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6 smart ways to brainstorm content ideas

How many times have you sat at your desk ready to write about something you know a TON about, but still don’t know where to begin or what to write?

As a subject matter expert writing contributed content, it’s not always easy to come up with a fresh spin on what you are close to and know so well. And who wants to waste their time typing, retyping, and backspacing, over and over?

Remember, the whole point of writing contributed content is to share valuable information that establishes your authority and credibility, offers solutions to people’s problems and pain points, and supports an overall positive association with whatever you’re promoting. Easier said than done, right?

As you aim to meet these objectives, you may need some prompts to get the juices flowing. As you consider the questions and ideas below to help get things moving, be sure to keep your computer, a favorite note-taking app like Evernote, or even a pen and paper handy to jot down your ideas while you ask yourself the following:

“What kind of industry conversations do I frequently find myself in?”

When you’re chatting with someone who doesn’t know or understand what you do, what questions do they ask? Pay attention, because the best way to educate people is not by surveying what they know, but instead what they don’t know or misunderstand about your industry, brand, or product/service, so you can educate them.

“Is my industry about to undergo some major changes and if so, what are my thoughts on that?”

Sharing your predictions for or opinions about the future of your industry when it is obviously undergoing change is a great way to establish yourself as a thought leader. As someone who is in the industry, you will have a great vantage point to weigh-in and insert your opinion into important topics. For instance, COVID-19 continues to dramatically shape the PR industry—can you offer something novel about that? Always do a quick Google search to be sure the topic hasn’t been fatigued.

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“What do I disagree with in my industry? Or, are there any concepts I can demystify or debunk?”

Perhaps you read about your space often and disagree with what’s being said, or you feel like your competition or the media doesn’t have it quite right. This gives you an edge and an interesting angle to pursue. Be prepared to back up your assertions—it’s a smart way to show that you are a trailblazer in your industry.

If your self-inquiry isn’t fertile enough ground, then take some additional steps to cultivate inspiration:

  1. Read or watch the news or industry publications to get in touch with trending topics and/or angles that you have an opinion about or better yet, can challenge. See what other subject experts are saying and if you agree with their views or not. Caveat: pay attention to topics that have been overdone. You’ll always want to inject a fresh perspective and not more of the same.
  2. Pick up a book that’s either related to your industry or even offers conventional wisdom you are able to challenge, adapt, or put into practice. For example, Dale Carnegie’s classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People, can offer inspiration that you can apply to your industry. Perhaps take a deep dive into his advice and talk about situations they have applied to you and helped (or not).
  3. Get social, either online or in real life, and connect with others about what you do. Notice the questions they ask, the reactions they have, and their opinions about what you have to say. This should jumpstart some good ideas about ways you can help educate them or otherwise shape their opinions. Plus, you’ll likely leave with a plethora of ideas for topics for contributing content and maybe some new friends and connections.

Just remember, creative inspiration comes at unexpected times. I recommend always keeping a journal or device nearby to capture ideas—whatever works for you to get your content out of your head and onto the screen.

As you ramp up your own authority and credibility for your practice, consider joining the waitlist for my new LinkedIn Learning course called “How to Build Your Own PR Practice.” To be added to the waitlist and receive news when the course is launched, please click here.