The inherent problem with banging your head against a wall week after week for fresh, innovative blog post topics is that it’s all in your head. Get outside it for a minute. The brilliant idea isn’t hiding from you in there. It could be that it never was.
New York-based filmmaker Kirby Ferguson proposed in a TED talk last August that the common definition of “original” may not even exist. He thinks our true source of creativity is born from three elements:
This is called a remix. Full-on, Danger Mouse mashup style remix.
“Everything is a remix,” says Ferguson. In our individual innovations, we are building on the groundwork of knowledge we learned from in the first place. Copying is how we learn, because “we can’t learn anything new until we’re fluent in the language of our domain.”
Copying breeds interpretation and re-imagining. Even on a subconscious level, we formulate ideas through an extraction process. We take what we know, and make it our own. Isn’t that a bit more rational than banging our heads against a wall?
You can write totally innovative blog content without the menacing pressure to produce something born from thin air; just embrace the remix.
Here are 5 ways to kick-start the remix for killer blog content:
Take readers along for a throwback to an earlier time in your industry’s evolution.
Copy: take an event, person, or era that made an impact.
Transform: research your chosen topic and pick out the details that surprise or inspire you.
Combine: take those details and present them to readers in a way that will convince them of how remarkable the event/person/era truly was. You might use a visual timeline, cross-compare analysis, or storybook narrative; all fresh ways to breath new life into an old bite of information.
Make strange connections
What do bacon and e-commerce have in common? Mad Men and web usability? Your readers don’t know yet, but with a blog title that uses combined relevance to explain something, you’ll have them hooked to find out.
Copy: take two concepts that don’t necessarily have anything to do with each other.
Transform: find the connections between the two concepts. This is where your creative prowess kicks in.
Combine: explain the details that connect your two unthinkably disconnected concepts. Make your discovery clever and useful in a how-to (“How to Choose Insurance Like The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”), or lesson-style format (“What Orange Juice Taught Me About Angel Investors”).
Amplify a conversation
The questions, comments, and complaints you field day-to-day with customers through social media, email requests, phone calls, and in-person are excellent blog fodder. Like your conversion testing data, customer interactions across channels are worth saving for future reference. Keep a file for the conversations that stand out.
Copy: take a real-life customer or prospect query about your business, from anywhere on the web or in-person. It could be as simple as a tweet such as, “Hey, can I print my instant quote from my inbox?”
Transform: formulate a response to the question or comment.
Combine: showcase your response in a blog post. You could start a regular user response column, describe the customers’ experience, relate the question to something else (another opportunity for combined relevance), or something completely different. Imagine the question played out in a best case/worst case scenario, an illustrated comic or a fantasy-novel spoof.
Redefine the headline
The Internet connects us to a dizzying amount of news content. Make some sense of the stories that affect your readers.
Copy: take a current news story that is relevant to your industry. Refine your process for finding the juicy stuff with Google Alerts, Google Trends, and publication content aggregators like Alltop and Huffington Post.
Transform: as you read the story, make notes about what surprises or alarms you about the content. Jot down questions and comments to help form a critical examination of the piece.
Combine: summarize the main points that are most important to your audience, and add a fresh interpretation: your point of view, key takeaway, dissection, evaluation, or critique.
Repurpose existing content
I can already hear you moan that you’re a young company and the backlogs of blog posts and white papers perfect for repurposing don’t exist yet. Don’t worry. We have other ideas.
Copy: take your earliest business plan summary, the first mass email you sent, your old “Coming Soon” landing page, or a piece of your marketing content (even a blog post from last year will work).
Transform: ask interrogating questions about the piece you’ve chosen, such as:
- “What is this?” (Hard one, I know).
- “Why did we make it?”
- “What did it do for us?”
- “What could have been done better?”
- “How else can this information be communicated?”
List responses as they come to you. Let the memories of developing the content flood back. Ah, nostalgia!
Combine: Slice up the piece into new content formats, deliver a cross-comparison analysis, or open up to readers about your company’s experience. Heck, this could become a full-on case study or “Through the Eyes Of” narrative. For old blog posts or white papers, try offering a revised edition with new information, a rebuttal to an argument made, or an adventurous re-imagining.
You might operate with the belief that as you twist and tease your brain muscles to sprout radically new blog content ideas, you’re open to anything.
If that were actually true, blog content development would be a breeze, because you’d be open to letting all the brilliant stuff going on around you be absorbed and recollected in your process.
As it is, some people have a hard time accepting this. But as our blog content remixes suggest, there are limitless pathways of creativity available to us. We build our innovations on a foundation laid before us.
Open your mind to the possibility that we are not self-made, but are dependent on one another for creative impetus. As Ferguson says:
“Admitting this to ourselves isn’t an embrace of mediocrity; it’s a liberation from our misconceptions and it’s an incentive to not expect so much from ourselves and to simply begin.”
What do you think? Is everything a remix?