Idea generation checklist

“So, what should we write about?” Everyone faces this question, from hyper-organized marketing departments to tiny teams trying to kick-start a blog. Whether I’m working to build out a multi-quarter editorial calendar or fill an immediate gap in a client’s blog schedule, there are the handful of sources I regularly tap for inspiration–hopefully you’ll find them helpful next time you’re searching for fresh content ideas.

These sources are great for launching ideas which can then be molded to fit your particular content marketing strategy, i.e., dialed in for your particular audience, their needs and preferences, and your firm’s unique goals and expertise.

Check out the competition

What are your closest (and aspirational) competitors writing about? Are there any gaps you could fill or a particular topic you could tackle from a different/contrarian angle?

Re-visit existing content

Comb through existing pieces to see if any are prime targets for updating with a fresh viewpoint. Keep an eye out for content that can be re-purposed, too: Could a video be transcribed and turned into a blog post? Could an interesting chart from a white paper be the basis of an infographic?

Catch up with industry influencers

I subscribe to a bunch of email newsletters from my immediate industry and beyond. While I’m not always able to read everything the instant it’s published, I can draw on it later when I’m looking for ideas. Same goes for my Twitter feed. I also use TweetDeck to monitor multiple topics without having to follow individual users.

In addition to content from my favorite financial thought leaders, I find these emails most helpful for staying on top of market developments:

Barron’s: Review & Preview
BloombergMarkets: The Weekly Fix
WSJ: The 10-Point, Morning MoneyBeat
NY Times: Morning Briefing, DealBook Briefing
Ben Thompson: Stratechery Weekly

There are also plenty of fantastic podcasts out there–I’m still working on my listening list!

Take advantage of idea hubs, like conferences and webinars

Find out where people in your niche tend to present their big ideas and discuss current trends–conferences and webinars are two common gathering places. Conferences can be a sizable commitment in terms of time, money and effort, so webinars can be a great alternative. Plus, they’re usually available on demand after the live presentation and are an easy way to dabble in topics outside your immediate realm. Check out Harvard Business Review, which has some great on-demand webinars (The New CEO Activism, for example) and the CFA Institute, which posts videos from its annual conference.

Chat with subject matter experts

This one isn’t always possible–subject matter experts tend to be busy people–but if you can sit in on a research team meeting or grab coffee with a senior sales rep, you’re almost guaranteed to come away with fresh content ideas. Find out what’s on their minds, ask what they’ve been reading lately and if they’ve been facing any new challenges. In my experience, casual meetings are often more fruitful than official brainstorming sessions, where people can feel “on the spot” and overthink their suggestions.

… and amp up the creative juices

Coming up with new content ideas is all about being creative: Finding new dots and seeing new ways to connect them. There are hundreds of tips out there for increasing your creativity at work–pay attention to what works for you and harness it. For me, exercise is a critical ingredient. A quick workout usually sends more ideas bubbling to the surface than two hours in front of a screen. Not exactly a cutting-edge discovery, but an important “know thyself” discovery nonetheless.