How to Generate Content IdeasI’m a content person.

I love creating content.

I used to write on Spin Sucks every day.

Earlier this year, we changed that strategy and I’m sad I no longer write every day. I mean, I got hours back in my week, but still.

I’m not the only person this is true for, but I also recognize not everyone adores the creative process like I do.

And if writing articles, engaging on social, recording videos or podcasts, or designing awesome graphics makes you cringe and click over to YouTube to see if any new cats have interacted with babies in the last 24 hours, you’re not alone.

Some people dislike the process of content creation.

Some don’t enjoy editing and revising.

And some struggle with generating content ideas.

It’s that last one we’re going to tackle today, because if content creation is part (or all) of your job, and you hate it, there’s not a whole lot I can do to help you other than recommend you learn how to effectively outsource.

Creativity Doesn’t Just Happen

As a communications professional, content creation is an automatic part of your job, no matter which part of the PESO model you focus on.

While you may not do all of the content creation yourself, you do have to have the ability to string together some sentences, no matter if they’re written or spoken.

No matter the level of your content creation, you’ve likely had the experience where the creative juices are flowing.

The ideas flow faster than you can handle and all feels right in the world.

Then there are days when the creative juice is on empty, your ideas objectively suck and you wonder why you even got into this industry.

Sadly, your feelings don’t matter in the face of deadlines.

You have a mandate and you’re going to fulfill it.

Never fear!

I have lots of ideas for you to, well, generate ideas.

Here goes!

Content Ideas from Other Departments

If you’re on team content, you may not think about the people in accounting or human resources or operations for content ideas or inspiration.

Maybe they don’t have ideas for you, but more likely than not, they do.

Smart, creative people are employed in every department and while they may not have time to create the content, they do have time to give you ideas.

Tony Gnau, Spin Sucks guest author and videographer of choice, has some great advice on this topic.

He shares examples of how the HR department in virtually every organization has videos they use for recruiting or to help new hires get a sense of the culture.

Those can easily be shared as part of a communications program and all you have to do is change the call-to-action.

As well, content in other departments exists.

It may not be done as formally as it is in HR, but training materials, rules and regulations, photos and videos of team outings, and more exist everywhere in the organization.

We used to have a client who was a second generation real estate mogul.

After one content-fueled meeting, we had the idea to talk to his mom.

We asked her if we could raid the family photos.

We found a photo of our client at the age of three, ripping up carpet with his dad in the first apartment building they owned.

This became part of the company’s history that we created.

Content ideas are everywhere and starting with something someone else has created is always easier than starting at the proverbial blank sheet of paper.

At the very least, it can jumpstart your thinking around how similar topics, turns of phrase, lists, or other elements can solve your problem.

Content Ideas from Your Community (and Competitors!)

Next let’s talk about another place you can get content ideas—from your customers, your prospects, your community (if you have one), and even your competitors.

I’m not saying you should purloin, pilfer, pinch, or otherwise plunder ideas or content that isn’t yours.

That is plagiarism and it is wrong.


BUT, there’s no harm in looking to sources outside your organization for inspiration for new ideas.

This used to happen A LOT back in the early days of blogging.

Someone would write something controversial and everyone else would jump in with their opinions.

It created a bit of an echo chamber so people settled down (and got busy again), but it was a fun time to be a blogger.

Even if you didn’t agree with someone, there was a sense of community and camaraderie among us all.

To this day, I still get content ideas from the things I read, listen to, and watch.

Even Hugh Jackman has given me some great content ideas, which you will get to experience with the next Spin Sucks newsletter.

It’s not stealing or plagiarism.

The content and the thoughts are your own, but the idea came from the things that happen around you.

As well, there is a fun way to get ideas from your community.

Look at what they’re talking about.

For instance, I was talking to a group of Spin Sucks community members on Twitter about our mutual hatred of squirrels.

I clicked to one person’s Twitter stream, just to see what she’d been tweeting about recently, and found a Digiday article about companies ghosting agencies.

A subject near and dear to my heart, I stuck the link in my blog post idea folder and I can pretty much guarantee you’ll see an article about it on Spin Sucks in the coming weeks.

Pay attention to what your prospects, your customers, and your community (if you have one) are sharing, discussing, reading, watching, and listening to.

At worst, you’ll spend time getting better acquainted with the audience you’re serving.

At best, seeing fresh takes from new faces can get you inspired to create things again.

Content Ideas from Nothing At All

Do you ever notice how, after you come back from a vacation, you’re excited, energized, and brimming with creative energy?

Maybe you even had a dozen great ideas while you were sitting on the beach, and you’re incredibly excited to come back and start applying them?

Sadly, you can’t go on vacation every single time you need a fresh idea for your content.

But the principle that was at play there—a new setting, fewer demands on your brain, and the space to just let thoughts drift in and out—is something you can replicate when you have a blank page and looming deadline.

Go for a walk. Watch a movie. Ride your bike (my favorite thinking method). Heck, even take a shower. Some of your best ideas will come from letting your mind wander while you wash your hair.

If you’re feeling creatively blocked, slamming your head against the figurative brick wall rarely helps, but a change of scenery or activity might.

Give your brain permission to drop the issue for a little while to free it up to start working again.

Creativity isn’t all strokes of genius and flashes of inspiration.

It’s mostly just a habit that you cultivate so when you do hit the creative wall, you can get past writer’s block.

Let yourself see potential ideas in all things—dinner conversation with friends, other people’s Twitter feeds, boycotts of your beloved brands (I don’t want to talk about it, SoulCycle!), concerts or other events you attend, reading books or blogs or good, old-fashioned newspapers.

There is inspiration all around you.

All you have to do is capture it.

How Do You Generate Content Ideas?

Now it’s your turn!

How do you generate content ideas?

The comments below are yours.

Or, if you prefer, head over to the Spin Sucks community where we can discuss all those content ideas you get in the shower.

Either way, I can’t wait to hear (er, read) how you keep your creative juices flowing.

Photo by Skye Studios on Unsplash

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich