5 Steps To Better Brainstorming That Works for Your Content Strategy and Audience
Re:Think Innovation author Carla Johnson warns content marketers about brainstorming without doing anything to prime the work.
Omitting the critical preparation step, she says, prevents fresh inspiration. It can also lead to ideas that lack the proper audience focus, don’t align with your content strategy, and fall outside execution capabilities.
Set the stage
“Setting an objective creates consensus about the outcome you’re ultimately looking to achieve. It helps you decide what problem you want to solve and how it bubbles up to your goal. It also aligns your team around the work that will need to get done,” Carla says.
Seek inspiration and make purposeful connections
Next, set your objective aside (you’ll return to it later) and work through the five steps in Carla’s innovation framework. In the end, not only will you have a stream of actionable ideas, but you can pitch them to secure stakeholder buy-in:
Step 1: Observe. Pay attention to the world around you, using all your senses. For example, you might see children, a ball, a few squirrels, or some trees if you’re outside. If you close your eyes, you might hear music playing faintly somewhere, smell food cooked on a grill, or feel a warm breeze.
You don’t need to ascribe any meaning to your observations or focus on an objective. Simply be mindful of your surroundings and write each detail you notice.
Step 2: Distill. Scrutinize those individual details and discern their meaning in relation to each other. Look for similarities and categorize them into larger groups and patterns. For example, if you group children and a ball, that might bring to mind the idea of play; the sound of music and the smell of the grill could connect to ideas of entertainment or friendship.
Step 3: Relate. See where opportunities might exist to tell a bigger story about your brand. Compare the similarities and differences in the identified patterns and look for ways they might fit into your working world.
Ask yourself: “How might we transplant the ‘essence’ of friendship into our event challenge?” Or, “How might we apply the idea of play to the theme of our podcast?”
Not all patterns will translate but remember: There are no wrong connections, just ones that may not fit your needs. Prioritize the most evident connections to your business for step four.
Step 4: Generate. Solidify those abstract ideas into real possibilities. Take the broad list of how-might-we questions from the previous step and generate as many content ideas as possible for each. Don’t set any limitations. In fact, the wilder and crazier your ideas are, the closer you get to a truly innovative – and executable – idea. Form them as what-if questions, such as “What if we tried to …” or “What if we combine X and Y into …?”
Step 5: Pitch. You’ve already done the hard work by the time you reach this step. Carla refers to the pitch as “the journey of an idea, told in the form of a story.” If you can’t pitch the idea so others will understand and embrace it, you’ll never get it off the ground.