(Psst—It’s the same system reporters use to create a steady stream of stories)
Generating article ideas is a chronic challenge for many content creators…
- Finding fresh, different subject matter…
- Wondering if anyone else is working on the same thing…
- Questioning if your judgment about your article’s relevance is accurate…
- Worrying about getting the best sources for your writing…
- Fearing you won’t have enough material for your article…
These are all questions—uncertainties—we face.
To solve this, I recently pondered my days as a reporter. Especially when I covered a beat—a journalist’s area of responsibility, such a sports, politics, or the local police.
I never ran out of story ideas.
So I asked: “How could I use a similar system now?”
From “Beats me” to “Aha”
After drawing a temporary blank, an answer—a surprisingly simple one—hit me.
Back in the day, when I covered the police beat, getting stories wasn’t a problem. The process did eat time though.
Drive to cop shop…look at police blotter…find something that looked like a good story…set up interview or do it then—that’s about two or more hours.
The sports and political beats were similar. Plenty of stories, but you had to attend games, meetings, dinners, presentations, interviews, and so on.
My solution offers even more info sources while saving you valuable time.
Helps Beat Writer’s Block
The answer? Setting up a digital “beat”—or more accurately, a “beat” folder.
And the process is fast and easy.
For myself, I created such a folder in my Yahoo favorite’s directory.
I then went to my Gov’t folder and transferred the Federal Trade Commission, Food & Drug Administration, and National Institute of Health sites, along with many others, to the new folder.
I did the same with my Self-Help file—moving sites such as Web MD, the Mayo Clinic, the American Medical Association, and so on.
I also added several blogs and health news aggregators: the Medical Strategist, the Underground Health Reporter, Nutraingredients-USA, and more.
And that’s all it took…
Oh yes, I do have site subscriptions and Google alerts—but for article ideas?Inconsistent.
Next: System Test
First, I checked www.ftc.gov. Interesting, they just set up a new site for identity theft victims. Since I cover the self-help market, I could easily do a write-up on that.
There were also new reports on firms getting penalized for making misleading and unsubstantiated claims (It never ends). Definitely useful for a round-up article.
In fact, almost every site had info I could use for an article—some better than others of course.
- Cdc.gov—Food-borne infections down in 2014
- Fda.gov—Trending info on the proposed changes to supplement labels
- Webmd.com—Wow, a bonanza–the dangers of e-cigarettes… solving the rapid weight-loss question…how a “brain diet” can combat Alzheimer’s
The test convinced me. Checking my “beat” files is now something I’ll do at least weekly.
What about you?
If you’re not sure, ask yourself this: “Am I still facing any of those five ‘demons’ covered at the top of this article?” If so, then you may want to create your own “beat” file today.
About the author: Dale L. Sims
Dale L. Sims is a stealth sales strategist based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Also, from May 2010 to Jan. 2014, he served as marketing coordinator and health consultant for Healthy Design, a supplement and fitness product distributor in Cadillac, Michigan.
Plus, he is a former reporter, editor, and radio advertising salesman. (if needed–rep, person etc.)