5 Ideation Tips for Creating Content That Will Generate Links
OK, let’s start by saying that digital content creation is not a science. You can’t just follow a set of steps in a blog (despite how incredibly well-written and articulate it is...) and be guaranteed a successful, link-worthy campaign. You can, however, improve your chances by including certain steps during your content creation process.
I’ve been creating website content for years, from short and long-form video to interactive campaigns and static infographics, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that anything can be interesting. The key is finding the right story to tell and the right way to tell it. Now, obviously that's a lot easier said than done, hence why link building is hard, but it’s also fun. If you don’t find it fun you’re either doing it wrong or it’s just not your calling. If it’s the latter that’s totally fine, creating digital content isn’t for everyone, you are still cool and I still like you. If you’re just doing it wrong, then maybe these tips can help you out.
Tip 1: Try new things
It’s easy to get stuck in a routine, browsing the same sites, talking to the same people and watching the same TV shows. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love routine, but it’s important to diversify your pastimes. It keeps you out of a bubble and exposes you to different views, stories and experiences.
So, read papers you don’t normally read, watch TED talks, listen to popular podcasts and sign up to interesting newsletters. I get between 10-20 email newsletters a day and, despite how busy I am, I always make sure I scan each of them for stuff that interests me. If something jumps out I make a note of it in a spreadsheet that I’ve aptly named ‘Interesting Things’. I’ve been adding to this doc for over a year now and have over 800 links to articles, datasets and content pieces that pricked my interest in one way or another. It always helps me when I'm in need of inspiration or need to generate new ideas quickly.
Tip 2: Question your taste
We’ve all seen a successful digital campaign, viral advert or hit TV show and thought ‘Why is this so popular?! I just don’t get it.’ Of course, it’s your right to dislike whatever movies, campaigns or articles you choose, but, it can be really useful to take the time to try and understand why they resonate with other people. You’ll probably find that, once you start stripping back the layers, there are key themes or narratives that have wide appeal. If you’re quick to dismiss things you initially don’t like, you may find that you’re missing out on a whole pool of content ideas that other people find interesting.
One good way to tell if you’re the exception that proves the rule is to…yes, Google it. Are people talking about it? Check out Google Trends and pop some keywords in there - does the little line go up? If so, your opinion may not be the general consensus. You may also find, by consuming some related content, that the idea or theme starts to grow on you.
Tip 3: Don’t let your brief restrict you
It's probably safe to say that everyone has been given a restrictive brief before, and nothing hampers creativity like a list of things you can’t do. Obviously, it’s important that your content is connected to yours or your client’s brand and shares core values, but if you or your client offer a niche product or service, you’ll likely need some flexibility if you want to get coverage.
Sometimes it can be hard for people to differentiate between traditional and digital PR, so you could pitch the best campaign idea ever and it won’t always be enough to convince people to delve into lesser known themes and topics. One thing you should never do though is bin a good idea. If, in the end, it’s not quite right for your brief, that’s OK. Bank it and re-pitch it later. You may just need to build a bit more trust before you create website content that ventures into unknown territory.
Tip 4: Think like a journalist
Probably one of the easiest things you can do when trying to generate content ideas is to ask yourself this question ‘If I was a journalist, would I write about this?’ Journalists don’t owe you anything, they don’t care about your brand, your KPIs or your SEO strategy. They just want an interesting, relevant story. Does your content idea offer that? Could you write a whole article on it? Would you pitch it to your imaginary editor in a room full of your imaginary journalist peers? If you’re not sure, then it might be worth rethinking your idea.
(For more on getting journos to engage with your content, read this post on how to pitch a journalist).
Tip 5: Remember, timing can be key
Hooking your content campaign onto an awareness day can be a little controversial, but I do think it can help you get coverage if you have a great angle. I’m not saying you should generate a whole campaign based on one awareness day (evergreen content should always be the aim), but when you’re ideating it can certainly be useful to know if there’s an awareness day/week/month coming up that fits with the theme of your idea.
If you generate a lot of diverse content you may also start to notice that certain themes work better during certain times of the year, which is good to consider during ideation so you can establish if an idea should be held back or pushed forward. We tend to find that content with health or fitness as a theme generally performs better in January or February (after an indulgent Christmas break), and content with a summer theme works well in April, but a winter theme is best launched in October.
So there you have it. The best blog on digital content creation you've ever read is over. Hopefully, some of these tips will be useful next time you delve into the joy that is ideation. However, if you use these tips and still struggle, ping me a strongly worded, but constructive email and I’ll try to write a better blog post next time.
If you’d like to learn more about content marketing and coming up with great ideas, you might be interested in our article, Content Production 101. Got more questions? Give the Aira team a shout over on Twitter and we’ll be happy to chat.