Kathleen Ohlson is a writer and editor with over 10 years of experience. Previously, she was a high tech reporter covering various topics, including 9/11 and virus attacks. You can follow Kathleen on Twitter, @kaohlson.
You’ve got another deadline. You’ve worked on this topic before, but you’re wondering how you are going to make it sound new and exciting. You start to think, think some more… and before you know it, you resemble Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone.
But, wait, don’t panic. Seriously, don’t. Really? Really. You certainly can go back to the content calendar, revisit buyer personas or go through the list of topics you’ve been keeping. But the following tips might help you come up with a different angle to create content.
1. Dig into the past
Yup, you’ve written about this topic before and you can do it again. Add to the conversation. Take one point and expand upon it. There’s almost always more you can say than you can pack into a blog post or a video. By elaborating on a previous topic, you’ll add additional value to your audience and help get you back on a creative track.
2. Take a Q&A approach
If you’re stuck getting started or organized, go back to the basics and answer those questions you first learned in English class: who, what, when, why and how. Think of this project as a list of questions you need to answer. What do your customers need to know? What are their concerns? How would your new product or service help them out? Think about the questions they may have. This approach is another way to brainstorm and may help you come up with angles you hadn’t thought of before.
3. Bond with your customers
Remember them? Ask your customers directly what they want to read and learn more about. Use short surveys to prompt them for feedback about your company, products and services. Encourage conversation in blog comments or on social media, and respond promptly to your audience. Analyze their responses and come up with content ideas to address their comments. By talking to them and using their feedback for your content, you’ll boost your credibility with them.
4. Storyboarding time
Stock up on some sticky notes. Meet with your team to discuss a project, as well as your thoughts and research. Don’t worry about having anything finished; jot down ideas, hang up pictures, and use any other relevant information. Once the notes are hung up, start arranging them in order of the story you want to tell and nix the ones that don’t work. By putting them in order, you’ll likely see a project from a fresh perspective.
5. Find inspiration
Looking for ideas? Follow major brands and authors through daily alerts. Use keyword indicators (e.g., Google Trends and Keyword Planner) to see what trends are showing up in search engines. Find out what your audience is reading, such as blogs or news sites. Check out what the competition has done. The catch with this last idea: Don’t compare yourself to the competition. It’s worthwhile to look at them for inspiration and how audiences generally respond. Keep in mind your competitors are not you and what may work for them, won’t necessarily work for you.
6. Just keep writing
Are you stuck? Keep writing; don’t worry about that first version.
In Everybody Writes, Ann Handley says to keep writing and create a first draft, “The Ugly First Draft (TFUD).”
Handley describes TFUD as “where you can show up and throw up. Write badly. Write as if no one will ever read it.” In this version, don’t worry about writing complete sentences, grammar, spelling and usage. Focus on writing down key ideas and thoughts. She says using TFUD is a necessary step to create above standard work, but doesn’t give a pass to produce substandard work.
Once TFUD is complete, you can go back and clean up your draft.
7. Stick with writing
If you’re a writer, do you work on a few sentences, stop, reread and start editing? If you do, STOP! If you’re focusing on editing while you’re writing, you’ll likely get distracted from writing.
Learn to get uncomfortable when you’re writing and resist the urge to reword sentences and rearrange paragraphs until you’re finished. If you can pull this off, you’ll find yourself in a rhythm.
8. It’s picture time
So you’re really stuck? Maybe let the images tell the story. (Sorry, designers!).
More studies are showing videos and pictures increase audience engagement and drive conversions. According to Business Insider, 350 million photos are uploaded to Facebook daily, while more than 100 hours of Facebook video ads are watched every day.
9. Run away
If all else fails, run. Hide. Seriously, step away from the scary blank screen with that annoying cursor. Take some time and clear your head. Find another place to work or go for a walk. Put on some tunes. Anything to make you more comfortable to start creating again.
Creating good content is made up of data crunching, lots of research, conversations with people and putting the pieces together. While you may be stuck now, remember you’ve created content before and other people have gone through what you’re experiencing right now. And your customers want you to be real, so focus on that and what your instincts tell you to create.
Thumbnail image courtesy of Unsplash.