A digital signature is stamped to a contract, and your career timer starts running. The agreement binds your company to the provider of a content marketing platform, and it binds your marketing team to the idea that storytelling can grow your business. The people you convinced to sign the agreement are now watching and waiting to see the benefits of a new content marketing program.
It’s time for you to start brainstorming content ideas that stand out on the web, social media, and email. Content so good that it deserves a place in people’s lives. So you book meeting after meeting for hours on end. As soon as a meeting with one department ends, people file out and the next group arrives.
That night, you sit alone in your study, trying to refine the content ideas captured earlier in the day. They’re filled with internal thinking, and written in jargon. Every idea is centered on your company and its products. You’re standing in creative quicksand, you cannot escape it on your own.
Hours later, you walk into the kitchen. Quiet. Your spouse asks if you’re okay, and if this new job is the right one for you. You walked away from a job offer at Apple because it is notorious for its secretive and closed environment. You read when The New York Times reported that Apple employees often aren’t told how their work will be used. That closed mind-set is anathema to you. It has been since you read “The Era of Open Innovation.” You quote that article aloud in your kitchen. And you quote it again in an email to your marketing team, “Not all the smart people work for us, so we must find and tap into the expertise of bright individuals outside our company.”
“There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.” – Victor Hugo
In today’s attention economy, marketers must become master storytellers, a transformation which requires us to understand what moves people to act, to understand their psychology, to understand their context, and to be committed to publishing information that is in their interest.
We understand that telling stories that matter to people outside our own companies requires not one single voice, but a constellation of voices made up of smart people who have unique understandings of the industry and the people that inhabit that ecosystem. That’s why, last month, Skyword announced the addition of idea management software to its suite of marketing technology and content creation tools. Skyword Ideation Management offers marketers a process for collecting, evaluating, cultivating, and approving ideas, then transforming them into viable assignments to meet the monthly publishing goals set for a content marketing program.
Capturing these ideas and nurturing them over time is the overarching value of Skyword Ideation Management. In 2014, GE released a campaign called Ideas. It reminds us that new ideas don’t always enter the world with the defenses needed to survive the jeers and barbs thrown at them. So now, Skyword taps into internal and external contributors, acknowledging the principal of open innovation that ideas come from everywhere, not just from within. It shelters ideas until their time has come or until they have been expanded by a great editor or another contributor.
The Content Standard has two editors. Together we manage an editorial calendar, filling it with stories that cover our 11 existing website categories. And we work with writers craft those stories in a way that hooks and holds the attention of multiple reader personas. Each editor has a separate full-time responsibility as a member of Skyword’s marketing team—so we rely on each other, on our contributors, and on Skyword Ideation Management to ensure we consistently overcome the biggest challenges in content marketing and content strategy.
In the past, it was the sole responsibility of the content strategist or the content marketing manager to plan content marketing assignments. Today, an entire marketing team can submit content ideas based on insights pulled from the specific data sources managed by them. For example, consider a situation where:
Insights and opportunities like those arise constantly. But with ideation tools, they are never lost. Instead, they are placed in the hands of a content team with the ability to execute quickly.
A content idea can be simple, comprising only a proposed title and a brief description. Or it can arrive in a more mature state. Idea templates in the Skyword Platform display fields from the content template that are associated with the selected content type. So, in this example, we see that the contributor is required to clearly define the audience and protagonist of their story as well as the conflicts that will arise:
This clear understanding of the audience and their challenges means that contributors deliver stories that create feelings of empathy in the audience—so while you answer relevant questions from the marketplace, you’re also winning hearts and minds.
Editors and contributors can start a collaborative discussion on an idea before it is approved. Editors can point out alternative sources or help refine any part of the idea template. All feedback remains tied to the idea even once it is accepted as an assignment.
Describing the skills of a great beat reporter, the journalist Chip Scanlan said, “Beat reporting takes courage, discipline, and judgment, knowing which story has to be written today and which can be put off. It requires teamwork with an editor and other reporters. Working quickly: getting to sources and obtaining information and then writing on deadline stories that give the news and why it matters. Not getting into a rut.”
That quote resonated with me as a content marketer who completely trusts this publication’s roster of freelance contributors and looks at them as an extension of the marketing team at Skyword. (And as someone who relies on contributors’ creativity to reach our goal of publishing 60 new stories each month.)
Contributors are thoughtful and generous with the ideas they share—so those ideas should be treated like valuable natural resources: sometimes used right away, and sometimes saved and refined for later.
The idea backlog in Skyword Ideation Management helps editors plan even coverage across every category and section of the digital publication. From the backlog on the left, one can drag and drop ideas into a particular month.
Once an idea is added to a month, the pressure is on for the content team. Each idea receives further refinement in the form of discussion feedback from editors, brand reviewers, and so on. Discussions remain active to external contributors so they can address feedback as it arrives.
The original ideas are each expanded until an editor is comfortable in either sending the idea to a managing editor for review, approving and scheduling the idea, returning the idea to the idea backlog for publication at a later date, or declining an idea that has simply reached exhaustion.
Ideas are ugly. Ideas can become exhausted. Often ideas are born before their time. An artist can afford years of exploring to shape an idea or a theme into a transcendent form. Content teams need each other’s skills and experience to take a thread and weave it into a wonderfully rich quilt that connects facts, ideas, and experiences into a story that stands out. Ideation tools exist to facilitate the kind of collaboration those content teams need to connect that story to bigger audiences.
Remember that true innovation requires working with people outside of your organization. Remember that ideas deserve to be nurtured. Remember the words of Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock, and your content marketing and your life will be the better for it: “All that exists is a product of someone’s imagination; treasure and nurture yours and you’ll always find yourself on the precipice of discovery.” Treasure your ideas as well as the ideas of others. Never throw them away.