A blank page. An empty content calendar. A lack of spontaneous creative inspiration. These three things together are a nerve-wracking recipe for stress and anxiety. Creative professionals are often used to working under tight deadlines though. For this reason, we mistakenly believe the pressure to be creative on-the-spot is just a fact of life; an occupational hazard, in a sense. We may even believe we thrive on this sort of chaos, thinking urgency helps produce better work.
We’re here to tell you there’s a better way.
On this episode of Overheard At CoSchedule, company co-founder Garrett Moon and blog manager Ben Sailer discuss our three-step process for generating tons of ideas fast. In fact, using this proven and repeatable method, you should be able to brainstorm a month’s worth of ideas in under an hour. This is the same process the CoSchedule team uses, and our own content marketing success shows it works.
And it can work for you, too.
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Garrett: So today we’re going to tackle one of the most terrifying problems in all of marketing. I call it the blinking cursor problem, and that’s when you’re looking at a brand-new piece of content, the page is white, and that blinking cursor is staring you down, wishing you had better ideas. We’re going to solve it. I’m Garrett, and this is the Overheard at CoSchedule show, the video show where we talk about the things we already talk about around the office, but we turn the cameras on and bring you in. It’s sort of like coming to our water cooler, except for less water and more public.
Nothing makes a marketer feel better than a full editorial calendar with awesome content, and so to do that, you need a ton of ideas that you can execute on. So Ben, Ben is from our content marketing team, and I wanted him to cover our process for filling that editorial calendar with great ideas. How do we do it? How do you guys do it?
Phase #1: Individual Brainstorming
Ben: Sure. Our team here at CoSchedule uses what we call our thirty-minute brainstorming process, and this process moves in three different phases that take about ten minutes each to complete. Those three phases are our initial silent brainstorming process, where we each write down as many ideas as we can think of, quietly.
Garrett: That’s like the opposite of how most people think about brainstorming. I think about brainstorming, you’re all in a room, you’re throwing Post-It notes and markers are going across the place, there’s yelling, perhaps, “That’s a terrible idea.” No. You call it individual brainstorming, sometimes, or silent brainstorming.
Ben: Sure. I think the idea of silent brainstorming sounds like a contradiction of terms, but the reason why we use that term is because we’re all working through that process together in the same room, but we’re all generating our own ideas privately, by ourselves. The reason why we do things that way is it really eliminates groupthink.
Garrett: Okay. Lots of ideas, they’re out there. How do you whittle them down? What’s next?
Phase #2: Group Ranking/Scoring
Ben: Sure. Once we’ve spent ten minutes just writing down all the ideas that we have in our heads, we’ll move on to what we call our group scoring phase. What that entails is, one person, whoever is leading the meeting, will read aloud every single idea and the group will score them either a one, two, or a three.
Garrett: Yeah. What does that mean? Which one does each of those mean?
Ben: Yeah. Threes are ideas that are so good that we would be stupid not to use those ideas. Twos are ideas that are okay, but maybe need some work, and ones are duds. Since this is really meant to be a very loose, just stream of consciousness sort of process, you’re going to end up with ideas that fall into all three of those categories.
Garrett: Yeah, makes sense. Ideas, rated. What’s the last step that you take? I assume this is the step where you’re actually … this is what you’re going to put on the calendar, we have to decide that part, right?
Phase #3: Winner Optimization
Ben: Yeah. The last step is what we call our winner optimization phase. This is where we take every idea that was a unanimous three, that everybody agreed was awesome, and we determine which of those ideas we’re going to put on the calendar.
Garrett: Yes, I kind of always think of it like, there’s a red line that gets drawn below the threes. You’ve got the threes up here, red line, twos and ones. Everything below gets thrown out, well, may be improved on if we can improve it a little, but the goal is, we only want to put threes on the calendar.
Garrett: I think that really, for me, follows along with a mantra we have, ten X versus ten percent, where we always want to make ten X improvements, things that will multiply what we’re doing by ten times, versus ten percent increments. I love that process, and I think it really works for a lot of things, not just your editorial calendar. It’s also … you don’t have to have a team to do it. We’re starting with silent brainstorming, so you could do that as an individual.
Ben: You could.
Garrett: Very cool. Well, that is how you can make sure your editorial calendar is always full of awesome marketing ideas, and that is Overheard at CoSchedule.