1 CREATIVE CONTENT MARKETING INSPIRATION
from John Cleese and Other Creative Innovators CONTENT MARKETING INSPIRATION And Now for Something Completely Creative: from John Cleese and Other Creative Innovators
3 In his world-renowned talk
on the origins of creativity, legendary actor and comedian John Cleese asserted that creativity simply cannot be explained. “It’s literally inexplicable,” he said. But fear not, content marketers. If you’ve ever felt like the holy grail of creativity was beyond your grasp, Cleese also shared some encouraging words on what creativity is not: Anyone can learn to bring more creativity into their content marketing efforts. Sometimes all it takes is passion, the right frame of mind... and a few of the tricks we’ve compiled here. “Creativity is not a talent — it’s a way of operating... Creativity is not an ability that you either have or do not have. It is... absolutely unrelated to IQ.”
4 Creativity is the skill
necessary to differentiate your content. It’s the innovative spark that helps your brand stand out to your audience. —JONATHAN MILDENHALL WHYdoyouneedcreativity incontentmarketing? 4
5 When he was VP
of Global Advertising Strategy and Content Excellence at Coca-Cola, Jonathan Mildenhall championed a concept he calls The 10 Percent: “It’s spending one-tenth of our time and resources on the wild, the crazy, the seemingly unrealistic ideas we have, and making them part of our content marketing strategy.” Mildenhall said that, when executed, these highly successful programs turned out to be among the least expensive and least time-intensive of all the content marketing that Coca-Cola was creating and distributing.
6 Learn the rules like
a pro, so you can break them like an artist. —PABLO PICASSO Whatdoesittake tobecreative? 6
7 John Cleese described the
way people function at work in terms of two modes of thinking: open and closed. Optimally, creative workers need to be able to leverage both modes — each one at the appropriate time in the creative process: Relaxed, expansive, contemplative, inclined to humor, playful. This allows natural creativity to surface. Active but impatient, tense, and purposeful. Creativity is not possible in closed mode; however, closed mode is essential for organizing your ideas and deciding how to implement them in a meaningful way. Open: Closed:
8 Designateanideapersontoleadyourteamefforts Individuals who are
naturally creative are ideally suited to developing (and filtering) creative concepts with a focus on strategic goals: What topics are in demand among our target audiences? Are there new ways in which we can approach old topics? What great ideas can we adapt to our industry’s needs? What terrible ideas should we avoid or discontinue? How can we create interest and action without even mentioning (or barely mentioning) our products and services? How can we expose more people to our content?
9 Be creativeasateam “It’s easier
to be creative if you have other people to play with.” —John Cleese Though individual creativity is a great asset for an organization to be able to tap into, many organizations have come to rely on creative teams. A creative team should have nothing to do with rank, department, or job responsibility. According to Straight North’s Brad Shorr, creativity is all about chemistry, and it’s just as likely for a shipping clerk and an engineer to crank out creative ideas as for two marketing professionals to do so — provided they are the right two people.
10 increasecreativeouTput “Leadership is a
key driver of creativity.”—Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic In an article in Harvard Business Review, Metaprofiling.com Co-founder Dr. Tomas Chamorro- Premuzic offered three basic suggestions managers can follow to boost the creative output of their teams: Balance differences and similarities: High-performing teams tend to be similar in their values (they are all motivated and driven by the same things) but different in their styles (they have different personalities, skills, and backgrounds). Avoid having too many “creatives”: Although idea generators are critical to any creative team, their ideas will only be implemented if the team also includes people who love execution, think pragmatically, pay attention to details, and can help to transform raw ideas into actual innovations. Embrace failure: Too many managers and companies pretend to embrace creativity, but they don’t care enough to do what it takes to support it [within the organization]. If you are not prepared to risk failure when you are experimenting, your employees’ efforts will never truly be creative.
11 “I think everybody [who]
is trying to communicate [should] go into stand-up comedy because [it takes you] out of your mind. Instead of thinking about, ‘Here’s what I want to say,’ you’re always thinking about, ‘Here’s what the audience will hear’ and you really scrutinize.” —TIM WASHER, SENIOR MARKETING MANAGER, CISCO thecreativeprocess 11
12 According to John Cleese,
creating certain conditions makes us more likely to produce open-mode thinking (i.e., where creativity occurs): Space: Seal yourself off from distractions and the usual pressures to perform; create an oasis of quiet for creativity. Time: Create that space for a specific period of time, and tolerate the racing thoughts and anxiety about the practical tasks you need to do outside your creative space (eventually your mind will quiet back down again). Time (again): Ponder solutions to a problem for as long as you possibly can —learn to tolerate the unease and discomfort that come from not having solved the problem yet. Confidence: You can’t be “spontaneous within reason.” Don’t cave in to the fear of making a mistake because in the creative “open” mode mistakes don’t exist. Humor: This takes us from closed to open mode more quickly than anything else can.
13 maketheprocessworkforyourteam Even if you
can’t devote all your time to creativity, you can make your existing content marketing processes more creative by fostering a culture of creativity in your organization: Don’t expect to be creative on a set schedule: A good creative process enables the writing team to meet whenever and wherever inspiration strikes — not just when there’s a deadline looming. Keep a notebook within reach at all times: Breakthrough ideas come at any time of day or night, and if you don’t write them down immediately, chances are good you’ll forget them by the time you need them. Get out of the office: Certain atmospheres — for example, a coffee house, a botanical garden, or even a park bench — can be particularly helpful for clearing your mental cobwebs and stirring creative energy.
14 generating creativeideas “Having a
new idea is connecting two hitherto separate ideas in a way that generates new meaning.” —John Cleese In the world of content marketing, the creative process usually starts with a brainstorm of ideas. Before getting started on any brainstorm session, PwC Experience Center’s Frank McDade recommends that content marketers set some basic ground rules: Try to focus on using the term “Yes, and…” where you build upon each other’s thoughts without using the word “no.” Someone should serve as a facilitator of these exercises to ensure that the group mind is being led down a constructive path. Be prepared to record the session and to ensure that all team members are actively participating in the exercise. Do not edit any participant’s thoughts during the brainstorm session (save that for the debriefing period).
15 sticky-notebrainstorming One of the
best ways to get employees out of the mindset of “this is how it is” and into one of “this is what’s possible,” is to use interactive, improvisational exercises intended to stimulate creativity. The science of brainstorming tells us that individuals should spend time generating ideas on their own, while groups should be used to critique, improve, and select the ideas. Here’s a seven-step approach that Jay Acunzo, Vice President of Platform at NextView Ventures, recommends for balancing creative and strategic thought in your brainstorming sessions: Establish a single meeting leader. Write or display a problem statement on the wall. This statement is the reason you’re meeting, and it should be written from the POV of your buyer, not your company. Give each individual a stack of sticky notes.
16 Ask the individuals to
take a specific amount of time to write as many ideas as possible to solve the problem statement on the board. Write only one idea per sticky note. Collect and arrange the sticky notes: Ask for one volunteer to read a sticky note and place it on the board. Next, ask if anyone else had identical or very similar ideas. If so, group their sticky notes on the board with the first one. Then, have the volunteer read her second idea, and repeat the process until she’s out of notes. Then move on to the next person, and repeat the process until everyone has had a chance to share their ideas. Give a final call for additional ideas: If any great new ideas result from the notes that were discussed, write them on a sticky note and add them to the board. Use the group format to vote on, improve, and select the best ideas.
18 As John Cleese said,
once you have ideas, you can then switch over to “closed mode” to decide which ideas are worth working on, and which won’t speak to your content goals. Jay Acunzo says he relies on one question to determine whether an idea would ultimately be worth producing as a piece of content: Will this piece of content save our audience time, money, or both? If the answer is no, consider killing it, or at least putting it on the back burner.
19 followtheformat Though the idea
is to be unique and unrestricted when developing content ideas, there are a few formats that can be used to help you channel that free-form creativity into strategic content that benefits your target audience: Workbooks, playbooks, and blueprints: Examine your competitors’ content, think about ways to make that content more actionable, and package the very specific steps that are involved into a foolproof PDF format that is easily distributed. Project templates: Line up all the steps your buyer takes to complete his or her daily tasks, and list ideas for resources that can replace or remove those tasks. Collections of free assets: Identify the small, annoying parts of a process that feel repetitive and curate or create a package of free assets your audience can return to time after time. Reporting templates: Whether they’re presenting data to their bosses and/or their teams or are just trying to keep themselves honest, most B2B audiences could find some kind of value in working with templates like these. Educational videos with info capture: The goal is to save your audience time by delivering knowledge in segments that are quicker and more snackable than really long eBooks. Interactive tools and apps: Mock up the exact steps a user would take to complete a relevant task, and shop the idea to developers, product teammates, and potential users.
20 Getoutsideperspectives Sometimes you can
eliminate creative pressure simply by asking customers and prospects what kind of content they want and how they want it delivered. Brad Shorr suggests a few ways to weave them into the process: Initiate a customer roundtable discussion session that meets periodically to critique past content and brainstorm on new topics. Conduct one-on-one phone interviews with loyal customers to get their ideas. Insert links to surveys on various content pieces to elicit immediate feedback on the value they provide and how creatively they provide it. Email surveys that ask for content suggestions and/or evaluations and opinions of previous content. Ask your customers to share their preferred content formats — video, text, etc. Mine customer inquiries and FAQs for additional topic ideas that speak directly to their informational needs and interests.
22 What if you don’t
consider yourself to be a naturally creative person, or often find that your brainstorming efforts are still not producing enough actionable ideas? To get yourself out of a creative rut, CMI’s Michele Linn suggests trying some of these ideas for inspiration: Become a student of visual design: You don’t need to be a design expert to be considered creative, but it never hurts to pay greater attention to visual content examples, and share them with your design team to get the ideas flowing. Realize there are different types of creativity: Stop thinking of yourself (or any of your team members) as a person who is not creative; instead, spend that energy finding where your creativity lies, and then look for a way to use that in your content creation efforts. Exercise your creative muscles: Do something outside of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to travel “down a rabbit hole” once in awhile and see where it leads you. The more open you are to exploring creative potential, the more prepared you’ll be to channel the creativity you find along the way.
23 Foster the pursuit of
passions unrelated to marketing: Even your everyday interactions can likely give you some “Aha! moments,” if you’re open to them. Sleep on it: Though we often rush to produce creative solutions in quick bursts of immediate output, sometimes it’s best to let ideas simmer so your mind can process them. Want additional ideas? Read 10 Ways to Inspire Your Inner Content Creator.
24 getinspired: “Inspiring content sends
you on a quest. Useful content helps me choose. Entertaining content drives loyalty.” —Content Marketing World 2014 Keynote Speaker Andrew Davis In his Moments of Inspiration #CMWorld Twitter Chat, Andrew Davis asked the community, “What inspires you to be more creative?” Here are some of the great ideas and inspirations that were shared: Connect. Discuss. Rely on your community — no shame in curating/crowd sourcing ideas! —Ben Heyman I’m a talker, so a good conversation is always a great starting point for inspiration. Enthusiasm is contagious! —Erin Palmer Old #TedTalks are great for inspiration on topics and ideas as the talk might be old but usually logic is spot on! —Brian Fanzo For content inspiration I have imaginary conversations with specific prospective clients. —Linda Dessau Take a step back try something completely new. It’ll clear your mind give you a fresh perspective. —Athulya Vanchinathan The smallest thing can be an inspiration. If you’re only looking for grand stories, you’re missing many opportunities. —Stephen Abbott I save brand blogs/posts/quotes I like in @pocket and look back to them if I need inspiration before I start writing. —Molly Buccini