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Struggling for content ideas? How to keep your content marketing stream flowing


By Richard Draycott, Managing Director

September 26, 2017 | 8 min read

We’ve all been there. It's lunchtime, you’ve jumped on to The Drum’s website, spotted an interesting insight article, spent ten minutes reading it and at the end thought to yourself ‘I could have written that article better myself.’

Contributor Network

My question to you is: OK, so why didn’t you then?

Every ambitious agency owner loves the idea of getting their insights and opinions published on The Drum website to put themselves in front of potential clients, but what stops so many of them actually doing it? What with clients to manage, staff to look after, books to balance and life in general to squeeze in the usual excuse is not only the lack of time to write articles, but lack of time to think about what to write.

It’s the same for any journalist – when faced with a blank sheet of paper, or a black screen, writing can become quite a daunting task, so with the recent launch of The Drum’s content marketing channel – The Drum Contributor Network - in mind here are afew tips for generating content ideas on a regular and ongoing basis:

Read The Drum and react

Chances are if you look through the articles on The Drum’s Homepage today or other content on The Drum Contributor Network there will be an article on there that you have an opinion on, or that you feel your business should have an opinion on.

You may totally disagree with the article’s viewpoint, you may have a different experience to the one expressed in the piece, whatever your opinion is, let it be known. A short snappy 300-word article that making a strong and bold statement is much more effective in making an impact than a 1,500 feature that meanders gently along without ever really going anywhere.

A great punchy opinion piece should not take you all day to write – just open up a Word doc and let rip. Get it all off your chest, don’t worry too much about grammar, structure or flow at the outset, just get the thoughts out of your head and onto a screen.

Once you have vented your spleen, put it to one side for an hour or so and then go back to it with fresh eyes and edit and re-write so that it flows nicely.

Then get it posted on your Contributor Network page and share it. If you have made a good hard topical point chances are you will create some debate and get some discussion going, which again gives you the opportunity to further push your content.

Do what others do

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and I’m not suggesting outright plagiarism here, but have a look at what other content that is published on The Drum website is getting lots of shares on social media and create content around the same or similar subjects.

AI, VR have been very popular topic areas recently as agencies and brands are all trying to get their heads around what these technologies could mean for the future of their sector, but trends and topics of conversation change rapidly in the marketing sector so have a look every day at what types of content are showing up regularly and create your own.

Watch or listen to the TV news

Marketing is now so broad and touches so many parts of modern society that there is always a story being covered in the TV news that will present an opportunity for you to build an insight or opinion piece around it.

Maybe it is a brand who’s falling sales have sparked a Stock Market warning or a brand that has made a whopping blunder on social media. Have your say on where they went wrong and how the expertise that you have in your business could have helped them avoid their current situation.

It doesn’t only have to be bad news. Maybe a brand has experienced a huge uplift in online sales or uplift in footfall to their stores – analyse how they have achieved their success and what other brands in similar and different sectors can learn from them.

Look to your clients

It would be a safe assumption that as an agency you never design a marketing strategy, start to build a website or create an integrated campaign without doing a certain level of research.

Use elements of the research that you carry out for your clients to inform content articles and build them around the insights that you have gained. You don’t have to give away the crown jewels (nobody wants to give away a client’s top secrets) but there are always ways to talk around research findings and insights without using names and so on.

Use the insights you have discovered to suggest possible solutions for other brands. Who knows – they might give you a call to find out more.

Put yourself in the shop window

If there’s a brand or a client you really want, pretend you already have them!

There is nothing to stop you thinking about, reflecting on, discussing and debating another brand’s marketing strategy or creative output. Get different people in your business to review their campaigns, maybe create a small team from your head of strategy, head of creative, head of social and head of content to look at how all the elements worked together. Even if the brand you are focusing on doesn't read your insights, chances are another brand in that sector will.

Create your own regular series

During my 11 years spent editing The Drum we created a regular series in the magazine called Uncle Carl. A very simple format – we invited agencies to submit their questions and appointed an agency owner as our resident agony uncle to answer them in a witty manner. His name was Carl, in case you were wondering how we got the name for the column.

The Uncle Carl column ran for many years, until practically every possible agency problem had been talked through from every angle, in a similar vein to Jeremy Bullmore’s legendary column.

It is much easier to keep a regular series going long term than to continually trying to create new ideas and formats. You don’t have to re-invent the wheel every time you want to create a piece of content. As long as it is relevant to your target audience it will be read and digested.

Create a regular vox pop

My first ever job as a junior news reporter at The Drum 20 years ago was to pull together the Vox Pop feature each issue. Luckily we had done Vox Pops as part of my university journalism course, so I knew what the hell that phrase meant (it’s voice of the people, if you don’t know.)

I remain a huge fan of the vox pop format – they are a quick and simple way to generate content and also a great way to share the load and involve more people.

Simply pick a subject or current topic, create a punchy question and then get it out to relevant people, either within your company or get outside voices involved too.

Ask people to respond to your question in a maximum of 100 words to make it fast. You can even involve your clients – make them famous too!

There are many more techniques for generating content ideas, but remember the real trick to keep things consistent is to share the load and encourage other people in your company to contribute potential ideas to your list and also to share the workload to bring these ideas to life. This will ultimately mean more volume of content and a broader range of content that you can publish to your Contributor Network stream.

If you want to find out more about how you could become a regular writer on The Drum's website with The Drum Contributor Network click here.


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