A guide to content brainstorming for marketing teams

how to run content brainstorming sessions for your blog

"But we don't have anything to write about..."

"We're going to run out of ideas..."

If you've shared these feelings in your marketing team, you're not alone. Even though you have KPIs to hit and a writing cadence to keep up with, it's not always easy to think of the topics you're going to write about.

The key to easily and quickly generating lots of blog post ideas is getting in a creative state of mind and coming up with ideas in bulk.

If you feel like you've run out of blog post ideas, it's the perfect time for a content brainstorming session.

This is something we do at PieSync every quarter or so to bring our ideas together and replenish our content queue fast.

Here's how to organize a content brainstorming session in your marketing team and generate months worth of blog post titles in less than an hour.

 

What is content brainstorming?

A content brainstorming session is when your team generates blog post ideas in bulk, shares and discusses them collaboratively, and adds them to the content queue.

It's a valuable time to get creative, bring a range of different ideas together, and involve people from outside your content team for the most variety.

 

How to structure your content brainstorming session

It's important to schedule at least an hour (ideally two) for your content brainstorming session to allow for enough time to get into a creative flow.

Here's the structure we use for our own content brainstorming sessions:

  • 5 minutes: Saying hello.
  • 15 minutes: Idea generation. (1)
  • 10 minutes: Compile everyone's ideas in the brainstorming Google Sheet, add their names (or nicknames), and randomize the order.
  • 10 minutes: Voting time! (2)
  • 5 minutes: Add up the scores and order the sheet with the most popular ideas at the top.
  • 30 minutes: Discussion. (3)
  • 10 mins: Planning next steps and closing up. (4)

 

Let's take a deeper dive into what each of the four numbered stages looks like...

 

Ahead of the session: create your brainstorming sheet

To keep things organized, use a template for your content brainstorming like the one we use at PieSync in Google Sheets.

This includes columns for:

  • Content ideas
  • Stage of funnel – you can add this after the session
  • Contributor
  • Notes – add these during the discussion stage
  • Scoring column for each attendee
  • Average score column

 

Content brainstorming session template

 

Get the content brainstorming template here to create your own copy on Google Sheets.

 

1. Idea generation

For fifteen minutes, mute your microphones (apart from occasional time updates) and let each person focus on writing down as many ideas as they can. You can do this in a separate tab of the spreadsheet or a note-making doc so people don't feel self-conscious. If you're short on time, you can also ask everyone to prepare this ahead of time, before the content brainstorming meeting takes place.

Encourage creativity and discourage overthinking or self-consciousness here: any bad ideas will be weeded out anonymously in the voting stage anyway. And some ideas that a contributor has low confidence in might turn out to be good ones!

 

2. Vote on all of the ideas

To prepare your brainstorming spreadsheet for voting, all attendees can send their ideas to the session leader. They can compile these in the main sheet with the contributor's real name or a nickname in the "Idea by" column, and randomize the order.

Then, mute microphones again and let each person focus individually on voting for every idea in the sheet. Put a number from 1 (please don't write about this) to 3 (amazing idea) in the score column for each idea. We vote for our own ideas too.

 

3. Discuss and narrow down the ideas

Order the sheet to display the ideas in order of popularity based on average score.

Next, work through the list and discuss at least the first ten ideas. For each topic, the person whose idea it was can give a bit more info and suggest what can be included in the post.

To give the future writer the most context, the session leader can keep notes that can be added to the content calendar (we manage ours simply on Trello, leaving any notes or background info in the card description).

 

4. Next steps and adding the best ideas to your content calendar

To close up the session, get clear on what your next steps will look like. This includes questions such as:

  • Who will add the ideas to your content calendar?
  • Do you need to do further keyword research for these?
  • Who will assign the content to writers?
  • What will the posting cadence be?

You can also decide what you'll do with less popular ideas: will you ignore these, or optimize the ideas that have potential?


How to make the most of your content brainstorming session

  • Invite the right people. Whose ideas would you like to incorporate in your content planning? We've got the best results when people from outside our marketing team have joined us, especially from the product team. Consider inviting no more than one person each from sales, product and support.

  • Schedule enough time to get creative. Most people can't be creative on demand. It takes time to get into creative flow and start generating good ideas. So don't cut it short or interrupt that!

  • Mute microphones during idea generation and voting time. Create a clear distinction between time for quiet idea generation and time for discussion in your brainstorming session. When everyone's trying to focus, mute your microphones.

  • Keep notes on the top content ideas. Don't let good ideas go to waste: assign someone to add notes in the "Notes" column of the brainstorming template. These will come in useful when the writer picks up the idea. Don't make them struggle to remember what the logic was behind it.

  • Add ideas to your content queue soon after the session. The sooner you can get the ideas from your brainstorming session scheduled, the better. This keeps your content queue topped up and the ideas fresh in your writers' minds.


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About Lucy Fuggle

Lucy Fuggle writes for PieSync, the two-way contact sync tool for hundreds of apps. She also works with her clients to make their brand matter with a content-rich marketing strategy.