At this point in the game, it's no secret that blogging is an effective and measurable way to drive traffic to your site and earn the attention of valued prospects. Best practices help us to understand how often to blog, what our blogs should look like, how to promote, and more.
But what's a content marketer to do when we're in the office, and our ideas seem to be in the wind?
Writer's block or even time starvation happen to all of us, but should never be an excuse for failing to do our job. As Barbara Kingsolver puts it, "I learned to produce whether I wanted to or not. It would be easy to say oh, I have writer's block, oh, I have to wait for my muse. I don't. Chain that muse to your desk and get the job done."
With her do or die words in mind, I've compiled some ideas to help get you going when creating feels impossible.
Harness The Past
It's natural to assume that old articles or events are just that – over. But if you've been blogging for a while, there is a great chance you've built up an impressive library of posts which newcomers would be thrilled to stumble upon today. In addition to your own content, you have access to the magic that is Google, which provides endless opportunities to draw inspiration from other writers' work. Consider these options for repurposing existing ideas:
1. Browse through your own blog posts, articles, and eBooks to uncover inspiration
In blogging, we often overlook topics we've already discussed as "been there, done that," and disregard their potential to serve as a starting point for our current pieces. I don't condone regurgitation of what you've already done, but rather encourage you to look for topics from older articles which could be discussed in a new light today.
Let's say you wrote an article about the Facebook's reign of terror and the implementation of Timeline all the way back in 2011. Is that story still relevant? No, because we all stopped complaining about two days after the change and haven't looked back since. But, the big picture of "Facebook" is a goldmine which provides a bridge to discussing new topics such as Graph Search, EdgeRank, etc.
Not so hard, right? And just like that, you've become your own inspiration.
2. When all else fails, work with the posts you've got
There comes a time in every marketer's life when we have to admit there is simply not enough time in the day to accomplish everything on our scribbled to-do list. It's not ideal, but days like these are an opportunity to promote your most relevant and non-time sensitive pieces of yesterday (or month, or year). At some point you likely wrote a few "evergreen" pieces like this one, which will hold true regardless how much time elapses. These posts can be your saving grace on those too-busy-to-eat afternoons.
No one likes a company that insists on spamming Twitter every day to promote a blog post written in 2011, and that's the kind of behavior to avoid here. When sharing an older piece of content, be sure to position it as distinct from "New" or "This Just In" – focus instead on how the information is tried and true, has passed the test of time, etc.
Remember: this shouldn't be a recycling of just anything, it should be your best existing content. Everybody loves a timeless vintage T-Shirt; nobody likes a ratty old pair of socks.
Live In The Present
As marketers, we are expected to build strategy based upon the successes and failures of the past, and also be able to anticipate how upcoming industry or technological changes will affect our campaigns in the future. Between learning from yesterday and looking forward to tomorrow, we often forget to stop and smell the roses of today.
When deciding what to write for a post seems daunting, don't forget to take a look around at current events and the internal information you have at your fingertips.
1. Write about current events, and how they are affecting your industry and customers
If you subscribe to RSS feeds or read the news with any regularity, you know that the world is constantly changing. More importantly, your industry evolves every day. These day-to-day updates or innovations great subject matter, and there are limitless informational resources to browse through.
If you're thinking "Sounds great, but it won't work for me because I'm just a cotton candy store/local swimming pool/dog leash maker," I challenge you to a Google quest. Do some research, and you'll be astounded by the amount of new information applicable to your current business and customers.
2. Use customer inquiries, service requests, email submissions, and social discussions to draft an educational or Q&A post
Remember back in 5th grade when your teacher told you there were no stupid questions and whatever you were wondering, someone else probably was too? Turns out, Mrs. Smith had a point. Consider yourself the leader of your customer's classroom, and use your blog as a forum to answer commonly asked questions and provide useful advice.
Explore the Future
I know, I know – I apologize for the cliché. However, this phrase holds true when we consider the abundance of rumors, news stories, and discussions constantly taking place regarding advancements in any industry. Oftentimes, it won't even matter if the rumors of things like robots with feelings come true, because we humans love to spend today talking about what tomorrow might hold.
1. Scan industry publications for news about upcoming advances, innovations, and changes
Whether its earth shattering or pond rippling, sharing news of what's to come is a great way to inform your customers and position yourself as an authority in your category.
Remember, educating customers and prospects is crucial in building rapport and making your blog a must-read for relevant audiences. Going back to not forgetting the past, today's blog post about the hottest story of the moment might serve as inspiration for a retrospective article in the future!
While I hope my tips are useful to you, they are by no means the end-all, be-all resource for coming up with blog ideas. I'd love to hear what has worked for you in the past, or where you get inspiration when the idea well runs dry and clock is running out of time.
Share your feedback in the comments below, and let's get writing!