I've been racking my brains all morning, trying to come up with new topic ideas for the Ghost blog. It's one of the hardest parts of my job, and never seems to get any easier.
One approach that I haven't been relying on enough is bringing in other people to help me.
I often browse RSS feeds or chat to people on Twitter to find inspiration, but there's also a source of inspiration available to me all the time that I overlook: my teammates.
Just because your colleagues aren't working on content directly doesn't mean they don't have great ideas you can use. Here are some of the ways you can draw those ideas out and give your brain a rest.
Ask your team to share their expertise
An example I came across recently on the Help Scout blog made me realise how easy it is to let the expertise of our teammates go underutilised when it comes to content ideas. Greg explained in his Help Scout post how he was able to publish stories about writing better and front-end testing with CasperJS by relying on the varied experience of different team members.
You might be surprised by how keen your colleagues are to share their expertise when asked. And if they're not so eager, remind them that teaching others makes us learn better ourselves.
Intercom's Director of Engineering, Brian White, shared his process for screening engineering applicants in a blog post. This is useful knowledge for Intercom's audience, but could have easily been missed since Brian's main responsibility isn't marketing.
You can get your teammates to write their own posts, if they're keen writers, or you can tease the information out of them. An interview format would be an obvious go-to, but you could also try turning interview notes into a more story-based post.
You could also ask your colleagues to share some of their favourite work examples or a case study, and talk you through their process, and why they're proud of this particular work. This can be a really eye-opening experience that helps you learn more about your teammates and what they do, as well as creating useful content for your readers.
Two of Buffer's developers, Michael and Julian, wrote a post for Buffer's engineering blog after they built Buffer's diversity dashboard. This post gave them an opportunity to share some of the technical details from a specific project within their roles at Buffer.
Ask your colleagues to share something personal
On the Wistia blog, the whole team gets involved via a regular format called Non Sequiter Fridays. Each Friday, a team member takes their turn to write a post about something personal. They've covered topics like paper airplanes, competitive air guitar, and even doughnuts.
The point of these posts is to let the team share their interests and help Wistia's readers get to know the team on a more personal level.
Another example is Brian Scanlan's post on the Intercom blog about his personal growth and how the company has changed during his first year on the team.
If your teammates don't want to write their own content, you could ask them to tell you about something they're interested in, before researching it further and creating your own post sparked by their idea. When I worked at Attendly our CEO once said he thought it would be interesting to find out more about Princess Leia's hair in Star Wars. I wasn't a Star Wars fan, and never would have thought of that idea, but with a bit of digging I was able to write The ultimate analysis of where Princess Leia's buns came from.
You could also ask your teammates to each share a link to something they enjoyed at the end of each week and round them up into a list. Here's how Buffer turned team reading recommendations into content inspiration.
At Basecamp, the Signal v. Noise bloggers often ask all of their team members to share their thoughts on a theme, like how they listen to music.
Ask your tech team about little-known features
I wrote a post a few months ago about some of the web apps I find useful in my daily workflow, and for each one I had a quick chat with the creator. One of the most fascinating questions I asked them was about the features many of their users don't know about.
I learned this handy tip about task manager MeisterTask from MeisterLabs CEO, Michael Hollauf:
You can use Task Relationships in MeisterTask, which allow you to set tasks as blocked by, related to, or duplicates of other tasks. Then, for example, MeisterTask will inform the owner of a blocked task when the blocking task has been completed.
And Colin Devroe told me about some of the hidden features in his to do app for bookmarks, Unmark. Here's one of them:
Unmark can automatically take your favorite Tweets and bookmark any links in them. So, on a Saturday evening when you're perusing your Twitter stream, favoriting like a mad person everything you'd like to read or watch on Monday morning when you get back to your desk, Unmark will automatically parse those tweets, find the links, and add them to your queue. I love love love this feature.
Plenty of products have hidden features that aren't useful to everyone, but they're included so the right type of user can get even more out of using the product. It's fun to discover these, and it can make you more productive.
Asking your developers and designers about their favourite little-known features of your product could even uncover things you didn't know.
For instance, our CTO Hannah taught me that I can double-click on a post in my Ghost blog's admin to edit it, instead of clicking it once, then clicking on the edit button in the preview. I use this nifty time-saver all the time now, but I probably wouldn't have discovered it on my own.
And now you know how to do it too!
The more avenues you have for finding content ideas, the easier the process becomes. Add these three to your list:
- Ask your team to share their expertise
- Ask your colleagues to share something personal
- Ask your tech team about little-known features in your product
And if you're still struggling for content ideas, try these 11 tactics too.