Whether it’s first blog post ideas, or you’re tackling your hundredth or thousandth post we are all looking to get better at the post writing process (or at least I am, so I assume you are too). The hardest bit of all content creation process is the planning. So to help out with that, I decided to dive right into a set of writing blog tips and break down my planning strategies into 4 simple steps that will help bust any writing or vlogging blocks for good!
In the previous Bitesize Resource, I introduced you to my 5 Simple Steps to Creating Website Content, you might want to refer back to it for some additional tips.
Firstly, don’t be put off by the word strategy, we’re not talking about a full 12-month content strategy here, or how to achieve competitive advantage (corporate strategy), all we’re doing is using a four-step process to plan what we’re going to talk about. As always, I’ve included a table of contents to help your navigation – but if you don’t fancy reading all the details you can skip straight to the Bitesize Resource video I’ve added at the end.
A video consolidation of planning what you want to talk about
1. Need some ideas?
So, sometimes coming up with ideas is really hard. That’s why I always try to engage both my conscious and subconscious brain in the process (if you’ve read any of my other posts, you know what the next thing I’m going to say is…)
Use Creative Tools!
Yup – creative tools or techniques are my go-to method for idea generation. There are multiple reasons for this, but the main one is that using creative techniques can increase our innovation, and I think you’ll agree with me, fresh innovative content is much more stimulating to interact with, then a re-hash of the same old thing.
Now, if you’re on the fence about fresh content, consider this – the Google ranking algorithm loves innovative content and will rank it higher then a rehash of the same old thing. So using creative techniques also has a role to play in increasing your search engine optimisation (SEO)!
If you’d like to see some examples of how I’ve used mind-mapping and rich pictures in the past, pop across to my post on Visual Creative Problem Solving Techniques. Or if you, like my Mum, prefer to hear me talk all about using visual creative techniques in a video, then try the first Bitesize Resource – Introduction to Creative Techniques.
So Rich pictures and mind mapping are all well and good – but perhaps you’d like something new to try.
Have you considered storyboarding?
There are multiple ways of storyboarding, you can doodle cartoons on a piece of paper around particular problem areas, or my personal favourite involves using post-its and is much more abstract (great for idea generation, and you can justify that stationary purchase!).
- Start with a broad topic area. I like to use my niche to make sure I have some form of focus in the right place. Write it on a post-it, in bold with decorations and place it in the middle of a blank wall (or a big sheet of paper, or table – wherever you’re working).
- Now, write every thought that comes into your head onto individual post-its and stick them up – no thought is too silly, or random, just get them on the wall. Remember, the first 20 are probably going to be the most conventional ideas related to your topic.
- Go get a cup of tea, coffee, a glass of water, a glass of wine – whatever form of hydration you need.
- Come back, look at your wall and add a few more post-its.
- Go make a snack.
- Come back and add more post-its.
- Call your best friend and complain about how difficult this is. Add their ideas too.
- Make another drink.
- Show the wall to your husband, wife, partner, kids, neighbour, dog, cat, gerbil – and add their suggestions.
- Go for a run or walk – stop partway through to note down the ideas that have just popped into your head. Come home and add them to your wall.
- You should be approaching 50+ post-its by now, look at your wall and start grouping your post-its together in themes. Add any more ideas that pop into your head.
- Go to sleep. Wake up in the middle of the night and write down the ideas that have popped into your head. Add them to the wall in the morning.
- Regroup your post-its, you want to have loads (challenge yourself to get to 200) and they’ve probably started falling off the wall by now. See if you can make startling connections between ideas.
- Write down the startling connections in your ideas notebook – these are the basis of your next period of posts.
So, as you can tell storyboarding is not for everyone, but when I do it I tend to end up with a months worth of content ideas. And it is something that you can have going on in the background, as long as you have a free wall that you can occupy with post-its for a few days.
Explore current content for linkages
I’m dreadful for not really remembering what content I’ve previously written, and I’m not great at documenting it either (one of my improvement goals). Even if you do keep excellent records of what you have published, a really good way of looking for new things to talk about is going through your old posts or videos and look for any gaps.
A gap could be something where you’ve taken a high-level view (perhaps an overarching theory) and there is scope to drill down into elements of the detail (like this post which is the detailed approach that I take to the Planning element of the 5 Simple Steps to Creating Website Content. Doing this also means you have a natural internal link (SEO bonus) and a good reader flow between posts.
While you’re going through your old posts, it’s also a great time to check and make sure that nothing is out of date, all the links still work and correct anything that you might have missed in the editing phase.
Well I have a few more suggestions:
when you start to type something into the Google search bar it automatically populates the bar with options based on what other users have searched around these terms. This can often give you ideas as to what people looking in your niche want to know. Try random words related to your niche – or start with questioning words (Who, What, When, Where, Why, How) and a high level keyword in your niche.
Do you use Pinterest or other Social Media Market tools?
Pinterest is a huge information resource and has spawned loads of ideas for me. Look for pins or boards related to your niche, follow inspirational content creators and see what types of ideas they are coming up with. Take inspiration (do not copy – that’s plagiarism) from multiple sources and see where that leads you. This also works if you’re a member of a niche related Facebook group, follow niche-specific influencers on Instagram or YouTube or related groups on Twitter or other forms of social media.
I have a bit of a love / hate relationship with Quora – I keep turning the notifications on and off because the groups I follow are located in different timezones and always seem to post at very inconvenient times, but it’s a great source of inspiration because people are asking the questions that they need or want answers to. You do have to be selective as to the questions that you consider as blog topics, you do want you content to appeal to more then one person, but it is an excellent gauge of what people want to know.
As an added benefit – if you are also answering questions on Quora in a considered and professional way it is a great way of building niche authority. Make sure your profile is setup with a link to your blog, but be careful to avoid spamming people with your blog content, rather you want to build your authority through individually crafted responses until you have generated a good following – this is a long term approach.
I’m a big fan of Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest. His free keyword tool also gives content suggestion. Now, it suggests existing content to give you ideas – so unless you’re using it for inspiration, I would use this as a last resort, because it probably the least innovative way to find ideas. If you do use it – consider combining multiple suggestions in new or unique ways, or following the Skyscraper method as Neil Patel expands on here.
2. Are we creating content or copy?
A short but sweet distinction. When we are planning our writing or video we need to know our purpose for interacting with our audience. In a broad way, our purpose can be broken into two segments. We are either trying to entertain/inform our audience or we are trying to persuade them of something.
If we’re writing Content – we are being entertaining and informative. We are imparting valuable information to our audience.
If we’re writing Copy – we are persuading our audience to do something.
If we think of a place where both content and copy occur side-by-side, like a magazine it’s a bit easier to understand the difference.
An entertainment article about the latest celebrity faux pas would be the Content, while the same celebrity looking gorgeous, affluent and toned while drinking a diet shake and talking about their amazing life is probably copy – and often so hard to distinguish that it has to have an advertising disclaimer associated with it. Take a look the next time you’ve got a glossy magazine to hand.
“When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.”– David Ogilvy
3. Who wants to know?
So, you’ve generated a list of great ideas, you know whether you’re creating content or copy so what’s the next stage in planning your amazing post or video?
Are you staying within your niche?
Within your niche, there will be a certain subset of ideas that will be of interest to your audience. As annoying as it can be to have great ideas that you can’t use it really is worth making sure that the ideas you’ve generated are able to be targetted within your niche.
Sometimes you may be able to position ideas that don’t seem to fit naturally within your niche to make them relevant to your audience.
For example, within the FleeCorporate blog, my niche is leaving the corporate world to become an entrepreneur. Now, it may seem a bit odd that I’m writing about blogging in this niche – but I’ve positioned blogging and affiliate marketing within my entrepreneurial income strategy as a (semi) passive income stream that I will be using, so blogging techniques are now relevant to my niche.
Targetting your audience
Your audience is key, so you have to make sure that your posts or videos are talking to your ideal demographic. Assuming that you’ve identified your target audience (if not, there is a section in my beginners guide to leaving corporate to become an entrepreneur on Target Audience and Market Research that you may find useful), you need to make sure that you are communicating with them in a way that they understand.
Talking to your demographic is very important, you don’t want to be perceived to be talking at them, or using language that they would find inappropriate or offensive.
For example, I know my target audience is approximately my age – therefore the slang and voice that I find relevant fits. However, if I was targeting my grandmother I would have to use a much more formal voice and reduce any slang considerably.
The last thing to consider when targeting your audience is whether the information that you have to share with them is valuable – to them. It might be valuable and exciting to you – but if it isn’t to them then they won’t engage with it.
As an example, if your target audience is experienced CrossFit athletes, they probably won’t find an introduction to CrossFit article engaging. On the other hand, if your audience is new to CrossFit, a glossary of all of the acronyms used is extremely valuable – there are only so many times you can get an EMOM (Every Minute on the Minute) and an AMRAP (As Many Rounds/Reps As Possible) mixed up in a class of 12 experienced athletes without feeling incredibly thick… can you guess that I speak from experience here?
4. Optimise audience interaction
So, you’ve planned innovative, audience-appropriate, content or copy that delivers value to the right people in your niche – so how do you make sure that they see it? Or rather, how do you make sure that your audience can find you?
It seems a bit of a no-brainer, but it’s definitely worth repeating – you need to hang out where your audience does! This means that your social marketing strategy also needs to be audience approperiate. So when you’re planning your posts, make sure that you’re taking your social strategy into account too.
So, ask yourself this: for my audience (insert niche here), where am I likely to find them? My audience (this surprised me) spends a lot of time on Pinterest.
Now Pinterest might surprise you too – but it’s worth checking out in most niches. The other one that would be particularly appropriate for me, and will be my next port of call is LinkedIn. Social Media Strategy, is definitely a gap in my current blog – and I’ve just added it as a post idea to my ideas notebook!
Long tail key words
I’m sure you knew this was coming, but the second way to make sure that your posts are found is through SEO. There is loads of information out there on how search engines rank sites, but the one element that pops up regularly (and is sensible) is targeting “long-tail keywords”.
Long tail keywords are very specific 3+ word phrases unique to your niche or post. If you think about it, when you do an online search – you don’t type one word into the search engine anymore, you’re much more likely to type in a specific phrase.
Rather than entering “Insurance”, you might say “where is the cheapest car insurance in the UK”. So if I was targeting the UK car insurance niche I’d be looking at long-tail keywords that people are likely to use – like “car insurance in the UK” or “cheapest car insurance UK”.
There are a load of free or paid tools that can help you with keyword research, I won’t get into the details in this post; however, there are two that I use regularly – the free Ubersuggest tool or Jaxxy, a lite version of which is included with my Wealthy Affiliate membership.
If you’d like to know more about all the value I get from Wealthy Affiliate – take a look at why I chose them for my journey to online success.
Tying it all together!
So, in a nutshell, the detailed guide to post or video planning strategy has the following steps:
- Generate your ideas
- Define whether the purpose of each idea is to entertain, inform or persuade
- Make sure the ideas can be tailor to the niche and audience
- Optimise delivery of the idea to the audience – serve it up on a silver platter where they’ll definitely notice it
I hope you found this detailed content planning strategy post and video to be helpful! I’d love to know how you’ve got on, so please leave a comment in the box below – or on the YouTube video!
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