Creativity is a fickle mistress. Especially when creating content.
Sometimes, the words flow as fast as the coffee. Other times, well, not so much.
It’s easy to create boring content. (Many people do it quite effortlessly.) But if you don’t have a distinctive point of view, you’re just reporting.
Feel stuck when it’s time to crank out captivating content? Need a boost of inspiration for a post, podcast, or speech? I’ve got you covered.
Below, you’ll find 21 juicy prompts for creating fascinating content. Keep this handy list in your content creation arsenal for when you need to whip out material that fascinates your audience — and keeps them captivated.
1. Start with information, then add insight
Information is good, but it’s not enough to establish your thought leadership.
If you and I can both search for the same information, that “content” isn’t content — it’s a commodity. Step it up a notch by adding insight to your message.
Insight requires more effort and sophistication, and it increases the relevance and value of your material.
If you’re not a thought leader, you’re a thought follower.
2. Show us the implications of a trend
Enlighten us. Connect the dots.
For example, “Here’s something on the horizon: ___, and here’s what it means for you and your business: ___.”
Give us your interpretation. Point us toward what we need to pay attention to.
3. Go on a rant
Show us a point of view that you feel strongly about. Make a fuss about a problem.
A passionate voice vividly communicates what you believe and why we should care.
4. Build the message first, and the media second
With so many different ways to publish content, it can be easy to focus on the way you deliver content rather than the message itself. However, before you think about which form of media to use, you must first decide what to say.
Your message is not an afterthought. Message is king. Emperor.
Don’t “do” content unless you actually have something to say. Get your message right first, and the rest gets a whole lot easier.
5. Ask a provocative question
I once posted on Facebook: “Would you rather work for a talented jerk or a sweetheart hack?”
The resulting commentary became a two-part article in Advertising Age.
If you ask a provocative question on your blog, you should be prepared to be present in the comments section and on your social media channels so you can interact with people who share their views.
6. Give first dibs
Let people know if it’s the first time you’re writing about a certain topic or giving away a juicy gift.
When your community knows they’re getting an exclusive goodie, they’re more likely to value the special content.
7. Share a piece of your history
Pull back the curtain on your business and invite us inside.
Here’s an example from my own business:
When I first created the Fascination Advantage personality assessment, each report was created manually and had a 72-hour turnaround time. Today, every report is delivered instantly, but I’m not so sure that’s a good thing because it doesn’t give people the chance to build curiosity about their report results.
8. Curse a shared enemy
What do you and your reader both dread?
If you’re reading this (and I happen to know for a fact that you are), we probably share enemies of creativity, such as feeling stuck or the pressure of looming deadlines.
Define a mutual misery, and you’ll bond with your audience by proving you understand their pain.
9. Give an unexpected gift
When Beyoncé released her fifth album without any pre-launch preparation, fans cheered for the unexpected delight.
U2 pulled off a memorable surprise, releasing Songs of Innocence for free, without warning, announced by Apple’s CEO literally minutes before it became available on iTunes.
What if you unexpectedly release a new course, product, or freebie?
Sometimes, the most effective hype is none at all.
10. Critique your own brand (or yourself)
Ever heard the term schadenfreude? It describes the pleasure derived from the misfortune of others.
It’s human nature to be fascinated with what went wrong — and to wonder if you were able to learn from your mistakes. That’s why interviewers frequently ask, “What was your biggest mistake?”
11. Educate people about a potential problem
“Education” seems a little matronly when standing next to its sexier cousins: entertainment and engagement. But don’t forget this reliable standby.
Teaching is useful, and sometimes, even sexy.
12. Ask for opinions
You might not be opinionated, but your audience is. Present your community with a specific point of view and ask them to weigh in.
Add your own follow-up thoughts in your comments section.
13. Give a behind-the-scenes glimpse
Every once in a while, invite us into your home, creative process, or personal life.
Show us a new side of yourself, so we get a three-dimensional understanding of who you are as a person.
14. Find the good
Praise a company that’s doing things differently — and getting it right. Spotlight customers, employees, or even other competitive products in your category.
There’s room for all of us to succeed.
Lead us to a bigger world without the fear of making yourself smaller.
15. Hit a nerve
Find an intensely charged issue that taps directly into your audience members’ brains. Link this hot button to your desired action, then build your messages around that.
What does your reader fear could go wrong, and how can you prevent or solve this? FedEx uses a hot button and charges a premium for “fear relief.”
16. Identify our secret hopes
Deep down, we all hold certain aspirations (even if we don’t admit them).
We want to become smarter and more relaxed; we want to be recognized and admired. While it’s easy to identify rational needs, it takes some savvy to demonstrate that you understand what we aspire to become.
17. Start a contest
I used to be surprised by the lengths people go to for even the smallest reward. Now I know that it gives people permission to step in and participate.
Fire up a little competition by inviting readers to enter a contest and interact with one another.
18. Explore an unfulfilled need
Identify something that’s missing or unsolved in our lives — ideally, something that people don’t realize is missing until you point it out.
Do they have a rational need (such as the need to spend less)? Or, an emotional need (such as feeling validated by a well-known brand name)?
Find ways in which your business fulfills what’s missing.
19. Describe anything that fascinates you
Any topic can be fascinating, as long as the author openly illuminates a weird or wonderful passion.
Do you have a mania for macramé or a devotion to Dachshunds? Tell us why. Show us the world through your eyes.
20. Predict what will happen next
Or what you think should happen next. Or what you believe should be true, even if it’s not (yet).
21. Dare us
Challenge us to take one step outside our little bubbles. Make us a little uncomfortable.
Incite people to commit to one small act of defiance or bravery.
Be courageous enough to provoke and occasionally turn people off. Your job is to change the way we think. Go ahead. I dare you.
I promised you 21 ways to create fascinating content. This is #22. Sometimes a little extra bonus wins your readers’ hearts and minds.
When you fascinate your audience, they’ll remember, share, and take action on what you say. Show us why we should care, and we’ll care about your content, and you.
The goal of creating content isn’t just to create more content. The world doesn’t need another post, tweet, or article. The world needs you.