One of the issues I come up against most often when I’m telling clients they should be writing new content for their blogs on a frequent basis, is the problem of what to write. And, beyond that, what to write that is actually going to be interesting and engaging for the reader. (Of course, this issue isn’t exclusive to blog posts, with Facebook, Twitter etc posts casusing the same problem for most people – with the same solution, as below).
Once we’ve gone through – and rejected – the usual standbys of:
– corporate info (yawn)
– industry news (yawn)
– product info (essentially a recreation of what’s already on their site, though can be useful done the right way – see below)
we’re left with the sort of thing that most people might come up with when asked to put together a list of titles for possible blog posts that would interest their potential clients:
– Top Ten xyz
– Funny Stories about xyz
– Unusual and interesting info about xyz
– Links to other sites that feature info about xyz
All perfectly suitable and worthwhile topics, but even then there’s usually a bit of a stumbling block between coming up with a suitable title and actually being able to populate the article with content.
So I recommend a particular mindset that works for me and many other people who “write to order” on a regular basis – which is to realise that ideas are simply combinations of previously-existing elements, in order to develop something new (in this case, an idea for an article).
I’ve set out the process I use below, and if you’re interested in working this way for yourself I thoroughly recommend you read a book called “A Technique for Producing Ideas” by James Webb Young – a gold standard classic in the world of advertising. (Though quite short and based on teachings from 70 years ago, it stands up as being as useful and relevant in today’s digital world as it was when newspaper coupons were a marketer’s main tool).
The process I use can be summarised as:
1) Absorb information about your own subject. This is something I do on an ongoing basis through knowledge of the products /services on offer. The internet is obviously quite a useful source of info for other things relating to the particular products / services on offer – eg a site such as https://www.searchenginenews.com/ provides lots of relevant information about SEO.
2) Absorb information about everything else. Seems quite a difficult task, but really what I mean is to read / watch / listen to lots of other things that are seemingly unconnected with your own subject, though such activities as reading newspapers, watching factual television programmes, browsing the internet in a “see where it takes you” fashion etc.
3) Make connections and associations between the 2. This is the key element for coming up with ideas – the making of connections and associations between previously-existing elements in order to come up with something new. This stage of the process can also include elements of “doodling” or “daydreaming”, as it often features the writing down snatches of ideas and simply allowing your thoughts to wander, based on the information absorbed in the first 2 stages.
If you’ve read the James Webb Young book referred to above, you’ll know that he recommends abandoning the thought process at some stage, in order for the subconscious mind to take over. I, too, find this a very useful method for coming up with future ideas. But for the purposes of writing an article at a particular moment, I simply use the 3 stages outlined above.
In my next post, I’ll be giving a practical demonstration of how to go about this process, using the products and services of clients of mine as examples.