What to Do When Writer’s Block Strikes Your Content Marketing

November 18, 2013

writers block

Whether you’re in the B2B, B2C, or non-profit sector, content marketing — blogging, videos, white papers, etc. — is on the rise. The Content Marketing Institute reported in their research across industries that “producing enough content” continues to be a chief concern among marketers. But what happens when you don’t have anything to say? What happens when you have an old-fashioned case of writer’s block or blogger’s block?

It happens to everyone. For example, as it turns out, I had a sudden hole in my own editorial calendar and nothing to say. In thinking about this problem I was reminded of the Bukowski quote, “Writing about writer’s block is better than not writing at all.” Shaking off the cop-out labels, it occurred that this very struggle is one many content marketers face.

And while I reference “writer’s block” in a blogging context, that doesn’t mean that this isn’t just as applicable to other forms of content marketing including videos, podcasting, and more. In fact, many argue that in creating videos we may not have a concrete script but we’re still writing. In the examples below, when I reference a blog post, you could easily substitute video, podcast, or white paper.

Let’s take a look at what to do when your blogging and content marketing efforts are plagued by writer’s block.

Preventative Measures

First, let’s take a look at what you can do to avoid writer’s block in the first place.

  • Strategy First — If you get lost, get out your map to remind yourself where you’re going. However, many marketers don’t have a plan they can reference. The Content Marketing Institute also reports that nearly half of marketers don’t have a documented content strategy. Avoid trouble down the road by having a clear strategy that defines your target audience, what your objective is, and the impact you hope to have.
  • Editorial Calendar — Another way to avoid writer’s block, is to have a well-defined short term plan in the form of an editorial calendar. Plotting out your potential posts (videos, podcasts, white papers, etc) provides you with a concrete plan to work through. There’s also a great WordPress app to help plan your blog’s editorial calendar.
  • A Team Effort — Remember, “Many hands make work light.” Try to make your content a group effort. Encourage guest bloggers to get others in on the action as well. If you’re committed to being a solo-blogger, consider interviews as ways of getting some additional support.

Remedial Measures

So, you are in the trenches and you have writer’s block. What now?

  • Examine Your Best Posts — Take some lessons from your best content. Consider your top 10 posts with the most traffic over the past few years (go further back than just one year for a more broad perspective). What do these posts have in common? Do any of them have follow-up or sequel potential? Something you left un-covered? Finding a new angle and re-imagining your popular content is a great way around writer’s block.
  • Examine Your Not-So-Good Posts — I hesitate to call these your “worst” posts as these could be posts that you were very passionate about, however, they didn’t get the traffic you had hoped for. Or it could simply be a post on a great topic that, upon further review, you could have written better. Again, look for a new approach to help you re-envision your wayward post.
  • Questions are Currency — At the end of the day, solid content is grounded in helping your audience solve problems. As such, their questions provide your creative fuel. When your reserves run dry, work on re-acquainting yourself with their most common questions. For extra help, take a walk to your customer service department or the sales floor and ask them which questions they hear most. Encourage these front-line team members to keep a running list or a shared Google Doc to keep you updated on customer questions. Sometimes a simple question is enough of a seed to fuel an entire post or, in some cases, a series of posts or content.

Why This Matters

Dude, why are you freaking out? Why don’t you just chill and wait for something to come to you? Readers of this blog know that I have zero tolerance when it comes to waiting to blog or create content until you “feel it.” If you’re waiting for the divine goddess to come down and bless your blogging digits, you could be waiting awhile.

Just push publish. That’s my blogging mantra and I strongly urge you to follow it as well. If we are to “think like publishers” that means we need to act like publishers as well. By accepting the power that comes with all of us potentially being media platforms, we also accept the responsibility of schedules and deadlines. These are critical in setting audience expectations.

If you push through writer’s block you’ll develop a more devoted audience and develop skills that will make you a better content marketer for the long haul.

What about you? What do you do when writer’s block strikes your content marketing?

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is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World and Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, an educator at the University of Iowa, and host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.