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Good planning is everything when it comes to creating thought leadership content on a regular basis. It’s also where most of us fall short. We wait for inspiration to strike — and wait — or we sit down to write before we have our ideas in order and end up frustrated.

But when you collect ideas and feedback regularly, a lot of this pain goes away; by the time you sit down to write, you already have a well-formed plan of action. And if you took the time to vet each idea and do the appropriate research, chances are the content itself will be more valuable too.

With that in mind, here are eight great, nearly limitless sources of ideas that will resonate with your target audience.

  1. Get industry news delivered to you. Even if you’re busy, it’s worth investing a few hours into setting up some tools like Feedly, Twitter lists, LinkedIn groups and even industry newsletter subscriptions so that key news tidbits are at your fingertips, 24/7. You can bookmark articles you want to respond to or use as research or talking points before you’re even at the office.
  2. Assemble a company “knowledge base.” A knowledge base is a repository for all that stuff that isn’t quite ready for prime time yet, but ought to go into a development pipeline for later. Everyone in the company can contribute. Bonus: There’s a template you can download.
  3. Use your existing project management system to collect ideas, streamline research, get feedback and more. This blog post from GrooveHQ has a clever breakdown for companies using Trello, but the same principle could be applied to any PM system or software. Collecting ideas — and getting feedback from the team — in an organized fashion will improve the idea itself and streamline the actual execution when it’s ready.
  4. Research what’s already working. Tools like BuzzSumo, KeywordTool.io, Google Keyword Planner and Google Trends are all useful tools for determining what people are searching for and sharing online in your vertical or industry. It’s not just about keywords — it’s about how and why people search for or share certain content.
  5. Talk to your employees, colleagues and department heads. Even if you don’t do this in an organized way (see Nos. 2 and 4, above), asking others what matters to your customers or partners right now is a really good way to uncover the topics that are right under your nose.
  6. Talk to your customers. I don’t mean to suggest that you should actually ask customers for article ideas, but sifting through the customer info you collect already — conversations on social media, FAQs your front-line customer team fields day in and out, survey data, etc. — is a great place to drum up new content ideas. This is where you’ll learn what the real pain points are and find ways to provide value.
  7. Start with one of these 20 timeless business article prompts. Still stumped? In a previous post, I outlined 20 evergreen questions anyone can use — regardless of your expertise or industry — as a starting point for a new piece, like “What’s one dangerous myth others have about your industry?” Bonus: Nearly all of these questions can be recycled into dozens of articles; just remember to drill down on ONE topic per article. The more focused and “maniacally specific” you are, the better.
  8. Take notes at your next industry event. Attending a conference with world-class speakers? Speaking at a conference or event yourself? Make time to attend breakout sessions and talks that interest you. These might provide fodder for an article (“4 Lessons From X Event”) or simply kick your brainstorming into high gear.

Ideas aren’t the problem. Learning to surface them regularly is the real challenge. When you get that part right, the rest comes together easily.

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