idea_lightbulbThis situation sound familiar? You have an idea, then lose it, then come back to it again. You write it down quickly, check some email, get derailed, jump into a meeting, grab a coffee, then settle back in … only to hate what you thought of in the first place.

You have no problem writing a post once you have an idea, but coming up with the idea in the first place can be the hardest part. It’s too easy to spend minute after minute staring at a blank screen, the cursor blinking back at you, taunting your idea paralysis. It's a shame you can't crumple your computer screen and fire it towards the trash sometimes.

Look, I know first-hand that blogging can be hard. Often, it feels like you can’t get writing until The Muse drops by -- which may or may not be at an opportune time.

But the secret to generating blog angles at scale isn't creating more of those mythical "lightbulb" creative moments. It's about organization and regiment. It's about planning ahead. It’s not about forcing a moment of brilliance every time you open your blogging tools. It’s about making each and every idea work harder for you.

So whenever you have a single blog post idea: Stop! Don't write just yet. Instead, focus on generating as many story angles from that single idea as you possibly can. Here’s how to do it.

From One Idea to Many: An Exercise

Below is a visual describing how you might use one blog post idea to create multiple blog post angles. We’ll walk you through each step of this exercise, but we’ll continue to reference the below graphic throughout the post. In this exercise, we’ll work with three elements of a blog post (audience type, story structure, and content format) to come up with multiple pieces of content. Depending on your content strategy, you may have more blog post elements to tweak, but we’ll use these three for the purposes of this post.


First, come up with a solid blog post topic that your audience will love.

Sometimes the hardest part about coming up with multiple blog post ideas is thinking of the first one. But in order for this “idea machine” to work, you need to already have an idea in your head.

The idea generator above works best if you start with a topic or concept that actually matters to your audience. It's not always best to talk about what your favorite blogs are talking about -- you need to take the pulse of what matters to your specific prospects, leads, and customers. If you’re feeling stuck, check out the performance of your top posts, dive deep into social media monitoring tools, and chat with customer-facing coworkers to get a pulse on what your audience wants to learn. Through this research, you’ll get both a quantitative and qualitative look at what your audience wants to hear about -- and maybe a topic to get started.

Once you’ve chosen a topic, you’ll need to refine it into a specific blog post angle. To show you how to do this, I'll use an actual topic that we’ve written about recently: proper social media etiquette for marketers.

Next, choose a category under each blog post element to generate a story angle.

To refine your initial topic, make a selection under all three categories to generate additional story angles. (Note: You may have multiple choices under each blog post category -- for example, you can have both slides and text in a blog post.) You choose your target audience (executives at prospect or customer companies), the story structure of your post (a list), and the medium to use (slides and text).

You've now framed a broad topic like social media etiquette into a tangible story angle: a slideshow with text detailing a list of social media etiquette best practices for CEOs. You may have even learned recently -- say, in this previous HubSpot post ;-) -- that odd numbers created more effective lists, so your first title becomes, "11 Social Media Etiquette Tips for CEOs."

Boom! Story angle #1. But you’re not done yet …

Then, pivot the headline ever so slightly to generate additional story angles.

So now you have one angle -- but you’ve got way more of those up your sleeves. For even more, simply change some of the elements of that headline. Rather than all of social, perhaps you talk about Twitter specifically. Instead of listing best practices, maybe you list common mistakes or a handful of CEOs who serve as exemplary social media marketers. Now you have four story angles from one post format -- a list post in the form of slides, aimed toward executives. This is definitely more nuanced than the first two steps, but this is where you'll get the majority of your new stories.

Need more ideas? Choose other categories in each blog post element.

Let's say you choose Beginner-Q&A-Text Article. Your next blog post might be a transcript of an interview you did with a social media manager inside your company about the basic etiquette tips any marketer should follow on social.

Or maybe you choose Beginner-Curated-Text Article. This could easily become a link roundup of the best resources to learn about social media etiquette that you find from around the web. (Just be sure you curate and cite content properly.)

From there, you can simply save all these great blog post ideas into your blogging pipeline or editorial calendar and return to them the next time you're ready to write.

The more you routinely use this idea generator, the less you'll need to rely on the graphic. Your mind will automatically start with this notion of taking many angles on one idea, and it will start to feel much more natural to generate ideas for your content.

Before long, you won’t need to wait for The Muse to drop by -- you’ll already have a million great ideas under your belt.

What tips do you have for coming up with awesome blog post ideas? Share your tricks with us in the comments.

Image credit: qisur

how to make a marketing content machine ebook

Originally published Jun 18, 2013 12:30:00 PM, updated February 01 2017


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