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November 2, 2007

Tips for Creating Content for Your Blog or Newsletter

After several months of steady blogging and regular newsletters, you may be running short on ideas. When work picks up and you’re running from one project to the next, your readers usually take a backseat. Besides, when your creativity is already stretched to the limit, conjuring up ideas can seem like an impossible task.

Unfortunately, your readers may have already moved on by the time you’re ready to start writing again. With new blogs and newsletters popping up daily in every industry, your competition could be taking advantage of your dry spell.

Rather than letting your blog or newsletter go for weeks or even months without updating, spark your inspiration with these simple tips:

Get to know your audience

For any publication to succeed (and yes, your blog or newsletter is a publication), it needs to deliver content readers actually care about. In order to do this, you need to come up with a reader profile. Hopefully you did this when you first started your blog or newsletter. If not, this is a great time to re-focus and help get the creative juices flowing again.

Think about your readers. What age group do they fall into? What are their interests? Are they working in a specific industry? If so, are they managers, CEOs, financial officers?

Create a clear picture in your mind of your top readers. Imagine a person to represent each of your top 3 audience groups and write as though you are speaking to these people.

Creating must-read content

Once you define your reader base, you need to focus on topics they want to read about. Ask yourself the following questions:

What problems are your readers or clients having? What issues do they care about? What trends can you comment on? Have your clients or readers asked questions or left comments that might make good article topics?

Stay current on the latest news

News items provide endless possibilities for content. Bookmark a few good news sources with interesting stories and look through them when you’re brainstorming topics for your blog. Weigh in on interesting stories, industry trends, and new techniques from your unique perspective. Also, by covering the latest trends, your blog or newsletter can gain a reputation for cutting-edge content.

Read what they’re reading

Browsing magazines, blogs, and other newsletters that your readers already love will give you an idea of what they are interested in. Consider spin-off stories related to topics you find in these publications.

Added bonus for blogs: If you write a spin-off story, you can comment on their blog and mention your article. Do this tactfully, and invite them to comment on your story as well.

Added bonus for magazines: If your content is truly high quality, consider pitching your story to the magazine as a column or special feature. Take a look at their writer’s guidelines and mention the article when you write to the appropriate editor. List a few points you cover in your piece and any credentials you have as a writer or expert in your field.

Branch out

Your existing material could turn out to be a gold mine for new article ideas. Look at old topics you’ve written about. Would any of the sub-points make good articles by themselves? You can expand previous articles into a series to cover things with greater depth, or cover an old article from a new angle.

This will also help maintain a tight focus for your blog or newsletter. However, take care that you don’t simply say the same thing over and over. Each article needs to have a unique focus and provide useful information for new and old readers alike.

Keep a topics list handy

A little brainstorming on a regular basis can go a long way towards maintaining a fresh stream of content. You may see a news story or read an article that would be perfect material for a blog or newsletter article.

If you don’t have a single place to store these ideas, you’ll be back in the same spot again when inspiration runs dry. Keeping a “Topics” document in your newsletter file lets you jot things down as they come to mind, and prevents ideas from being lost.

If you’re running low on ideas, Chris Brogan has a list of 100 blog topics here: http://chrisbrogan.com/100-blog-topics-i-hope-you-write/. Check it out, and see if any of the topics spark something for you.

The world is full of useful ideas for your blog or newsletter. “I don’t have anything to write about” shouldn’t be an excuse any longer. Keep your blog or newsletter updated consistently, and you’ll keep a loyal reader base that could very well turn into customers someday.

Author:  Jessica Cox and Michelle Pierce are graduates of the University of Oklahoma’s College of Journalism with a background in Internet marketing and writing for the Web. They currently provide PR services at Xeal Precision Marketing. Sign up to get crucial Internet marketing tips at Xeal’s free Thursday webinar at http://www.xeal.com/webinar.htm.

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