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Content is king. Content wars. These terms are tossed around in marketing meetings and pitches, but are meaningless unless strategic thinkers can develop a plan to achieve content royalty. A good writer with experience in Internet content writing is a must, but his or her job generally is to execute based on ideas from the agency’s content marketing team. It’s all well and good to ask clients to submit content ideas, and while they may be able to submit some relevant topics, the onus typically falls on the agency. After all, that’s what the client is paying for.

Content topic ideas are not vastly different from other marketing ideas. They can appear at unexpected times and places or in the midst of creative brainstorming sessions. In reality, though, ideas constantly permeate society. Coaching each account team to listen, read, ask and connect will generate ideas that can make clients stand out from the online content crowd.

Social media

Social media is an obvious — and still good — place to start. The challenge is to take a topic that is popular in social media forums and create content that stands out from what is already being published. A good content writer or provider can help accomplish that. For example, one writer helped a client formulate an opinion piece about how Facebook’s proposed “thumbs down” button could actually promote a decline in online discourse. This take on the then-popular topic was just slightly different enough compared to other submissions to give it a fresh appeal. Perusing Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and other sites can be a goldmine for topics — and a trending topic means a hashtag is already available for use when posting the finished piece.

What’s in the news

National news headlines are likely trending on social media, but more localized headlines can often unearth a wealth of ideas that can be applied to regionalized audiences, and often on a broader scale. For example, a retail client that has experienced success due to a local zoning law, or through a state-run small business financing program, can author, through its agency, an article about how such a program can create similar successes across the country. Listening can be a lost skill in a noisy world, but it’s startling what can develop when one ear is consistently kept to the ground.

Entertainment as news

Like it or not, much of society is enthralled by those who permeate entertainment news. Celebrity selfies and Instagram photos take center stage, even in the midst of political and economic chaos. Depending on the client, opinion pieces based on these and similar trends can gain a lot of traction. Perhaps it’s a statement on society priorities; an escape from too much negative political discourse; or the good and bad points of technology sharing. Performing online research to see what has or has not been written on such topics can help in the effort to write something new and different.

Creating topics through original research

Conducting original surveys has never been easier, thanks to online surveys and social media. By suggesting to clients that they create surveys among their captive audiences — either through email or on social media — can generate plenty of material for Internet content postings. It also creates original content, even if the subject matter is already popular. For example, one agency in Texas conducted a survey asking citizens about purchasing a popular product, and then broke respondents down by political party; this led to a piece about how the product had bi-partisan support.

Since most social media surveys and many online tools aren’t created to be statistically significant, claims shouldn’t be made as to their statistical accuracy, unless a reputable survey firm is actually used.

Internal sources

Sometimes ideas are in front of the clients’ noses but they are too busy or distracted to recognize them. Encouraging them to think of problems they have solved for customers and turning those into case studies can lead to a wealth of content opportunities. Human resources can also be a potential source; perhaps a regulatory change, such as in health insurance, can be formulated into a piece on how it has changed employees’ lives. One employee brainstorm prompt is to ask employees about something that happened in their work day that made them think: “My job would be much easier if only …” and to fill in the end of that sentence. Not only could it change the workplace, but it can also provide fodder for a piece about employee input, problem solving and other real-life issues that resonate with several audiences.

Content topics aren’t always obvious. It’s great to be able to relate to popular topics, but creative ideas, combined with a talented writer and professional content provider, can help online content stand out from the crowd.

If you have a content marketing program, or are planning one, download our ebook:  100 mistakes businesses make when starting, optimizing and scaling content marketing programs.  Learn from the mistakes of hundreds of other companies.  100 mistakes walks you through common and uncommon challenges that they faced with their content marketing programs.

Michael Marchese is the founder and CEO of Tempesta Media. He is responsible for corporate strategy, executive team leadership and overall business operations across all the company’s segments.

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