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21 Ways to Create Compelling Content When You Don’t Have a Clue

Sometimes you’re just flat out of ideas.

It’s not a matter of talent — you’ve written great stuff in the past. But lately, when you go back to the well for a fresh idea, it’s coming up dry.

This happens to the best of us — even veterans who consistently produce quality content have their off days.

Yet they continue to write.

 They may grumble about how hard it is to get going and create something solid, but they still do. Again, and again, and again.

They aren’t super-human, and they don’t have magical content-producing powers. So what is the secret?

They do it by pulling out the well-worn toolbox of strategies for creating awesome content.

Steal content and ideas

If you’re flat-out exhausted and out of ideas, then get them from somebody else — either content, or ideas, or both.

I’m not talking about real stealing, of course — it’s more like “borrowing with the author’s blessing”.

Done right, this can produce some valuable content that the authors you “stole” from will thank you for using!

  1. Curate content. Find your ten favorite websites, and then find your favorite post on each of them. Publish a post listing these top ten posts, and explain why you like them. You don’t even have to think about being creative, and everyone you feature there will appreciate it. This is what we do with our Best of the Web feature, and there are lots of other examples.
  2. Ask friends for ideas. If you’re tapped for ideas, then reach out to your friends and colleagues, and ask them what they’d like you to write about. You can do this with offline friends, or with like-minded online entrepreneurs. If you’re not already part of a mastermind group, then reach out to a few bloggers that are about as big as you are, and suggest starting one. I’m in a mastermind group with Jon Alford, Paul Wolfe and Caleb Wojcik, and they’ve all been a great help to me.
  3. Ask your audience. You can kick the last strategy up a notch by reaching out to your audience. This can be done in several ways — it can be as simple as running a “what would you like me to write about” post (which is a bit lame), or it can get more interesting by asking for their input on a problem, as Marcus Sheridan did to create his tag-line, or by asking a question so that you can compile their answers into another piece of content, like nittyGriddy’s free blog posting schedules e-book.
  4. Do an interview. There are lots of reasons why interviews are great for blog content, but right now let’s focus on the simple fact that it’s a lot easier to write a handful of interview questions than it is to write an entire post! Plus, it can be a great way to connect with really interesting people. (I got to interview Randy Komisar, who is my hero in the business world – and all I had to do was ask!)
  5. Solicit guest posts. This is a great source of content, and it’s easier than most people think – find a handful of blogs that are your size or smaller, whose content you really like, and invite them to write a guest post for you. They’ll be flattered, and happy to get exposure to your audience. They’ll work hard to bring their A game, and not only will you get a great post, but they’ll happily tell their contacts about it, and bring you a few new readers in the process.

Create content without creating content

If you have to create your own content, then there are a whole bunch of ways to do it without “creating content”.

In other words, you can write something great without having to be creative or original.

This doesn’t mean that the content won’t be good — only that you’re going to rely on creativity and originality that has already been percolating in your mind.

  1. Create a best-case study. Think about your favorite blog, company, or product, and write a post about why you like them so much (like Marlee Ward did about Rise, Pushing Social, and IttyBiz). Explain what you think they’re doing right, and what others can learn from their example.
  2. Create a worst-case study. Same thing, but focus on a blog, company or product that you hate. This can be even more interesting, particularly if it’s a popular offering. Explain your frustrations with it, explain why it is successful anyway, and explain what you would do differently.
  3. Write a review. Think about a product that you like, and are happy to endorse, and write a review about it. No need to get too creative, just explain what you like about it, and why. And then write what you don’t like about it, and why — easy peasy. You can kick it up a notch by contacting the company and asking them to donate a product that you can raffle off to blog commenters, like Kristy Hines did with an IBM ThinkCentre M90z.
  4. Explain your success. Think about a time when something went really right for you, and write a post explaining how you got it to happen. Don’t just brag about successes — explain all of the steps that you took to get there. Draw out the lessons that you learned from the experience, the lessons others can learn as well. This is what I did when I shared how I landed Guy Kawasaki on Problogger.
  5. Explain your failure. If there’s anything that people love reading about more than a great success, it’s an epic business failure. A post about your most challenging experiences is likely to be powerful just by virtue of how intense the original experience was for you, and you don’t have to make up anything original or creative — just tell it like it is (or, was), and explain what you learned from the process.
  6. Link to old favorites. Go through your archives, and make a short list of your old favorite posts that newer readers probably haven’t read. You can even do a quick deconstruction, and explain what you were thinking when you wrote the posts, what worked, and what didn’t.
  7. READ MORE :copyblogger.com/create-content-ideas

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