This post on generating blogging ideas was contributed by Graham Jones from grahamjones.co.uk.
Most bloggers give up after a short while; even though there are millions of blogs online, few are updated regularly and most have been abandoned. The difference between success and failure in blogging is often down to persistence. But, when I speak at meetings about blogging, people often come up to me afterwards and say “Ah, yes, that’s all very well, but I run out of ideas after a while, so I can’t blog regularly”. So, how can you be sure of coming up with a constant stream of blogging ideas? How can you be certain that when you open your blogging software you will always have something to write?
If you think about your daily newspaper it does not have a choice. The number of pages is set by the amount of advertising space they sell. Each day, though, has varying amounts of news – some days, very little happens. But it would be no good the journalists filling up the first few pages and then printing a notice on all the others saying “if we’d been able to think of anything to write we would have put it here”. No matter how little is going on around them and no matter how much space they have to fill, newspapers simply have to fill the space allocated to them – plus they simply MUST do it before a specified time. The only way they can achieve this is to have a system.
Develop a blogging planning system
The first step in a journalistic system for blogging is having a plan for each month. Set up a spreadsheet, a table in a word processor, or a calendar on your desk – it doesn’t matter how you do this, but you need a monthly plan. On that plan you need to mark out the days you will definitely blog. This might be every day, just the weekdays, the weekends, every Wednesday – whatever works for you and your audience. Now you have a visual plan of what’s needed you can start filling in the blanks.
Journalists have two kinds of stories – diary stories and “off-diary” stories. Diary stories are those things you know will definitely happen – such as events, meetings, press conferences and so on. There are endless directories of events online and you will know of specific events on particular days in your industry. Mark your diary with these events as “diary items” you know you can write about. Also, look for anniversaries and specific days that could trigger a blog – this might be Thanksgiving Day, or Mother’s Day, or whatever can provide you with something to write about.
Diary stories should give you a reasonable number of days with topics already allocated to them over the coming weeks and months. Now you need to fill in the gaps. The way journalists do this is to have regular “slots”. So Monday might be health stories, Tuesdays could be business, Wednesdays are for politics -and so on. For your specialism, you need to come up with several general topic headings that you could write about. All you then do is slot these into the gaps between the diary stories.
Filling in your blogging plan
Once you have allocated particular diary stories to specific days and topic ideas to the other days, now you have to start being more specific about those “off diary” stories. All you have in your planning diary for these at the moment is the title of a topic. You could still be facing a blank screen if you don’t do any more planning. Here’s what to do.
Get a folder that has as many sections in it as you have topics. Now, subscribe to RSS feeds on those topics, or printed magazines, newsletters – anything that has info on those subjects. When you see something interesting – at any time – simply print it out, or tear it from the magazine and slot it into the appropriate section of your folder. Then forget it.
Writing your blog without having to think
You will now be in a position to always be able to write something for your blog. Simply look at your planning calendar and see the topic or diary item you need to write about. If it’s a diary item, you will already have a good idea as to what you are going to be saying or commenting on. If it’s an “off diary” topic, simply open your folder at the appropriate section, pull out all the papers in there and you will have a load of ideas that will trigger what you want to say.
Using a system like this enables newspapers and magazines to guarantee they will fill all their pages. You can adopt a similar system so that you will always have something to write about and will never face a blank screen wondering what on earth to say.
Read more of Graham’s work at grahamjones.co.uk