Struggling to find ideas for blog posts? Follow these step-by-step instructions covering what you’re looking for, where to look, who to ask and how to flesh out that research. Everything you need to create an interesting and unique blog post is in this… erm, interesting and unique blog post!
After reading through this article, not only should you be able to create a relevant, news-worthy blog post; but you should be able to take note of ideas for future posts: The deliverable of this exercise should be one planned and primed article that’s ready to be written in addition to a list of a further 7 or 8 headline ideas for future reference with relevant links. These are the steps and methodology we use here, so hopefully they’ll help you too…
Step 1: Find out what other people are talking about
image credit @khalidalbaih
Choose a relevant keyword for the site you are writing for i.e. ‘Road Freight’. This should be the basis of your research. Check social network sites: Try typing in the keyword to see if people are talking about it; log into Facebook… type ‘YourKeyword’ into the search bar then hit ‘Public Posts’ on the left and see what that turns up. Remember, if it’s worth talking about then it’s worth reading about… IT’S NEWSWORTHY.
We’ve had a lot of success “mining” social media in this way – if anybody is talking about the topic it will pop up here. Make sure that the details they are talking about are relevant to the business you are writing the content for. Twitter’s search facility is also great for this purpose, and there’s always trusty groups on LinkedIn and unanswered Q&A questions on Quora.
If you’re finding social media conversations a little thin on the ground, run some of these more “obvious” search queries:
… to get a bit of intelligence as to what other industry voices are saying with a view to taking a different slant and/or inspiration from their musings.
Failing this, here are some more specific search queries:
intitle:YourKeyword intitle:TheTypeOfListYouAreSearchingFor intext:YourProduct
So for instance, if you wanted a list of blogs promoting an express service for road freight transportation, your query would look like this:
“intitle:” will obviously show results where your queried the keyword in the title whereas “intext:” will look for the keyword / phrase in the body text itself. Combining the two techniques will bring up a list of relevant blogs that are currently talking about the specific type of product which can be an excellent basis for research.
Step 2: If you fail to find anything newsworthy…
image credit @topgold
Try looking at some statistics websites; these are great ways to find news stories as each fact or table is a blog post in itself. It takes time to find relevant statistics but they are a gold mine of news – make sure the data is up-to-date though: Figure out what industry the company is involved with and find the relevant statistics i.e. Department for Transport/ Department of Health/ Forestry Commission etc.
Jump onto Google and search this query: YourKeyword statistics inurl:gov.uk so if your client was a restaurant, your query would be “food statistics inurl:gov.uk“. This search will unearth some good factual data from the relevant governmental department. In this case, the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
Sifting through these statistical sites will give you lots of ideas for blog posts/newsletters/press releases.
Tip: It is a good idea whilst you’re checking these resources to take note of a few extra tables/data to add to a list of “potential” angles/blog titles (keep the link of course!) It will save you a job when you come to create your next article!. As a by-product of that you’ll have a little more ammunition for infographic activity (but we’ll save that for another post!).
Step 3: For a more press release style post about a particular client…
image credit @tapetenpics
This will involve one-to-one liaison with the company. You will need to adopt a journalist/fact-finder mindset to build a credible, timely and newsworthy piece. I’m sure a little bit of investigative journalism via email, Skype or telephone is not too difficult a task.
Many companies believe that not much happens around them on a day-to-day basis. This is never the case; it is your job to unearth some interesting details that would normally have gone amiss. Ask them passive questions with a yes/no answer to start with to get an insight into what is happening within the company at the moment; we tend to ask questions along the lines of: At the moment or in the past 3 months, has your company or any of its employees:
…hosted or participated in any social events?
…taken any steps towards going ‘green’?
…became aware of any new trends within the market?
All you need is one answer of ‘yes’ to these types of question and you have yourself a relevant blog topic or news story. Once you find a relevant topic, you need to delve deeper in order to find out the juicy gossip about the particular subject. Let’s say for instance, the company official answered ‘yes’ to “at the moment or in the past 3 months, has your company or any of its employees hosted or participated in any social events?”
The next step would be to investigate about the event: Questions like “What was the social event held or taken place in, where was it, who was hosting it, who was attending and when did the event take place?” should pursue. But don’t just stop there… ask them to elaborate on what the social event aimed to achieve, whether the event was for educational/promotional purposes and whether or not the company/individual has been involved in any other exhibitions at trade shows/conferences or in the media recently.
Finding out this information is essential to getting the meaty content to create your blog post/press release. The rest of the writing to pad out the article is down to the skill of the individual; but now you have a relevant, up-to-date news topic worth writing about.
Step 4: With an idea for your blog post; it’s time to do the research.
image credit @danperry.com
By now you should have something of relevance to work with as an interesting story. The next step is to do your research about the specific article topic. For instance, you might be writing a blog post for a bio-fuel car sales company (we’ll aptly name BIO F.C.) and may have found some interesting statistics with figures about the decline in greenhouse gas emissions from road vehicles over the last 10 years on the Department for Transport website.
Your blog post could be “How bio-fuel vehicles are helping to save the planet”.
THE NEXT THING TO DO IS RESEARCH.
Using these as guidelines you should research these topics: the host; what they sell/promote; and the angle of the story.
So for this instance, you would research: their company (BIO F.C.); bio-fuel vehicles; and how greenhouse gases are affecting the planet. Researching these topics will give you enough information to produce a blog post, newsletter or press release.
Step 5: Message/Target Audience/Language.
image credit @katerha
So you should have the relevant information. Now you need to consider how you are going to present the article. Make a plan of what you’re going to write and in what order but remember these three principles:
Message – You need to make the first paragraph informative but interesting. Include every interesting point in the first paragraph to draw in the reader. Then go into detail about the points in the following paragraphs once the reader is hooked and wants to read on.
The middle sections should re-iterate what you briefly mentioned in the first paragraph/s but should go into more detail. The first paragraph is designed to skim over the article and draw the reader in. The following paragraphs should be full of the relevant information that you have researched, should be interesting as to not lose the reader mid-article and should be leading up to a final punch-line or message; which is where the final paragraph takes effect.
You need to end the blog post positively. Blogs and social media content should be conversational, relevantly interesting and should leave the reader feeling happy with what you are trying to say. However on the other hand, newsletters and sometimes press releases should aim more towards the promotion of an actual product. E.g. in a newsletter for BIO F.C., the starting paragraph would mention the interesting greenhouse gas statistics and the consequences of not reacting to the build-up of greenhouse gases. The ending would be to go over how the products at BIO F.C. can help to save the planet etc. As ultimately, the article will be all about promoting the company BIO F.C. and their bio-fuel cars.
Target Audience – Always remember the type of audience you are aiming your article at. If you are writing a review for a new mobile phone with free peer-to-peer messaging applications, the target audience would be young, possibly aged 16-25. Keep the content relevant; don’t bore them with ramblings about how the phone was manufactured and where etc. Let them know what it does and how it’s better than any other product on the market.
Language – Keep the language relevant to the target audience and/or the formality of the message: if you are writing a blog post for the DJ community; make the text conversational and throw in a few tongue-in-cheek comments. However, on the flip side, remember to keep content factual and professional if you are creating a press release for the National Health Service for instance.
With this knowledge you should have enough information to create a series of relevant blog posts, you should know the audience you’re aiming at, know about the message you’re trying to create and should have a plan ready of what to write and in what order. You should know how to start the post, how to finish it and what language you need to use in it.
Just remember… fail to prepare; prepare to fail… Now get writing!
Let me know whether any of these steps have been helpful to you, and it would be interesting to hear your own techniques for brainstorming ideas for blog based content…
Until next time.
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