Writer’s block is something that plagues every content marketer from time to time. Sometimes these bouts last for a couple of hours, while other times they can drag on for weeks. Avoiding lengthy blocks requires a profound understanding of the root cause, as well as solutions for coming up with fresh ideas.
Understanding Content Exhaustion
Content exhaustion is the term used to describe the temporary inability to come up with ideas or effectively convey ideas through writing. It’s essentially the marketing version of writer’s block. As business consultant Carmen Rojas points out, you may have content exhaustion if:
If one or more of these statements describes your situation, then it’s likely that you’re suffering from some form of content exhaustion. But how did you get here? Before we unpack some strategies for overcoming content exhaustion, it’s important that you’re able to recognize what got you into this predicament in the first place. As a result, maybe you can avoid issues in the future.
In most cases, content exhaustion can be directly tied to an overdependence on one person – i.e. you. Content creation is a team effort and needs to be treated as such. Even if you’re the only writer on staff, other parties need to get involved in some form or fashion. Enlisting the help of others – including the CEO and entry-level employees – can provide much needed relief and help you avoid burnout.
It’s also important to discuss breaks. Taking regular and refreshing breaks plays a vital role in staying focused and remaining productive. If breaks are a foreign concept to you, then your content exhaustion makes total sense.
There are many different “break strategies,” but one of the more tried and true methods is the Pomodoro Technique. With this method, you set a timer for 25 minutes and work until it goes of. You then take a short five-minute break to grab a snack, get some fresh air, or stretch your legs. This 30-minute cycle is known as a Pomodoro session. Once you take four Pomodoro sessions, you take a longer break of 20-30 minutes and repeat.
“Working in such compact time periods helps you get rid of distractions and focus more intently,” content marketer Courtney Seiter says. “I found that having a finite beginning and end to each chunk of work gave me a little edge of urgency–I closed out tasks more quickly and made the ‘little decisions’ faster because I knew the clock was counting down.”
There are obviously plenty of causes for content exhaustion, but overdependence and a lack of breaks are two of the biggest culprits. If you can eliminate these from your life, you’ll find that bouts of exhaustion are fewer and farther between.
But what happens when you’re in the midst of content exhaustion and have to meet a deadline or produce “X” pieces of content over a given period of time? While reflecting on what went wrong is fine, you have to deal with the issue at hand. This is where the following strategies for finding fresh content ideas come in handy.
1. Ask Your Readers for Input
Sometimes your readers can be your greatest inspiration for content ideas. If you can’t come up with anything on your own, ask your readers for their input. If you have an active community, this can be especially valuable. Two or three ideas each from a handful of readers can supply you with enough good ideas for weeks.
You might not even have to directly ask for inputs. By reading your blog’s comment section or reviewing social media posts, you can see what your readers are talking about and use these ideas as inspiration for a fresh piece of content.
2. Check Out What Your Competitors are Doing
While you never want to copy what others are doing, you can get some good inspiration for your own content efforts by reviewing what your closest competitors are doing. Take some time to check out their blogs and take note of the different topics they’re writing about.
In order to use the competition for inspiration, yet avoid copying their ideas, you’ll have to get creative. Here are some pointers:
Do you see how it’s possible to use the competition for inspiration, without blatantly copying or upstaging them? In a time of need, this can give you a couple of ideas.
3. Create a Recap or Roundup Post
One brilliant idea is to create a recap or roundup post that touches on content that’s already been written. You can recap content you’ve already written in the past by publishing something like The 9 Most Popular Posts From Our Blog in 2016. This requires very little effort and can actually generate some good return in terms of traffic and clicks on other posts.
Another option is to create a roundup post from experts in your industry. These are posts with titles like 27 Marketers Discuss Their Best Lead Gen Tips. This strategy requires more work – you either have to pull quotes from existing content or seek them out via email – but can provide some excellent visibility for your brand.
4. Accept a Guest Blog Post
If you have an active blog with a decent audience, chances are, you get occasional requests from people inquiring about guest blogging opportunities. While they most likely have ulterior motives – such as enhancing their own visibility or SEO efforts – obliging them can help you as well. It gives you a chance to publish content without having to write an article yourself.
5. Review Customer Service Issues
Your customer service exchanges – whether through email, social media interactions, or call center logs – can prove invaluable in assisting you with content inspiration. (And this is a technique that shouldn’t just be reserved for moments where you struggle to come up with ideas.)
Take some time to review common issues your customers are having with your products and services and then develop a blog post that explains the problem and provides solutions. Not only does this give you a topic, but it may also assist in decongesting your customer service lines.
6. Check Out Trending Topics
There are a number of tools online that can help you identify trending topics in your niche. Google has a way of viewing trending searches, along with Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms. By typing in a keyword related to your brand, you can see exactly what’s being discussed at that very moment. Again, you have to be careful not to copy what others are writing, but this can at least serve as a good point of reference and inspiration.
7. Use a Blog Topic Generator
If all else fails, you can always use a blog topic generator to see if you can find an idea. You don’t want to rely on generators for all of your ideas – they aren’t always relevant or unique enough – but there’s nothing wrong with occasionally referencing them.
HubSpot one of the leading generators. Simply plug in three nouns that are relevant and the algorithm will spit out a few ideas.
Having an endless stream of content ideas at your disposal can prove valuable in a time of need. Preventing content exhaustion in the first place is the ultimate goal, but being able to come with up some topics at the drop of a hat can prove to be a real life-saver. You can’t always be at your best, but being able to quickly recover when everything feels hopeless is the mark of a successful marketer.