What do you do when everything is set up, but the ideas don’t come? I mean, it happens to us all. We just sit down, ready to write, but everything we come up with doesn’t work – or even worse, there are no ideas at all.
And often, in these situations it isn’t even your fault. After all, you’ve prepared. You looked at other great examples and read up on the important literature, for example that piece on how we should write story-based content instead of story-infused content and that Forbes article on How to create an easy content marketing strategy you’ll actually use. Heck, you might even say you’re over prepared, but as you can’t go back and forget what you’ve learned, what other opportunities are there available to you?Have you considered crowd sourcing?
Have you considered crowd sourcing?
How to crowd source internally
The first place to look for ideas has to be within your company – this can be with your team or your colleagues. They can be a great source of ideas, even if they’re not normally used to doing this kind of work. In fact, especially because they aren’t used to this kind of work they might have insights that you, as somebody who has been exposed to the industry’s ideas and therefore experience theory induced blindness where you can’t see the flaws anymore, might miss out on. That said, if it is not their field there are some things that you should take into consideration.
You need to avoid group think here as well
For a long time we were told that the way to go was brain storming. This turns out not to be quite as clear cut as we thought, however. There is always the risk of group think. There are many ways to avoid it. The easiest one by far, however, is to allow people some time to work on their own and write down ideas before you bring them all together to discuss them. This allows you to pool both their individual creativity and then the team’s ability to take those ideas and run with them. For that to happen, however another thing needs to be in place.
People need to feel their ideas will be appreciated
They need to be able to trust that their ideas will not be ridiculed or dismissed out of hand. Especially if you’re working with people who are new to the field who might be uncertain about whether their suggestions have any merit, if there is even a whiff of judgement, they will clam up.
Instead, use what creativity gurus refer to as ‘lateral thinking’. This is where no idea is dismissed, however silly it is, because sometimes a silly idea might spark a better idea that wasn’t visible when only the main topic was considered. In this way the silly idea opens up a new area for consideration and might give a new twist to an otherwise staid idea. For example, when somebody came up with the idea of, ‘Let’s make a game where we launch birds at pigs hiding behind blocks’ the creators could have laughed it out of the room, but then they wouldn’t have made Angry Birds nor become multi-millionaires.
The best way to give creative freedom is to make sure whoever is wielding the brainstorming pen is willing to write down everything, without judgement. As that’s most likely to be you your rule should be, ‘write first, question later.’
How to crowd source externally
Of course, internal crowd sourcing can only get you so far. Perhaps your team doesn’t have any ideas either. Perhaps they’re too busy. Or perhaps you’re a one man show and there is no team! In that case, you might have to rely on outside help. Fortunately, here too there is help to be had.
The first and most obvious place to look for ideas is your audience. Obviously, you actually need an audience for this to work, but for those of you out there using their company’s blog site to promote products and generate interesting content, why not use it to create a back and forth with your readership? This will kill two (angry) birds (pigs?) with one stone. First of all, it will give you the crowdsourcing you need. Secondly, you might end up really engaging some of your audience, which will make them far more loyal to your blog and thereby you brand.
There are plenty of writing services where professionals help put together documents and ideas for professionals. Though this might not be a mainstay request, they can still often be of use. Heck, their writers might even enjoy some time off from the usual gig! Make sure that you get a good one, though, rather than just a fly by night.
Alternatively hit up one of the freelancer websites like Upwork and Freelancer. Though I’ll immediately admit not everybody is equally talented on these websites, if you’re willing to take a bit of time to find the gold among the dross, you can find some fantastic people here. The best part? Once you’ve found somebody you like, you can keep working with them and possibly even expand their role in other ways as you gain confidence in their abilities.
Take a page from somebody’s book
Or you can just copy. The internet is such a massively huge place that almost every idea is going to have been tried out there. If you just know how to look you’re going to find some fantastic and interesting examples. It’s just a matter of combining them with your ideas and making them your own.
The truth is, ideas are almost free nowadays if you know where to look. There is a huge number of people out there who are looking to get a leg up and get their name out there who are willing to help you out for a little money. Now obviously some of these people aren’t going to be very good and don’t deserve a leg up.
Others, however, are going to be future stars, just as soon as they’re discovered by somebody that matters. Maybe that person is you. And maybe while you’re helping discover them they can give you some absolutely fantastic content ideas that help give your business a leg up as well. Who knows? But it’s certainly worth a try, isn’t it? I mean, the investment is small and the payoff could be astronomical.