Any great piece of content starts with a good idea.
In many cases, a single content marketer will develop a concept for new content, perform the research, and do the writing. As teams grow, however, more people bring specialized expertise to the table. At the same time, the “low hanging fruit” of simple ideas will start to dry up.
As time goes on, it becomes even more important to establish a clear approach to ideation.
Ideation is the process of coming up with fresh ideas, which can include cross-functional input. It’s followed by the content team getting together and determining which ideas to prioritize.
That is, first you use divergent thinking, then you use convergent thinking. It’s a real workout for your brain!
Here’s why ideation matters:
1. Ideation Sessions Make Up for the Fact That Keywords Aren’t Ideas
Before you can have a content ideation session, you need to do some basic keyword research.
Since your keywords reflect what your users actually type into Google, they give you concrete insight into the minds of your ideal buyers. Sometimes, a keyword might seem to lend itself to a certain kind of treatment. But keywords, in themselves, aren’t content topics.
As I write this, the term screen time – meaning all time spent consuming media that uses a screen – is trending. Headlines around this keyword mostly focus on the impact of screen time on young kids. But a content team could tackle the subject of screen time in all kinds of ways:
- “How Much Screen Time is Too Much for Teens?”
- “How to Cut Screen Time Without Losing Productivity”
- “Curb Health Effects of Screen Time With These Apps”
Any of these topics – and many, many more – are valid ways to handle the keyword screen time.
Figuring out which one will work best means figuring out what treatment of a given keyword adds the most value for your readership. You might come up with several ideas that’ll work well – if so, your priority depends on the unique insight you can provide and your current product offers.
An ideation session helps you go beyond the basics and make sure you’re adding something new and fresh to the conversation. With good ideation, you’ll be sure you’re sharing content that’s uniquely valuable, even if you’re covering a topic that many others have before.
2. Ideation Sessions Fuel Your Content Calendar
Every marketing team that plans to go the distance with content marketing should have a content calendar. But it’s hard to keep up the motivation to stick to a calendar if the calendar’s not full.
The purpose of a content calendar is to make sure you always know what you’re working on. That information forces you to use your “content muscles” until your team has a defined and repeatable workflow. From there, it supports you in publishing consistently.
And consistency is the key – both for search visibility and user engagement.
A good ideation session will fill your head with ideas. Not only that, but they’ll be vetted by all the other participants in the session. That serves as a built-in “reality check” that ensures you don’t find yourself focusing on ideas that are fun but have limited impact on your users.
Long story short, your ideation sessions might last less than an hour, but they’ll save you plenty of time. You won’t have to stop and think about what you’re doing next every time you finish a piece. At the same time, you’ll maximize the impact of everything you do publish.
3. Ideation Sessions Help Your Team(s) Work Better Together
Content teams usually start out small. But they can achieve even more as they expand.
From a small core of marketing experts, stakeholders in your content may grow to include sales, product management, support, and many others. Although not all of these people can be directly involved in content production, they can help supply superb ideas.
A content ideation session lends itself to input from many different voices. Done well, they don’t get bogged down in groupthink as much as other types of meetings, since the key is to get ideas out there – not to critique or compete.
Since good ideation sessions are low pressure, they allow more people to speak up. This helps you along the slow, steady path of fostering trust between all your teammates. And it can add to the sense of buy-in when more people have made their mark on the process.
In the long run, more stakeholders might even give writing their own content a try.
4. Ideation Sessions Actually Make Your Content Better
In the long run, a monthly ideation session will make your content much better than before.
There are some obvious, practical reasons for that:
- You won’t end up repeating yourself or posting very similar content over time.
- You’ll have an easier time ensuring your keywords are reflected in your content.
- By and large, you’ll get the best versions of your ideas on the web much sooner.
That said, there’s an even simpler reason that will reach to the core of everything you do.
More ideation sessions mean ideas are coming from throughout your organization. That, in turn, means content you put on the web is more reflective of your brand as a whole. Rather than one limited perspective, you can express your organization’s ideas in its own voice.
Let’s face it, it’s not easy for businesses to be “authentic” or build trust in the way people can. But web content is your opportunity to do it, and having an assortment of voices baked into your whole content process will make the final product more genuine.
Make a Regular Ideation Session Part of Your Content Development Strategy in 2019
Ideation sessions work – and they pack a lot of bang for your buck into an hour or so.
Naturally, you shouldn’t let your regularly scheduled ideation session distract you from fantastic ideas that might come up during your commute or lying in bed.
Still, it’s always better to have a reliable creative process for content ideation. You never have to leave topic generation to the last minute and find yourself staring down a deadline.
Ideation sessions are just one more way you can make your content development processes more mature and predictable. That’s one more plank in a long-term transformation that will position your brand as a publisher of authoritative and informative media.