Building Your Idea Generation Machine from Every Corner of the Office
Marketing Content Strategy

Building Your Idea Generation Machine from Every Corner of the Office


When my clients ask me how Skyword comes up with topics—sometimes hundreds per month—I always say, “We have an idea machine in the back that we turn on at the beginning of every month.” Of course, that’s not exactly true. Our idea generation machine is a team of talented content strategists, editorial managers, and associate editors researching industries, listening to social trends, and analyzing search demand.

In this article, I will share four essential tips I’ve learned from my six years of generating topics for many different industries: automotive, software, health and beauty, television, entertainment, technology, mobile devices, and more.

Building Idea Generation MachineBuild Your Machine

First, assemble your content marketing team. The ideal roles on this team include a producer or project manager, a strategist, an editorial manager, and a copy editor. Each person plays a critical role in maintaining the idea generation machine. Project managers keep the timeline on track and remind the team when it’s time to ideate, finalize, and produce. The strategist keeps the goals in mind—they take creativity and make it work toward business results. The editorial team turns mediocre ideas on a whiteboard into beautiful assignment summaries.

Establish a Timeline

The best teams plan five to six weeks before the desired production month. So if September is the production month, ideation should start the second or third week of July. Five weeks out is the rough brainstorm, with each member of the team bringing insights from their respective domains. Having conducted industry research and competitive analysis, the project manager brings those insights to the brainstorm. Strategists often bring market insights they’ve derived from social listening and search engine keyword analysis tools. Editorial members know what was published last month so they can provide insight into what worked, what didn’t, what post needs a follow up, and which contributors should be used. Editorial can also poll their pool of contributors for topic pitches that can be workshopped in the brainstorm.

Select Your Tools

At a minimum, your content marketing team needs these three basic tools.

  1. A platform to capture and refine ideas and polish them into assignment summaries. Excel or Google Docs work, but a content planning solution that captures and keeps history of the ideation process is even better.
  2. Social listening tools to understand key conversations in the market, keep watch of influencer subject matter experts, and monitor competitors. Sysomos MAP is a great option, but through advanced Twitter search you can also effectively analyze conversations.
  3. Search discovery tools like Google AdWords Keyword Planner and Google Trends help content marketing teams stay on top of the information that specific audiences seek on a regular basis. Use filters with these tools to segment and dive deeper into the specific demographics. Advanced tools like Moz also provide deeper search insights into keyword volume, search impressions, and search opportunity analysis.

Solicit Input from Everyone

Ideas are like opinions: Everyone has one. Don’t limit the idea generation process to just the content marketing team. Build a mechanism that allows for internal stakeholders, external partners, customers, sales teams, and product teams to pitch ideas. The content marketing team’s job is to decipher and refine the ideas that have value. It’s helpful to have a process or tool that allows people outside the content team to pitch ideas and allows the content team to easily approve, reject, or hold for the next planning cycle.

When all else fails, defer to the data. Data is incredibly important when planning the editorial calendar and generating ideas. Leverage the reports that can be generated from social listening tools, search tools, and content marketing software to dig deep and ask why. The answers to that question will open up opportunities for new ideas and an effective content planning cycle.

Interested in taking your content ideas to the next level? Check out Skyword’s eBook on how to build, manage, and optimize your content strategy.

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