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You’re all alone on this one. The clock is ticking, and a client who recently hated all of your carefully harvested ideas expects 20 new (fantastic) options by the end of the day. What’s a brainstormer to do?
Everyone has experienced difficult clients, and much worse—difficult topics. This article will cover ideas and strategies to help you turn a time sensitive ideation task into something pleasant and fun to do.
Set aside anything distracting or upsetting (like an angry red email from an impatient client). The ideation process demands 100% of your attention, so all misguided attempts to multi-task will only result in failure. Here’s a checklist you should follow for each ideation session:
When you’ve completely turned off the outside world, it’s time to plug-in to helpful tools. Open a search tab and a blank Word document.
Before you leverage the interwebs for ideas, you should squeeze yourself for creative insights. List all ideas that instantly come to mind, without concern for ideas that were rejected, or are repeated, obvious angles. Here are a few ways to force yourself to think from a fresh perspective (for this exercise, I’m sticking to ‘airline’ as the assigned topic):
Keep in mind that when your ideation session ends, your brain won’t just stop cooking-up ideas; brilliant titles might pop into your mind hours later, after your subconscious has worked on it. For that reason, you should always keep a notebook with you and be prepared to capture ideas.
Only after you feel mentally exhausted from thinking about the topic, you are finally primed to find original ideas online. Not only did your personal session yield a few great ideas, but it also demonstrated for you the easiest ideas to come up with, so that you can avoid those ideas when you see them online.
When it’s time to attack the interwebs you must face everything trendy head-on, and become one with bacon. Or Narwhals. Or whatever it is that your target audience blindly loves at the moment. Here are a few places to get started:
Being familiar with these four sites will put a brainstormer into the right frame of mind to produce ideas for this target audience, but it only works if this is the niche for your content. If a client would prefer to target soccer moms, then you will need to find social networks for that audience to familiarize with for brainstorming purposes.
When you’re mentally primed and prepared to think like a Redditor (or whomever you’re targeting with these ideas), then get started. For this exercise, we’ll use the topic ‘dogs’ as an example.
Here are a few terms that you can add to your topic to find listings of published articles on that topic:
Most of your client’s competitors will be creating similar content for similar end goals. Browsing through their content is a good way to avoid copying ideas, but it’s also a great way to get inspired. Do you see something they did half-heartedly? Re-envision it in a better framework. Are there customer comments that haven’t been addressed? Your client’s customers likely have similar questions that you could answer for them.
Return to the social sites that apply to your target audience. Search that site for articles related to your topic, and note others’ fails and wins with content. This is an opportunity to improve upon others’ work, as well as a good source of inspiration.
Search the actual news (not just news aggregators) for information or upcoming events related to your topic. This is a great way to come up with content that’s not wholly evergreen. For example, a weird news story could lead to a fabulous article about weird topic-related discoveries.
Remember to generate holiday-related content ideas for clients approximately two months before any holiday, so that there’s adequate time for idea acceptance, content cycle, and publication/promotion. Holidays are inspirational for brainstormers, because of their personal associations. Think through your topic-related holiday experiences, and the ideas will come easily.
Because you are using others’ work for inspiration, it’s important to triple-check your work for stolen ideas. Here are a few ways to avoid copying:
When you feel confident that your ideas are original, all that remains is to polish up their presentation and deliver them to a client. Make sure you document every idea every submitted to a client on a spreadsheet to avoid duplication two years down the line, and use codes like red highlight for ‘used’ or strikethrough for ‘rejected.’
This process can be followed for any topic, and generally works for anything that isn’t incredibly specific. However, if your topic is incredibly specific that might be something to address with a client. For insights on how to address issues with clients in general, and specifically with difficult clients, check out next week’s article, Brainstorming for Difficult Clients.
Thanks for reading!