A Case Study in Blog Brainstorming: How We Came Up with This Month’s Ideas

Between CopyPressed and our CopyPress Community Blog, more than 25 posts are published from the CopyPress office each week. (That’s not counting featured posts and guest posts that appear on other sites.)

That’s a lot of content.

And it’s more than a lot of words, it’s a lot of ideas. Every published piece needs an original idea that hasn’t been previously covered.

Coming up with that number of fresh ideas is a huge undertaking. But you already know that.

The Fight For Big Ideas

Keeping up with content creation for a blog is a major undertaking, and coming up with ideas, well, that is half of the battle.

This is especially true for our CopyPressed blog. With such a heavy publishing schedule (four posts/day), sometimes it feels like the idea pool has drained dry. So this month we decided to try something different.

Using our newly released Ideation Guide, we tried this new strategy for group brainstorming.

Steps for a Successful Blog Brainstorming Session

Rather than get the entire office in one room, where everyone comes up with one idea, we decided to do multiple, smaller brainstorming sessions in groups of 4-6 using the following process.

1. Identify a Brainstorm Lead and Brainstorm Team

For a successful brainstorming session, you need one brainstorm lead and 4 or 5 team members. The Brainstorm lead will have a few additional responsibilities throughout the process, while the Team will be mostly responsible for contributing to the meeting.

Group Brainstorming2. Get to Know the Blog, Its Audience, and Its Categories

Before brainstorming begins, all members of the group should spend some time getting to know the the blog and its audience. The CopyPress Ideation Guide section on Learning and Understanding  goes into great detail on how to accomplish this through a series of questions and research tips.

This may require researching the client or company associated with the blog. Luckily for us, in our brainstorming session we could skip this part because we are already very familiar with our company.

But we did need to take time to identify our blog categories. You should always identify categories before you start brainstorming for a blog as this will be the base of all of your ideas.

The CopyPressed blog is based around four main categories which served as the base support of our brainstorming process.

CopyPress Categories3. Research and Find On Your Own

Before you get the group together, all participants should spend at least 15-20 minutes alone Researching and Finding industry news and trends related to the blog categories. The Ideation Guide lists all types of strategies for finding facts, stats, and valuable details.

Each idea team member should jot down topic ideas and trends while researching on following sites.

  • Quora
  • Topsy
  • AllTop
  • Google Alerts
  • Google Trends
  • Social Sites

Notes should include:

  • Stats
  • Trends
  • Broad Topics
  • Facts
  • Quotes

These notes will provide inspiration during the actual brainstorming session. The Ideation Guide goes into full detail on how to use these sites to properly research and find information.

4. Start with a Mind Map

The Brainstorm Lead will be responsible for creating a Mind Map prior to the meeting. Creating a Mind Map is simple. Start by adding the blog keywords to a board big enough that the entire team will be able to see it.

Then off of each of the blog category, add topics, trends, and words that are relevant to the starting category words.

I spent about 20-30 minutes really flushing out this map so that it would be completely filled with fresh keywords and related topics.

Mind MapHere are some tips for flushing out your mind map.

Ask Yourself Questions

If you are unable to build off of certain terms, ask yourself who, what, where, when why, and how about the term.

For example, if you are stuck on the term “LinkedIn,” and you can’t think of any offshoots of the term, as yourself:

  • Who? — Who is on LinkedIn? colleagues, head hunters, field experts
  • What? — What is LinkedIn? business-oriented social media
  • Where? — Where do people use LinkedIn? in the office
  • When? — When do people use LinkedIn? to build new relationships, to reconnect, to find jobs, for business development
  • Why? — Why do people use LinkedIn? job search, share information, connect with others in the industry

Don’t get frustrated if some questions lead to dead ends or you end up repeating yourself. Erase what doesn’t work. Keep what does. You won’t have great concepts every time.

MindMap.LinkedInUse Research to Flush Out the Map

During the research step, I searched for LinkedIn in Topsy. I found these results which sparked concept ideas for my mind map (listed in bold).

  • Bing Adds People Autosuggest: Find Celebrities & Colleagues With Public LinkedIn Profiles — Celebrities on LinkedIn
  • LinkedIn’s Algorithm Tells Flickr Co-Founder Caterina Fake To Apply For A Job As Senior Product Manager At Flickr — Job Boards
  • Connecting on LinkedIn the Right Way — This article talked about LinkedIN Influencer Content and LinkedIn Today

Auto-fill Your Brain

If you are completely stumped for terms, try Ubersuggest.org. Using Ubersuggest, you can enter your keyword and it will prompt suggested terms organized by letters. If you I were trying to build off of Linkedin, this list would give me a few good building blocks: endorsementsetiquette, email and email signatures.

Keyword suggestion tool LinkedinMake a Permanent Map

If you are going to do frequent brainstorming sessions, build out your mind map somewhere you won’t need to erase or remove it. We are working on putting ours on a projector so that we can pull it up any time we want to work with it.

5. Build a Grid with Connection Hooks & Emotional Appeals

In the CopyPress Ideation guide, we take a deep look into the elements that make a piece of online content interesting and sharebale. We found that there are six main Connection Hooks and Emotional Appeals that make content sharebale.

Connection Hooks

Connection Hooks are themes commonly found in great online content. We identify those hooks into six categories:

  • Educational – Connects Deep Concepts and the Mind
  • Topical – Connects Concepts and the News
  • Fresh Spin – Connects Concepts and Unrelated Concepts
  • Self Interest – Connects Concepts and Personal Identity
  • True Story – Connects Concepts and Real Life
  • Curation – Connect Concepts and More Concepts

These Connection Hooks are useful during the brainstorming process because they get your mind moving in a certain direction without completing boxing it in.

Emotional Appeal

We also found that the best way to make content even more shareable is to make it emotionally appealing, because content layered with emotion has a higher likelihood of connecting and resonating with audiences.

Emotional appeals are helpful during the brainstorming process because they help enhance ideas by adding an emotionally appealing spin to the original idea. This will help make the idea more likely to connect with the audience.

Build the Grid

To bring Connection Hooks and Emotional Appeals to your brainstorming session, create a grid with intersecting columns and rows.

GridDraw this on the board or project it next to the Mind Map. Feel free to add or remove emotional appeals that you feel best fit your audience and blog. We found the following terms worked best for us were: Funny, Engaged (emotion created by an extremely deep look at something), Scary, Amazing (awe inspiring), Sad, Annoying, and Shocking (surprising).

This image shows our wall chart, along with our brainstorming session in action.

Grid6. Assign a Note Taker

Gather the group in front of your Mind Map and Chart then assign a  note taker. The note-taker will be responsible for documented the session digitally. While participating in the meeting, the note taker will also write out the ideas generated during the meeting and as well as writing out all information that supports the idea.

(This should be shared with all of the Brainstorming team after the meeting to ensure all ideas were properly conveyed and documented.)

7. Assign a Moderator

The moderator will be responsible for leading the session. This is important because time can quickly be lost if and when the group falls off track. The moderator needs to:

  • Stop conversation when it veers toward unrelated topics.
  • Suggest ways that the conversation could lead to a blog topic. And if it is too far off, remind the team of the purpose of the meeting.
  • Help pull a bunch of related ideas into one central topic.
  • Write ideas on the board.
  • Start and lead conversation.

8. Start the Conversation

With the entire team positioned in front of the mind map and chart, start the process.

Pull a Term from the Mind Map

The Moderator should pull a term out of the mind map and/or ask a team member to choose a term or topic from the mind map.

BrainstormingSelect a Connection Hook

The team, using what they know from their research, should think about how tie the topic to a Connection Hook and start the conversation.

GridFor example, if you have Linked INfluencer on your mind map, as a group try to figure out how it can fit into a Content Connection Hook .

  • One person might mention that it could be a good Educational fit: How to Become a LinkedIn Influencer.
  • Anther person might build off of that and suggest a Curation fit: The Top 15 LinkedIn Influencers.
  • Another person might suggest a Storytelling/Case Study fit: How I Became a LinkedIn Influeners (an Interview).

Select an Emotional Hook

From there build out the ideas by then categorizing it by Emotional Appeal.

  • Maybe How to Become a LinkedIn Influencer can be tweaked by making it tied to Engaged: 18 Steps to Becoming a LinkedIn Influencer.
  • The Top 15 LinkedIn Influencers can connect with Shocking and turn into Top 15 LinkedIn Influencers and How They Are Changing the Face of LinkedIn.
  • How I Became a LinkedIn Influencer could be tied to Amazement: 8 Ways Becoming a LinkedIn Influencer Drastically Changed My Business.

By adding an emotional appeal, even if it is small and subtle, the idea becomes more defined and unique.

Document the Ideas

The moderator will write in the general idea in the grid so that the idea isn’t repeated. The note taker will document the idea with a full description so that the ideas can later be shared with others.

Don’t feel as thought you can’t add more than one idea to a box in the grid. The goal is not to fill the grid, but rather use it as a shaping tool that helps box in your ideas.

And remember not to burn yourself out. The group process should take no more than an hour. Any longer the the group get mental fatigue or begins to trail off on unrelated topics.

9. Repeat with a New Group

Brainstorming is an ongoing process. Keep the ideas fresh by bringing in new groups and mixing together old groups.

Fresh ideas come from fresh minds so keep the energy light and make this a fun process rather than a chore. Do this monthly or weekly.

We did three different sessions, each with different groups and were able to generate about 30 great ideas from the meetings.

10. Let Us Know How It Goes

This was the process we used. Now go try out the process yourself! And let us know how it goes. What works for you? What doesn’t work for you? This process is an evolution and we are learning as we go and we’d love to see what you learn as you go.

Want More? Read the Full Ideation Guide

Compelling online content relies almost entirely on one thing: A Good Idea. We need good ideas to make content effective and useful. This training guide will take you through the entire ideation process and help you understand how to create compelling, results-driven content ideas.

The process outlined in this guide can be used for ideation for a variety of content types including: blogs, infographics, webinars, eBooks, podcasts, and more. So what are you waiting for?

About the author

Raubi Marie Perilli

Raubi Marie Perilli is the founder of Simply Stated Media. She regularly writes about freelancing, writing, and marketing on her blog and around the internet. Learn more by following her on Twitter or signing up for her free training, How to Get Your Freelance Business Off the Ground Without Wasting Time.