One obstacle is common among authors, and it’s the reason so many are would-be authors. It drains creativity and stops the next chapter, the next page, the next word from being written. It clutches the writer’s creativity, and seizes it with no due process and no speedy trial. Knowledge of grammar and subjunctives, subjects and predicates, are left in tact, but the locomotive is gone – and these cars are left in the station – because they don’t have a great idea.
Our last article highlighted the opportunities that content marketing presents, but you might find yourself with writer’s block. There are several elements to the content process: ideation, scheduling, writing, and publishing. The two most difficult steps in content marketing are ideation and execution, finding ideas and writing regularly. Your ideas are the most valuable part of the process; writing weekly about nothing is pointless; publishing and promoting pointless articles is even more futile; and let’s not talk about how one should feel if they schedule out months of useless content.
Underdeveloped ideas create poor content. Poor content does the opposite of what that even decent content can achieve. Instead of boosting your school’s reputation and creating leads, shoddy content damages the brand and reenforces the notion that your school is not for that family.
Your takeaway so far should be this: focus on creating great ideas.
What is a Great Idea?
A great idea is one that connects with your audience, adds value to their lives, and extends your school’s brand.
Anything that your school publishes needs to have a particular audience in mind. This will not only determine how you write an article, where you will publish it, but also what your topic will be. A piece about the use of the Greek article in the New Testament will not grip and engage a mother of four trying to help two of them with math homework, but a quick guide through teaching 2nd graders long division will. Knowing the needs and wants of your audience – even if they don’t – will make your content more effective and begin to build your community.
Implicit in the point above is that content must contribute value. Value is measured in what the audience has now that it didn’t have before. We primarily focus on people’s progress. Progress means that the audience now has the tools or knowledge to move from A to B; they are able to move the ball forward, having learned a new skill or gained new information. Many photographers and cinematographers have been able to make Youtube film-making a lucrative, full-time project because they are consistently creating worthwhile tutorials for their audiences. Content that is meaningful will consistently bring people to your page and make your school an authority in the community.
Focusing on great ideas means focusing on a specific type of ideas, those that are related to your school and its culture. The school’s core values should serve as parameters for the type and tone of the content that is produced. Literature, health, history, and theology are all viable topics, but personal rants or political hit pieces are probably not aligned with your school’s culture.
Now that we know what a great idea is, where do we find them?
Where to Find Great Ideas
The first farm for great ideas is what you know. Not many sensible people would stand up in front of an audience and deliver a speech on a field they know nothing about. Write in areas of your experience and knowledge. This not only gives you credibility, but it also helps the audience see your passion. It is much easier to build loyalty and trust in an audience when you show that you are dedicated and enthusiastic about the topic.
Your school’s faculty and staff make up the second source of great ideas. Instead of farming ideas out of yourself alone, include the people that directly serve families with whom you want to connect. Their constant interaction with families gives them insight into what needs families are experiencing. Just after parent teacher conferences would be a great time to prompt teachers to record anything significant that might not be isolated to an individual family.
It is much easier to build loyalty and trust in an audience when you show that you are dedicated and enthusiastic about the topic.
A third source is new experiences. Draw from existing experience, yes, but also create a culture where you and your team are constantly on the look out for potential writing prompts. Comedians draw their best material from daily life, and content creators should do the same. This adds a level of authenticity, guarantees an element of story, and helps the audience see more richness in their own day-to-day lives.
The final source is a professional content marketer. The ideal content marketer will act as both a strategist and writer, helping brainstorm ideas and executing the content plan. Bringing in a professional can simplify the process by allowing all staff and faculty to continue focusing on their primary responsibilities and ensures that the articles are produced as scheduled.
Great ideas can come from many places. The task at hand is finding them and finding the people who find them. But what happens when they do?
Your School’s Future
Great ideas create motion. These seemingly small and incremental articles and publications are signs of vision becoming reality. They are the little pieces of snow that are added to the snowball as it rolls down the hill. The Disney Parks blog tells this story about Art Linkletter:
I’ll always remember something he said during our 50th when he shared a story about a man at Disneyland Park who asked him, “Isn’t it a shame that Walt Disney couldn’t be here to see this?” and Art said, “He did see this, that’s why it’s here.”
Content marketing is about being relevant, adding value, and extending the brand, but it does much more. It creates and cultivates life. As stories are told and inspiration given, these words become the nails and boards of the future. One day, the house will be built; the school will be more of what it is meant to be. The families will have a greater appreciation for what it is that they’re a part of, and more of the community will be looking in with wonder and curiosity.