Deciding what type of content to create, or simply choosing topics for your company’s blog, isn’t as simple as it sounds. But developing good processes for content ideation and planning can save you time, boost content quality, and help to ensure you have an ongoing supply of purposeful content to publish. Getting the topics right is vital, whether you outsource to content marketing services, or create everything in-house.
Here are our 7 top tips for effective content ideation.
The key to effective content ideation is knowing your audience
This goes beyond understanding that they have a particular attribute or role, such as being business owners, homeowners, or being in a certain age demographic. Your level of knowledge should extend to the pain points, challenges and desires that drive them towards your product or service. You’ll want to understand their priorities, and the factors they will consider important when considering your brand, services or products.
If someone has developed buyer personas relating to your brand, it’s likely you’ll have this information at hand. If you don’t, developing ‘buyer personas’ can be a helpful way to build this level of knowledge.
(You can read more about buyer personas here)
Only when you understand your audience well, can you have informed discussions around the content formats and themes most likely to engage that audience.
Know your goal and purpose
Why are you creating content, and what are you hoping to achieve by creating it? Without a goal and purpose, there’s nothing to aim for, and the question of whether your content project is delivering any benefits probably won’t even arise.
With a good knowledge of your audience, a clear purpose and business goal, your broad topic themes should start to emerge almost effortlessly. Here’s a quick example of how that might occur:
You’re a business advisory firm that targets SMEs. Your goal is to attract more tech start-ups, because you want to become known as a specialist in that area. You’ve identified some knowledge gaps and challenges tech entrepreneurs typically have, and you’d like to create content that addresses those. And already you have your first themes – drawn from the challenges and particular knowledge gaps that you already know about. You’ve decided that you’ll begin with a series of articles that you can share on social media, and a downloadable white paper. Now it becomes a matter of identifying the specific topics you will cover under those themes.
Know good topics from bad
At this point, it’s likely some topics seem obvious. But are they the right ones?
Something to keep in mind when formulating topics, is that the broader the topic, the less detailed information you’ll be able to include, and the less value there may be in the article for the audience. You want your audience to feel they’ve gained something of genuine value by reading your content.
And of course, if it’s such an obvious topic that quickly comes to mind, there’s a big chance there are a million versions of it online already.
Dig deeper – and leverage your in-house expertise.
Brainstorming content topics
Do you brainstorm alone or in a team? It’s sometimes a challenge for marketing managers to get input from people outside the marketing team, but if you can organise a content brainstorming session that involves one or more of your in-house topic experts, their input can be gold.
If you nominate a day/time well in advance, and make sure the event is in their calendar, you’re more likely to get them along. ‘Light refreshments provided’ might also appeal in the lead up to lunch or the late afternoon. Just saying!
Aim to finish not just with the ‘working titles’ of the topics you want to create, but with some bullet points as to what you’d like the writer to cover for each topic.
If the content is a little technical, take this opportunity to tee up your in-house experts as a resource for the writer/s who will create the content. They might be happy for a writer to interview them by telephone to gain their topic insights, or alternatively, to provide some additional briefing information.
If you’re creating educational content with the goal of people finding your content by search, then keyword research is a must. You need to establish what topics and questions people are searching for that relate to your themes.
You’ll also want to know the search volume for topics – because if only 10 people a year, in Australia, search for a topic, and your service area is limited to one city, that doesn’t bode well for results.
But keep in mind that Google search isn’t the only way to give your content visibility. You can reach many people by sharing good content on social media, even if you have to ‘boost’ the content while you build your audience.
Another thing to consider, is that if your topics are very niche, there simply might be few or no Google searches for related information. This doesn’t mean the right people won’t be interested when they see those topics shared on social media.
For those who do need to do some keyword research, here are some handy tools:
These are free, but there are limits to what you can do with SEMrush and Answer the Public for free. If you like them, and find the tools help you with content ideation, you can purchase a subscription.
Bringing it all together – briefing the content writers
With topics decided, you’re almost ready to brief the writer.
There’s one golden rule to remember when you’re briefing writers – if you don’t convey information about your goals, the purpose of the content, your target audience, your brand style, and the article angle you’d like the writer to take, you risk receiving a first draft that doesn’t meet your expectations – because you haven’t told the writer what they are.
Put a brief together including all the above information, and mention any ‘must cover’ points. For a very technical topic, arrange a telephone interview between the writer and your in-house subject matter expert.
If you need a briefing template that helps you convey the relevant briefing information to your content writers, you’re welcome to download ours.
Keeping it coming!
If you’d like to achieve a regular flow of fresh content, make a habit out of the ideation process.
Schedule monthly or quarterly content meetings or brainstorming sessions, so that you’re building a pipeline of content ideas. This process will also help you to get the jump on any seasonal or event related opportunities, and to align some content creation with upcoming marketing campaigns or new product launches.
If your marketing team is a little under-resourced (or you are the marketing team!), the team at Article Writers Australia can assist you with content ideation, planning and creating the content. To find out more, contact us to book an introductory Zoom meeting.