How to create outside the box content ideas

For a lot of the solopreneurs and SMB owners, the term “content marketing” doesn’t have any real meaning. Maybe you’re the same way, unsure of just what this all means. But there is a process you can use to create outside the box content ideas.

Take Rita Long for example. She’s an amazing artist, and I have several of her pieces in my home. We like to bat ideas around, and have a standing call every Friday morning to get the ideas flowing.

Where those outside the box content ideas come from

Two weeks ago we were talking about a new idea for marketing. Rita wants to make it easy for  interior decorators to sell her work, by helping them create room ideas around the artwork. Lavender Fields, for example, is a beautiful oil on canvas inspired by Rita’s travels to the south of France. And it has the place of honor in my North Carolina dining room (no, it’s not for sale…but she does take commissions).  I love the piece, and it’s inspired the rest of the decor for my main rooms.

Outside the box content for artists - Lavender Fields

So we hit on the idea of making “swatches” for her paintings.

The idea is to create a printed “swatch flyer” for each painting. On the flyer would be a copy of the artwork with three or four of the key colors highlighted and defined. Then we’d tell a little story about the painting, and how it might work in a particular type of decor.

So I started putting my thoughts into some kind of visual representation. (Note: I use Canva for this kind of work; I’m not a graphic designer in any way, and the SaaS graphic design site makes it pretty easy to create visually.)

Outside the box content artist swatch

I sent it off to Rita, and she loved the idea. We talked a bit more about how she’d use it, and I decided to add some descriptive text and, of course, some branding:Outside the box content artist swatch - Rita Long Art

Even better. This led us to talk about a quick video she could make to help boost the idea, and all of sudden we’ve got a multi-channel piece of content out into the world. About an hour later, she sent me this:

How to get there; the 5 step process for out of the box content

Rita can now use the swatch flyer, the video and this blog post to help sell her art. Gallery owners and decorators will be able to understand how she can work with them to help their customers. And that’s the end game we’re after in a B2B campaign like this.

So, how did we get there? Let’s break it down.

1. Understand your persona

There’s really not much point in making marketing content if you don’t do this step. You have to know who you’re creating for, what they need, and how you can meet that need. Once you have that, the ideas start to flow. Rita and I spent maybe 15-20 minutes talking about decorators and and how they work before this idea bubbled up.

2. Talk it out

Bat the ideas around. One conversation leads to another idea, then another. Give this process the respect it deserves. When you hit on an idea that you agree has legs, commit to taking it further. We agreed we liked the swatch idea. It went on the To-Do list right then.

3. Rough it up

Put the initial ideas into some kind of format. If the content will be a long-form article, start with an outline. If it’s a design piece like Rita’s swatches, lay it out. You’re not looking for perfection at this point. The idea is to get enough of an idea together that you can see the holes. At this point, everyone should be able to see enough to get really excited about the idea.

4. Add the polish

Fill the holes, add the copy, and remember your branding. No one I know gets it right the first time. Don’t be afraid to say “what if …” Of course, you have to know when to say when, or you could spend your life making tiny changes. But allow the process to run its course.

5. Repurpose it

Where can I use this on other channels? Can I make a video to share it? Would it work on Instagram? Maybe a blog post. Maybe we’ll eventually put the swatches together into a book to give away to decorators (are you listening Rita? This could be great for getting commission work!) No piece of content stands alone.

For a content strategist like me, this process is just plain fun. Marketing is only “work” if you approach it that way. Play with your ideas, don’t be afraid to offer suggestions or random thoughts.

Once you hit on an idea that shines, see it through. I’m proud of Rita for taking this to the next step and doing the video. And I can’t wait to see the response when she gets it out in public.

Content marketing is such a broad term that it can be hard to really see how it applies to a smaller business. Creating outside the box content can be done.  It’s really all about the “stuff” you put out into the world — on digital or in real life — and how your audience will use it.






How to Write a Brand Style Guide (and Why You Need One)

According to Sasha LaFerte at the Content Marketing Institute, branding fails happen “because of a lack of a clear style guide, which can result in inconsistency or miscommunication among you content team.” Creating a brand style guide helps ensure that all of the content you create is consistent, polished, and enjoyable. Your brand style guide will create some rules for your brand, which will tie all your content together like matching dishes at an excellent dinner party.

Knowing your brand style guide will help inform all your content.Image source: Content Marketing Institute

First, look at your brand voice.

In order to create a great style guide, it has to align with your brand’s voice. If you aren’t sure what that sounds like, ask yourself these 5 questions to help find your brand’s voice.

In addition, LaFerte suggests revisiting your company’s mission statement and “About Us” section (if you have them) to “make sure it’s not only on point with what it says but how it says it. If you’re defining your brand voice as conversational, but your mission statement is filled with corporate jargon, it’s probably worth revisiting.”

Second, pick your editorial style base.

Of course, recognizing you need a brand style guide and actually having one are two very different things.

Both the Words Girls and the Content Marketing Institute recommend starting with a base (we use the AP Style Guide.) Go through the baseline and add additional rules if you need them, like whether or not to use the Oxford comma, or specific emoji guidelines (we’ve got a rule about that poop icon. Nope.) You can also add in guidelines on formatting bullets, lists, hyphens, or quotes, anything that defines your particular style.

Finally, add a few more details to your brand style guide.

This is the part that gets tricky. LaFerte suggests including “a section on how to engage, words to stay away from, and any other details that are important to your brand.”

Having a well-defined brand voice will definitely help with this section. Content Marketing Institute has prepared a list of brands with awesome style guides that you can use for reference. With a well-defined brand voice, a bit of time, and a few details, soon your brand could be one of them.