Developing creative ideas to fuel your content marketing is a critical discipline for marketers today.
Think about it: Simple things like the subject line to your email or headline of your latest post probably get the least of your time, but they’re actually one of the most important elements, because they are either a roadblock or a catalyst to engagement.
So, continually refining your ideation process is vital to content marketing creativity. But, cultivating the creative mind and building intentional time to brainstorm, feed your ideas, and bounce ideas off a team is often an exception rather than the norm.
Why is that?
Like most things, building your creativity is a discipline that requires regular, intentional practice. That’s why I have a weekly creative meeting with my content marketing team, where we try to make time to brainstorm, play a game, or bounce ideas off each other. And over the years, I’ve discovered a few core principles for regularly practicing the discipline of creativity.
1) Get Social
Humans are social creatures, but so much of the work of content marketing is accomplished by sitting down and getting it done. So, get your team involved in brainstorming and creativity. If you’ve got a content marketing team, round everybody up and spend some time together. If your team is virtual or outsourced, find time for a Google Hangout or Skype call. If you’re solo, find a tribe of like-minded content marketing professionals and have a weekly creative inspiration chat, call, or meetup locally.
2) Refine & Activate
Not only does a social environment provide a great environment for brainstorming and bouncing ideas around, it’s also infinitely helpful for taking a rough brainstormed idea and immediately refining it into an actionable content marketing idea. So, take time in each brainstorming session to get peer feedback and notes on a headline, theme, or content idea.
Make it a goal to take action on a set number of ideas you brainstorm, every time you meet, whether it’s the stated objective or not. For example, you might have on the agenda to brainstorm themes for an upcoming ebook and come up with interesting concepts or ideas that would make great blog posts or a new video or podcast series. Or you might come up with a great play on words or concept for a promotional .gif or Facebook ad. The point is, when you get your brain in creative gear, you’ll often generate interesting creative ideas outside of what you’re looking for.
Use that genius!
Make it a point to activate as many brainstorming ideas as you can each time you meet, to keep the creativity flowing through all your content marketing efforts.
3) Get Away
It’s important to take time brainstorming and exercising your creativity outside of your normal environment (sitting by yourself, headphones on, typing away at your desk, if I’ve got a guess?). So, claim a meeting room for an hour or two, or treat your team to a brainstorming afternoon outdoors if the weather agrees. Go sit in the local mall and watch the consumers around you, observe what matters to them and where their attention is. Trek across the office and meet near a different department or group to see and hear how they work and what they’re talking about. A retreat from your desk shouldn’t be reserved for the company or department team building event, and it can absolutely fuel new creativity.
4) Get “Physidal”
When I’m brainstorming with my team, most of the brainstorming activities, games, or sessions we do don’t involve the computer and in fact use paper, whiteboards, games, or other physical, tangible things to inspire our ideation.
While this may seem a bit odd for those working in digital marketing, it’s actually an important part of the creative process to different experiences, areas of the brain, and input formats. So, at least once a week, we grab our pens, some paper, and write headlines and ideas the old-fashioned way. I call this getting “physidal” – which basically means combining both physical and digital processes as a part of our work, and I even use this concept for things like planning my daily tasks by writing my to-do list on paper (in addition to keeping things digitally documented in our editorial calendar and project management tool).
5) Schedule It
Great ideas don’t make themselves! (Thank goodness, or we’d all be looking for new jobs!) So it’s important to end each brainstorming or creative planning session by putting things on the calendar. As one CMO I worked for likes to say, “you need an impending date!”
And it’s true. Getting your creative ideas on the schedule immediately ensures that you’re regularly fueling your content marketing with interesting, fresh, and engaging ideas.
Similarly, taking time to be creative sounds like a good idea, but it can often get crowded out of the flow of getting things done. So right now, before you move on to the next thing, schedule yourself an hour each week where you will focus on fueling your creativity.
Do it now. I dare you.
Sometimes inspiration strikes out of nowhere. Cherish those times.
The rest of the time, be intentional to feed your creative process. Put time on the calendar.