Gini Dietrich

Content Idea Generator: A Magical Tool to Help You Write

By: Gini Dietrich | March 6, 2013 | 

Portent's Content Idea GeneratorThanks to Lindsay Bell and an appropriately pitched story idea from a PR firm here in Chicago, I have a special surprise for you.

This is going to both surprise and anger you…at least anger you if you consider yourself a writer.

It is both cool and a little disappointing.

It is surprisingly accurate, but also a bit limited.

It is the Content Idea Generator from Portent.

Content Idea Generator, Say What?

A what, you ask? That’s right. It’s a tool that helps you generate ideas for your content.

There is no trial to use. It takes less than five seconds to figure out if you like it. It doesn’t cost anything. And yet, it gives you a gazillion really great (and some terrible) ideas for the headlines you can use to entice people to want to learn more.

I put in “public relations” as my key term and I got, “How Public Relations Changed How We think about Death.”

Content Idea Generator Public Relations Death

 Okay, kind of clever, but not totally appropriate so I hit the whirly gig button and got, “Sixteen Uses for Public Relations.”

Content Idea Generator Public Relations 2

Now we’re getting somewhere! As I continue to hit the whirly gig button, I get “The Best Ways to Use Public Relations,” “How Hollywood Got Public Relations All Wrong,” and “Why Public Relations is the New Black.”

I also love how it tells you why these headlines work (appeal to people’s fears, lists are popular, and here’s your chance to outdo MacGyver) and appeal to reader’s senses.

Of course, this still requires you to write the content for these headlines, but immediately you have an idea or two (or 16) that are actually viable.

We Don’t Like…

Right now, the only thing that kind of stinks is there seem to be a limited number of ideas. For instance, “The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Using Public Relations” is used for nearly every subject you use: Marketing, search engine optimization, leadership, pickles, and kittens.

And, if there were 378 tweets on it this morning while I wrote this, that number is going to exponentially increase as more and more people discover it.

Which means the web will soon be filled with, “Eleven Problems with Public Relations” and “Eleven Problems with Marketing” and “Eleven Problems with Umbrellas.”

But all-in-all, it’s a very cool tool that helps you come up with an idea for content, it’s free, and it doesn’t hurt anything to try it.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll soon see a post here titled, “How Public Relations is Better than Sex.”

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

  • Oooh. A new toy for me to investigate.

  • Definitely something worth playing with for a few minutes and thanks for sharing. How many ideas did you get per search term. Won’t everyone end up with blog posts with the same titles? Google would have a picnic with that.

    • @EdenSpodek That was what I meant by the web will be filled with “Eleven Problems with… Everything in the World.” It’s definitely limited in number of ideas generated, but perhaps they’ll continue to grow it.

      • @ginidietrich Then again, maybe there really are only 11 problems with everything in the world. 😉 It will be interesting to see where this goes and it’s definitely and interesting resource if you’re trying to cure writer’s block. Glad @belllindsay decided to share.

        • @EdenSpodek  @ginidietrich  @belllindsay I think you may be onto something there. I think there may really be only 11 original problems…the rest are just add-ons. 😉

        • @EdenSpodek  I don’t know…you might be right. I think there might be more than 11 problems with, let’s say, chewing gum. I know what would go first on my list: Gum that sticks to your face when you blow a big bubble and it pops.

      • @ginidietrich  @EdenSpodek Inevitably, some people will get lazy and use the canned headline recommendation, but I dig the concept. While I have a love-hate relationship with the list post, they work – but I’m also the punk that intentionally chooses odd numbers to give myself a bit of an edge when I write them. 10, 3, 5 are the most common list post items that I see.  
        Chuck Wendig always uses 25 in his Terrible Minds posts.

        • @jasonkonopinski  @ginidietrich Hmm, Jason, I think I’m going to start using the numbers 2 and 4. Thanks for that. 😉

        • belllindsay

          @EdenSpodek  @jasonkonopinski  @ginidietrich Brought to you by the number 11. And the letter Zed.

        • @belllindsay  @EdenSpodek  @ginidietrich Zed’s dead, baby. Zed’s dead.

        • belllindsay

          @jasonkonopinski  @EdenSpodek  @ginidietrich Blasphemy. Gini always cracks up when we’re meeting and I say “…yadda yadda X, Y, Zed….”

  • clindberg

    sssshhhhhhhh……… :-)@ginidietrich @spinsucks

    • ginidietrich

      @clindberg LOL!!

  • And it’s a wonderful link buding strategy for Portent.

  • belllindsay

    I loved the pitch on this also – as Gini mentioned. They obviously new us, the approach in the email was very personal and friendly – and they used one of their generated idea titles in the email subject header – it definitely caught my eye and (unlike many bad pitches) I red flagged it to explore when I had the time. A day later, I ran across an article about Content Idea Generator – and recognized it from the email. So I read it. That’s how you pitch – knowledgeable, creative and personal. That’s how you get your product/company name to stick in someone’s mind. 🙂

    • belllindsay

      G’AH! “..knew us…”

      • @belllindsay You’re lucky you caught yourself. I was about to harass you to death.

        • belllindsay

          @ginidietrich You probably still will. 😉

        • @belllindsay Nah…it’s not as much fun when you catch yourself. But you know what is funny? Not being able to find your send button.

        • belllindsay

          @ginidietrich *snort* {starts thinking up new way to punk Gini}

  • belllindsay

    Also, another angle on this (in relation to the concern of everyone having the same titles) – you can use this to generate titles to help with content ideas – and then tweak/rewrite your titles once your content is finished. I *always* change titles post writing. Inevitably your focus has shifted slightly from your original idea, or you’ve included an amazing tidbit or three that should be highlighted in your title.

    • @belllindsay I never write my headlines until the end. Never. So I might take one of these as a germ of an idea, but the headline would inevitably turn into something else.

      • belllindsay

        @ginidietrich Exactly. I mean, I write a headline as a bouncing off point from my idea – but really it’s just part of my writing routine and serves as a placeholder for me. It NEVER is the final title.

    • @belllindsay Yes this was my thought! Just seeing these and having a laugh will perhaps spark a better notion in my cobwebby brain.

  • I think the thing that saves this is their sense of humor. Other than that, it is seriously limited. But I do love that they have “the Amish” in there as one of the factors.

    • @KenMueller I think some of them are hilarious. One of the bubbles is “because people are arrogant.” Very funny.

  • gajen

    @ginidietrich @SpinSucks Love this. Thanks for sharing.

    • ginidietrich

      @gajen Cool, isn’t it?

  • DickCarlson

    Simple solution to ending up with similar posts.  Just add “…in bed.” at the end.  Or “ Hitler.” 
    “How Public Relations is Better Than Sex In Bed With Hitler.”

    • @DickCarlson As opposed to on the counter?

      • DickCarlson

        @ginidietrich I’m told Eva had a huge fear of blenders.

  • davidhunegnaw

    “Why you shouldn’t eat small business networking in bed.”

  • RichardDeVita

    You mean Public Relations is not Better than Sex ?

    • @RichardDeVita I don’t know what kind of public relations you’re accustomed to, but in my world? No.

      • RichardDeVita

        @ginidietrich Think this is good information and I appreciate article. Was only trying to bring a little levity with comment. My sincere apology if you were offended in any way. Have a great day.

        • @RichardDeVita Oh no! I wasn’t offended at all. I was trying to go along with your joke. Stupid typing.

  • Reminds me of the way my first creative director taught me to brainstorm – put down the brand name and then everything you can think of in many different orders.  And I always wanted the headline writing job!

    • @martinwaxman I’m surprised you didn’t have the headline writing job!

      • @ginidietrich I’ve always wanted to write headlines for a tabloid.  Maybe with this new app and my brain I’ll finally have the qualifications :).

    • belllindsay

      @martinwaxman I absolutely LOVE writing headlines. Nine times out of ten I change the headline of posts that come my way (fair warning to any potential guest writers! LOL).

      • @belllindsay I do that a lot on twitter too. And btw, was that a backhanded way to ask me to do a guest post?

        • belllindsay

          @martinwaxman You never have to ask, Martin! 😀

  • Oh, a shiny new toy for me! You don’t always have to use the headline they suggest (like @jasonkonopinski said), but it gets you started and sometimes that’s all you need.

    • @yvettepistorio  @jasonkonopinski For sure. I would totally use it for that. Probably in the same way I occasionally use the Headline Analyzer tool from AMI. It doesn’t give the answer per se, but it can help nail the right title down or get you going.

    • @yvettepistorio  That’s what I was thinking too — a new toy to play with! I think this looks fun and who knows, maybe something will spark an idea that actually takes me in a different direction.

    • @yvettepistorio  It’s definitely fun to play with and I got a few good ideas just while I was playing with it while I wrote the post.

  • Andrew Odom

    Really had a blast using this tool this morning. A lot of the “ideas” were stinkers are could be viewed as controversial or adverse to our desires but all in all it was a hoot! Thank you for another quality post!

  • This kinda reminds me of charging for blog ideas. I may be idealistic, but I can’t help but feel if you can’t come up with something yourself, maybe you shouldn’t be blogging that day? There are more than enough sources of inspiration out there without ideas that may or may not be relevant to you.

    • @Danny Brown Oh stop being such a curmudgeon. It’s just an idea generator and there are lots and lots of people who HAVE to write content every day, as dictated by their bosses. Even the best of us need some help with ideas sometimes.

      • @ginidietrich Well excuse me for having an opinion. I’ll mosey on over to Ken Jacobs now… 🙂

        • @Danny Brown Oh jeez. Excuse me for disagreeing with you.

        • @ginidietrich Bite me.

        • @Danny Brown  @ginidietrich Danny is SO punk rock. Barmy Army for life.

        • @Danny Brown GET OFF MY LAWN!

      • @ginidietrich  @Danny Brown I’m with Danny on the curmudgeon train here, particularly as my only suggestion is that they rename it the Crapulator, as its primary utility seems to be automating and accelerating our journey to Content Craptasia (have I said crap enough yet)?  I’m all for jogging oneself out of a writer’s block, and maybe this is good for that, but an idea generator this ain’t.
         I’ll see you at next Tuesday’s Curmudgeon’s Anonymous meeting, Danny.

        • belllindsay

          @creativeoncall  @ginidietrich  @Danny Brown Does NO ONE read my comments..?? 😉 I think it’s a neat idea for getting the creative *thinking process* started – especially if you’re blocked. As Gini mentioned above, some people have to write 10 blog posts a week – for different clients – it can get draining. As I said earlier, if the title gets you thinking, then you write a great post, just go back and tweak the title (as I do after every post I write anyhow – I tweak my OWN ideas). Of course, there will be people who won’t take the time (or won’t care) to do that, but that’s the case with *everything*, isn’t it?

        • @belllindsay  @ginidietrich  @Danny Brown I read your comments (isn’t that what I was supposed to say, Gini?)

        • @creativeoncall  @belllindsay  @Danny Brown I’m an innocent bystander here.

        • belllindsay

          @ginidietrich  @creativeoncall  @Danny Brown LOL!!

        • @belllindsay  @creativeoncall  @ginidietrich  @Danny Brown My thoughts exactly. I look at it like mind mapping. I’m a veteran headline writer but if I can take an existing idea, as crappy as it might be, spin it a few times and make it uniquely mine, I wouldn’t mind.  I think it’s when everyone takes the “suggestions” at face value and starts using them, that’s when we’d get slammed with the crappy.

  • People with bad PR skills might find it hard to find someone who wants to have sex with them which leads me to believe that some PR “experts” might use that tidbit to create a special niche to work in.

    • @Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes I can’t beat this comment. You win.

  • Hi Gini,
    Although I haven’t checked it out yet, I actually think this has some potential in a sort of mind mapping, jump-start-your-thinking kind of way. I see what Danny is saying, but I am just completing an online Build Your Author Platform class and am realizing that we are all at different skill set levels when it comes to things like headlines. The value here, at least for me, might be reading something that sparks another idea, that becomes the title I will go with. Or maybe I’ll try it for those days when I am in  time crunch or feeling particularly lazy.    : )
    Anyway, I shared your post’s link over in the class forum.

    • @JudyDunn I agree there is huge value in sparking an idea. Plus their descriptions are kind of funny.

  • NLCuk

    As if the world was not already full enough of bland, generic and derivative blog content… 🙂
    Interesting idea though. Reminds me a little of the William Burroughs ‘cut up’ technique used in his writing, which people like Bowie famously lifted for their songwriting.  Maybe if you put enough interesting ideas into the Content Idea Generator, something really interesting may come out?

    • @NLCuk It’s kind of like Mad Libs. Now THAT would be a fun blogging experiment. I don’t know about this cut up technique. I’m intrigued.

      • giesencreative

        @ginidietrich  @NLCuk It is a bit Mad Libs-like. Not very good at plurals, though. 😛

    • @NLCuk Yes, but my thinking was being handed one of those bland headlines could inspire me to write something GOOD on the same subject. And I am going to research this cut up technique, too!

  • Probably it will be “How Public Relations help with sex”. 😀
    Well, it might be useful when the creative part of our mind is a tabula rasa but if there weren’t enough bloggere writing list of something or about Market Samurai now the blogosphere will soon be plastered with copycat titles.
    Does this mean that my awful headlines will be like a purple cow? 😉

    • @Andrea T.H.W. You ARE a purple cow! 🙂

      • @ginidietrich Too nice Gini, but I must admit this is one of the best compliments I’ve ever received.
        Now I’ll have to change my profile pic. 😉

  • Hmm. I typed in media relations and got this, “Will Media Relations Ever Rule the World?” I would definitely read a post with that subject line! I think your warning is good and a very smart point. Overall, seems like a cool tool to get your juices going if you’re stuck or even if you’re not, maybe it can help you mix it up.
    The worst thing I see happening is seeing the same subject lines all over the place. We struggle with that already. I see it in Triberr all the time. So, I’d use this tool because it’s FUN and then tweak it 🙂

    • @kateupdates I can’t wait to read that on your blog!

  • Is there nothing new under the sun? Google <Shakespeare Insult Kit>

    • PennyHaywood

      @jdrobertson Certainly extends the range if you combine the two kits : Seven ways artless dizzy-eyed strumpets improve your PRs’ sex life 🙂

  • While headline writing comes easy to those of us in marketing/PR, SOOOOO many people struggle with headlines. I know my clients do. 
    I don’t think anyone should really take these ideas and run with them as is. After all, I doubt “11 Ways Telecommunications Can Find You the Love of Your Life” will work for my client. But there were others that weren’t half bad. I think this is more about getting your juices flowing, learning how to construct headlines that work and thinking about your content more creatively.

    • @lauraclick LOL! No?! How about “Three Ways Telecommunications is Better than Death?”

  • It’s a clever little tool to break up mental log jams and reframe information. Doubt I’d lift the title verbatim, but as an idea starter, I see folks using it.

    • @Suzi_C I think so too…I got several new ideas just playing with it this morning.

  • Portent

    @ginidietrich @SpinSucks Thank you for the review! Glad to see it’s also generating discussion in the comments

    • ginidietrich

      @Portent The crazies, I call them. I may have gotten a little defensive on your behalf.

  • VizwerxGroup

    @TCoughlin @lisapetrilli @ginidietrich Like the titles it comes up with. Clever tool.

  • ginidietrich

    @ckrohn1 LOL!!

    • ckrohn1

      @ginidietrich So much fun! And pretty darn good too. “How Hollywood Got Restaurant Deals Wrong.” I actually want to read that!

      • ginidietrich

        @ckrohn1 Ohhh! And “How Restaurant Deals Beat Death”

        • ckrohn1

          @ginidietrich Haha! I’m going to stay away from that one, though. “Will
          Restaurant Deals Ever Rule the World?” is much better 🙂

  • ginidietrich

    @martikonstant Kind of fun, isn’t it?

  • ginidietrich

    @caroljsroth You like?!

    • caroljsroth

      @ginidietrich didn’t try it out yet, but a cool tool worth sharing- thanks for alerting us

  • LeeTawil

    @ginidietrich This is definitely a cool tool to play around with. Thanks for sharing!

  • WriteWiseLLC

    RT @WritingTechDocs:#Content Idea Generator:A Magical Tool to Help You Write via @spinsucks #contentstrategy #writing

  • I’ve used tools like this before and I really like them. Most of the time they’re just something I use to get my brain moving. I don’t actually use the suggestions precisely as intended, because I fear that influx of everyone else using the same thing. I think it’s brilliant though!

  • JoelFortner

    @superveggiemom I think it’s pretty cool! Brilliant marketing by portent too.

    • superveggiemom

      @JoelFortner Agreed! It spat out some pretty fun ideas for me. 🙂

  • Som_Will

    @Toronto_PR_Guy @ginidietrich Amazing! I just spent 15 minutes playing around with this

  • JennyL0vett

    Thanks for RT @superveggiemom!! It’s a great tool for the competitor in me 🙂 @SpinSucks

  • MikeMcCready

    @ShellyKramer @ginidietrich Awesome tool! Thanks for sharing.

  • Drbeachbum

    RT @ShellyKramer: Content Idea Generator: A Magical Tool to Help You Write via @ginidietrich

  • Gini Dietrich

    I like it too, Andrew! I tried it with communications this morning and got some really funny ones!

  • mylefttom

    Awesome Awesome! Can we combine it with a rock band name generator to get cool titles like “Stone Temple Reasons Your Releases Get Read” and “Eleven Screaming Trees That Drive Blog Traffic”? Decaf time for me…

  • ginidietrich

    mdbarber Isn’t that fun?

    • mdbarber

      ginidietrich I thought so. It does have limitations, as you said, but I really like the idea and hope it grows. Hope you’re doing well.

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