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The five steps to great content ideas

Great ideas are like gold dust, and at Raconteur we've spent years mastering our content alchemy. While there is no easy fix, we have developed a methodology for coming up with great content ideas at speed and scale.

Great ideas are like gold dust, and at Raconteur we’ve spent years mastering our content alchemy. While there is no easy fix, we have developed a methodology for coming up with great content ideas at speed and scale. Here’s our five‐step process that, when followed correctly, will dramatically increase your chances of striking gold.

1. Do your research

The very first step in creating great content ideas should always be to find out what your audience wants. You might think that you already have a good understanding of this, but with the amount of change that industries are experiencing at the moment it’s safe to assume that the priorities of your audience have changed too. Therefore, it might be necessary to re‐profile your audience to understand their new challenges and what they really need insight on.

To do this, we recommend doing some form of market research, for example a quantitative survey or conducting qualitative interviews with your current customers. Not everyone will have the time or the budget to commission a huge piece of research, but even a short survey or conversation with members of your target audience will provide you with so much insight to fuel your content ideas.
Once you have this, you should look at what is being written about right now and what ‘whitespace’ your brand’s content could potentially fill. At Raconteur, we have an in‐house editorial team who collaborate with our network of tier‐one journalists regularly to analyse the content landscape and come up with unique ideas… but we understand not everyone is quite so lucky.
However, there are a number of tools and techniques anyone can use to aid your content ideation process. We use a combination of SEO tool SEMRush (though Ahrefs would work just as well), social listening tool Pulsar and search query aggregator Answer the Public, to get the best insights into what the online reader is looking for. You can also examine what relevant publications are writing about and look for new, unique angles to take. 

2. Get the right people in the room

The secret to creating great content is diversity of thought, so make sure you have a range of people in your commissioning meeting. Identify the creatives in your organisation and get hold of those who actually speak to your target audience, such as salespeople or account managers. Make sure each member fulfils a particular “role”. Ideally you’ll need someone with a commercial hat on thinking about articles from those angles; you’ll need at least one Devil’s advocate ensuring ideas stand up to scrutiny; and you’ll need a managing editor to oversee. Finally, if you can get hold of someone in the job role you’re targeting – bingo! Going after CFOs? Ask your head of finance to attend. Setting your sights on CEOs? Try your managing director or equivalent. The insights they provide will be invaluable.

3. Discuss everything

Commissioning meetings are built on dialogue and collaboration, so make sure you create an open forum where everyone feels comfortable speaking. There is no such thing as a “bad” idea – with enough discussion you can find new angles which will transform even the most unpromising concepts. Remember, “good” ideas can become great ideas with a little brainstorming; no idea should arrive on the table fully formed. The real key to achieving great ideas is asking the right questions. What information gap is this filling? What should my target reader take away from this article? Is this really something that they are worried about or interested in? Never be afraid to question generally held assumptions.

4. Play with formats

Anyone can publish a series of articles, but you are vying for very limited attention, so you have to be creative. Switch in listicles (‘top fives’, for example), for‐and‐against features and roundtable discussions to keep your readers engaged. If you have the in‐house abilities, make the most of your design or creative team and break pieces up with lovely illustrations and high‐quality, highly relevant photographs, rather than relying on stock imagery. Support each article with additional datasets or pull‐stats to help hammer your point home.

5. Briefing is everything

Whether you’re writing the piece yourself or are commissioning an external journalist, having a brief to follow will ensure that the output matches expectations. Make sure to outline the key questions you want the article to answer, have an idea of the ‘tone of voice’ you wish to achieve and, if commissioning externally, include links to inspiration articles or background research you might have done. The clearer and more comprehensive your brief, the better your finished piece will be. 

This piece was taken from our C‐suite & Covid‐19 content toolkit series. Download the full toolkits which hold ‘ready‐made’ content ideas for capturing the attention of CEOs, CFOs and CIOs.

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