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10 Endless Sources of Inspiration for Your Articles, Blogs, and Speeches

The third most common question I’m asked by consultants of all stripes from all types of firms is, “Where do you get the ideas for your articles week after week?” I keep hoping that will be followed up with, “May I donate a new Tesla to your collection?” but no one’s popped that question. Yet. While I’m waiting, let’s talk about where you can find inspiration for your content.

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Consultants who want to heighten their visibility often make a list of the topics they want to write and speak about.  Topping their lists are their viewpoints (“Why Everyone Should Eat Chocolate by the Pound”) and the solutions they offer (“How Chocolate Will Save Your Marriage”).

Alas, asking yourself, “What do I want to say?” is a misguided starting point for your topic list.

  • It’s upside down thinking—it makes the article about you rather than you reader, and that’s dull.
  • It’s easy to run out of ideas about what you want to say.

A better starting point for developing your content is asking yourself this:

“What questions do my prospects have?”

Your prospects ask tons of questions every day. Every one of those questions is fodder for an article, a blog post, a white paper, a webinar, a podcast, or even an entire book.

This may lead you to wonder, “How do I find out my clients’ questions?”

I quickly cobbled together a catalog of about 40 sources of questions that’ll stock your topic cupboard. For now, though, let’s start with a shorter lineup and see if any readers (ahem, that would be you) contribute more ideas.

10 Sources of Endless Inspiration for Your Articles, Blogs, and Speeches

Clients

Questions posed by clients are my favorite and, virtually inexhaustible resource. Since I talk with consultants (and corporate clients) in a wide variety of situations and firms every day, and I always ask “How else can I be of service?” I’m treated to new questions daily.

Client Errors

Clients make mistakes all the time. That’s why they need you. Of course, for every 10 mistakes you observe your clients making, you’re only hired to help resolve or prevent one. What about the other nine? Clients are implicitly wondering how they avoid those mistakes too. And that’s where you get the idea for, “How to Avoid Mistakenly Shipping Your Inventory to Idaho.”

Other Consultant’s Blogs, Forums and Speeches

There must be dozens of consultants, large and small, who offer the same service to the same prospects as you. What are they writing about? What questions are they answering?

Quora and Other Open Forums

For example, I typed “Lean” into Quora. That instantly produced over 1,000 questions related to the Lean methodology. Lean consultants, there’s probably 300+ blog post ideas sitting on Quora for you.

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LinkedIn Groups

I bet you can find at least a dozen groups related to your area of expertise. I arbitrarily typed “potato” into the search bar on LinkedIn and up popped a potato farming group with 3,800 members. If you’re a potato consultant, there’s 3,800 souls asking starchy questions.

Trade Magazines

The super-specific magazines your target audience reads (like, Toothbrush Today and Left-Handed Electrical Tape News) are filled with articles that are answering questions.

HARO, PR Leads, etc.

This is like looking at trade magazines, but getting the inside scoop before the articles are even published. Journalists pose questions for experts to answer. You could (and should) respond to the journalist. Also you could (and should) write your own article or speech on the question the journalist posed.

Trade Conferences

Similar to trade magazines, but in this case look at the topics that other folks are speaking about. Why was “10 Steps to Better Pea Soup” chosen by the meeting organizer? Because it’s answering questions attendees are asking.

Other Experts

You’re constantly talking to other experts in your field to improve your own capabilities. (You’re doing that, right?) Ask them what questions other folks pose to them. Voila, a dozen juicy topics will be handed to you.

Google’s Search Box

Google uses magic to finish your thought when you’re typing. I keyed in “How are bottles” and Google suggested, “made,” “recycled,” “corked,” and “vacuum sealed.” Presumably those suggestions are based on questions other people have asked.

As I said, I just scratched the surface on ideas. Where else do you get ideas for content?


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10 Comments
  1. Anatoli Naoumov
    February 22, 2017 at 9:54 am Reply

    Ask client (prospect, influencer) where do they find answers to their daily business questions and check that place.

    • David A. Fields
      February 22, 2017 at 3:16 pm Reply

      Terrific suggestion, Anatoli. Go where your customers are.

  2. Baldwin H. Tom
    February 22, 2017 at 2:46 pm Reply

    Be inspired by what you see and experience! When I travel or visit a new place, I have my cell phone camera ready to take photos of what interests me. (The photos are for use in the blog if useful.) Then I imagine what lesson can I glean from the experience. In a town outside of Hilton Head, I was at a shopping area and noticed a water fountain with a fountain for dogs at the base. By this I imagined the customer service that must be a part of the culture of this center. It’s simple and unexpected things that grab a customer’s attention. I blog what lesson comes to mind from what I experience. What I do is to ask, “How does this reinforce customer service?” or “How does this help my client?” Even when I am sightseeing, I find anything I sense (see, feel, smell, etc.) fair game for imagining how this relates. It’s all about brainstorming to tie to a topic at hand. It’s fun and it works. It also provides a different perspective on the topic for your client.

    • David A. Fields
      February 22, 2017 at 3:18 pm Reply

      The world around us provides lesson upon lesson if we open ourselves up to see them. Looking for metaphors and “ahas” in the environment is a terrific practice. Thanks for sharing that, Baldwin.

  3. Janet Falk
    February 22, 2017 at 8:13 pm Reply

    David,
    I agree that a HARO inquiry can be a starting point for inspiration.

    As for responding to a HARO request, perhaps your readers are not aware that HARO has a two-tiered system, FREE and PAID: https://www.helpareporter.com/subscriptions/?nav_location=main_menu

    Paid subscribers, who are generally Public Relations professionals, receive the notices either as soon as they are approved by HARO staff or ONE HOUR before unpaid subscribers. That means subscribers on the FREE HARO service are at a double disadvantage. They are at least one hour behind the distribution and these professionals have used that time to develop what may be a superior pitch.

    I mention this because individuals often ask me, as a Public Relations professional, about HARO. They are not aware of the paid subscription service. I feel it is a reality check to let them know their chances of getting through to the reporter are diminished, though not eliminated, by this two-tiered system.

    Your readers can determine whether the fees ($49/month and $149/month) are worthwhile.

    • David A. Fields
      February 24, 2017 at 3:10 pm Reply

      HARO’s come a long ways since the early days of Peter Shankman’s personal list. I totally agree that a premium subscription may be very useful for some consultants. With the idea of just finding questions for blog topics, the free version is probably helpful. I’m glad you posted this useful information, Janet–very helpful.

  4. Jonathan Verney
    February 28, 2017 at 5:47 pm Reply

    David, congrats on a very useful answer to the vexing question of what to write about next? And not just one or two answers but a baker’s dozen or thereabouts! Your client-driven perspective never fails to guide us down the right path.

    • David A. Fields
      February 28, 2017 at 6:08 pm Reply

      Clients tend to point us down the right path, and we’re wise to follow their direction… or else we find ourselves on a lonely trail occupied only by other consultants! Thank you for the support, Jonathan.

  5. Dan Janal
    March 1, 2017 at 11:15 am Reply

    Thanks for the shout out for PR LEADS! It’s the only service that offers support from a PR professional who trains you and reviews your responses!

    • David A. Fields
      March 2, 2017 at 10:53 am Reply

      You’re welcome, Dan. I’ve personally found PRLeads to be a valuable service.

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