This is one of a series of posts on how Rolling Stone Culture Council members can get the most from their publishing benefits. If you're not yet a member, find out if you're eligible.
To write a great piece for RollingStone.com, the first thing you need is an idea. It can sometimes seem like ideas are hard to come by.
Pro tip: If you collect ideas regularly, as part of your daily routine, you'll have them ready to draw on when you're ready to write.
Here are eight sources of fuel for your mental fire.
- Start with one of our "20 Questions To Kick-Start an Article." In a previous post, we outlined 20 evergreen questions anyone can use — regardless of your expertise or industry — as a starting point for a new piece, like "What's a fad in your industry that readers would be wise to roll with (or not)?" Bonus: Each of the questions can prompt many topics; just remember to choose only ONE topic per article. The more focused and "maniacally specific" you are, the better.
- Get industry news delivered to you. Especially when you're busy, it's worth investing a few hours into setting up some tools like Feedly, Twitter lists, LinkedIn groups, and even industry newsletter subscriptions so that key news tidbits are at your fingertips, 24/7. You can bookmark articles you want to respond to or use as research or talking points before you're even at the office.
- Assemble a company "knowledge base." A knowledge base is a repository for all that stuff that isn't quite ready for prime time yet, but ought to go into a development pipeline for later. Everyone in the company can contribute.
- Use your existing project management system to collect ideas, streamline research, get feedback and more. This blog post from GrooveHQ has a clever breakdown for companies using Trello, but the same principle could be applied to any PM system or software. Collecting ideas — and getting feedback from the team — in an organized fashion will improve the idea itself and streamline the actual execution when it's ready.
- Research what's already working. Tools like BuzzSumo, KeywordTool.io, Google Keyword Planner and Google Trends are all useful tools for determining what people are searching for and sharing online in your vertical or industry. It's not just about keywords — it's about how and why people search for or share certain content.
- Talk to your employees, colleagues and department heads. Even if you don't do this in an organized way (see Nos. 2 and 4, above), asking others what matters to your customers or partners right now is a really good way to uncover the topics that are right under your nose.
- Talk to your customers. I don't mean to suggest that you should actually ask customers for article ideas, but sifting through the customer info you collect already — conversations on social media, FAQs your front-line customer team fields day in and out, survey data, etc. — is a great place to drum up new content ideas. This is where you'll learn what the real pain points are and find ways to provide value.
- Take notes at your next industry event. Attending a conference with world-class speakers? Speaking at a conference or event yourself? Make time to attend breakout sessions and talks that interest you. These might provide fodder for an article ("4 Lessons From [X Event]") or simply kick your brainstorming into high gear.
Learning to recognize ideas when you see them will make your content creation experience infinitely smoother.