promoted articles love it when you engage them; when they feel part of what you’re doing.
When you’re marketing anything, it also helps to know your customer persona– who they are, how they relate to the world and how they like to be talked to.
So simply ask them what they want to discuss. Are there hot topics they’re dying to know more about? New things they want to learn? Ask them straight up in a blog post, or on social media.
Social media ― and your blog’s comment section ― are also great resources if you want to know what your audience is talking about. See what’s trending there and you’re sure to get some blog posts out of it.
2. Chat to your support team
Chances are, your support team gets inundated with questions. And it’s possible they get the same questions more than once.
This is a golden opportunity to engage your community members by tackling their questions in an in-depth way.
By building a topic plan around their common queries, you're creating content that has a meaningful impact for your target audience.
3. What’s happening in your field?
This is an old journalism trick, so great for anyone who wants to get news out to their community.
Look for events happening in your field: things like awareness weeks, upcoming conferences or chats by people within your area of expertise.
Are there new ideas being discussed within this community, online or elsewhere? You could discuss these in a blog post, or even a series of them.
Because it’s happening now or in the near future, events like these will ensure your blog post is current and relevant: two words that are very important for any blog.
Is there an exciting name in your field you could interview for this blog post? Readers love question-and-answer format interviews: it’s easy on the eye.
Remember to take note of any ideas that come out of the event once it’s over– there might more ideas to discuss in another blog post.
4. Break down the topic
If you’re anything like us, once you come up with ideas, they tend to multiply.
Take this article.
We initially thought we’d do an article on how to come up with blog post ideas. Then we wondered: Do all our readers know why they need blog posts in the first place?
That was a second idea for an article.
Then we thought about all the other added-value content you could be using to reach your community, apart from just blog posts. Things like newsletters and promoted articles. A third article was born: The types of blog posts and articles you need to know about.
What started out as one idea turned into three.
Remember, blog articles need to be informative, but they should also be succinct. So if there’s a way to break up your article into multiples – each with a different angle and plenty of substance to it – we say go for it.
5. Think outside the square
We all have the capacity for coming up with new ideas, but if you’re out of practice, it might not be all that easy at first.
Brainstorming techniques can help get you into a creative mood. Here are a few of our favourites,
Try 3 phases
Walt Disney famously had three brainstorming phases for his team:
1. The dreamer – off the cuff, full-on creative ideas - no limits!
2. The realist – in this phase, ideas are reworked into something doable
3. The spoiler – this is when people allowed to be critics, spotting potential holes in the plan
This process is often adapted as a three-room strategy, where companies have a room for each of the stages. The whole team gets involved in all three phases.
How about bringing a stranger into your brainstorming sesh?
Someone who looks at your business from the outside will probably have a radically different take on things, and a brilliant source of ‘why’ questions, which, of course can and should lead to ‘this is why’ blog posts.
You know those people who naturally dominate the conversation most of the time? Research shows once they start talking, they’re actually bad for your brainstorming sessions.
Once an idea is said out loud, everyone else in the room will automatically start to assimilate their ideas to that one. Not the best thing for creativity. You want those left-field ideas, the ‘dreamer’ stage ones. That’s why it works better if everyone writes down their ideas, freestyle, rather than verbalise them.
Encourage everyone to write down whatever pops into their head, and give them a time limit for jotting these down. Now see what your team – the extroverts and the introverts – have come up with.
6. Keep trying new ideas
Once you start using the ideas part of your brain, you’ll find yourself dreaming up new plans all the time.
Remember to keep an eye on those blogs you admire most. Is there anything you can emulate? Change the angle slightly to make it more relevant to your own audience?
Get those creative juices flowing and you’ll soon be a pro at coming up with ideas.