HOW TO GET THE MOST ACCURATE SCORE IN BRAINSTORM BUDDY
READ THE TRANSCRIPT:
While Brainstorm Buddy is based on its creator's 25 years of experience selling ideas to top publications and businesses—and uses some smart logic on the back end—it's your input that makes it work. Brainstorm Buddy can only judge your idea based on how you answer the six questions. And as computer scientists like to say, GIGO: Garbage In, Garbage Out.
WE LOVE OUR OWN IDEAS A LITTLE TOO MUCH
Judging an idea too harshly is generally not the problem we see—it's being too optimistic that you have to watch out for.
You might be a little too lenient when you answer the questions in Brainstorm Buddy for any of these reasons:
You're creating a content calendar (for yourself or a client) and are running short on ideas to fill it up. You just want to get this thing done!
You're a freelancer who's dying to make a sale, and all your hopes are hanging on this one idea. (Been there!)
You love, love, love this idea...and want to see it succeed!
These are all understandable reasons for being over-optimistic when you answer the questions. After all, ideas are the coin of the realm for content pros. No ideas = no income. No one wants to have to ditch an idea when it means spending more of your time on this tortuous task.
However, you'll waste even more time by forcing through an idea that's not ready. Not to mention, you'll burn through your client's, brand's, or audience's goodwill when your content topics don't perform as well as you had hoped.
You may have heard of editors dealing with inboxes stuffed with pitches that are irrelevant or inappropriate, or businesses publishing content that goes nowhere. Every one of these failed pitches and pieces of content exist because someone loved it more than they should have.
We're wired to like things better just because we created them. Researchers call this The IKEA effect: "a cognitive bias in which consumers place a disproportionately high value on products they partially created." (Thank you, Wikipedia!)
7 WAYS TO MAKE SURE YOU DON'T DECEIVE YOURSELF
Here's how to get out of your own way so Brainstorm Buddy can do its best job for you—and increase your chances of engagement, shares...and sales:
1. Go beyond the title
Actually, this first tip is one that will keep you from scoring your idea too low. Whether you're pitching, publishing, producing, or promoting a content idea, you're usually presenting a whole package. So when you're deciding which answer to pick in Brainstorm Buddy, consider that an idea actually encompasses:
Your audience. For example, a blog post idea may be surprising to nurses in one specialty but not those in another. A podcast episode about the origins of spaghetti would be relevant for a podcast that covers the history of food, but not one that covers food news.
The information you plan to share. (This would be conveyed in your pitch and/or in your promotion of the published piece of content.) A basic topic may not be surprising at first glance—say, how to sell your software—but can become surprising if you're offering tips that go beyond the usual.
The people (if any) you plan to interview. Interviewing someone who’s currently in the news (or gone viral) can take an idea from untimely to timely.
The packaging (how you organize/format the information). An idea that’s been published all over creation might become unique if you pitch/publish it as a quiz, slideshow, or infographic.
I try to be walk you through this a bit in Brainstorm Buddy, but it helps to keep the concept of "the whole package" in mind.
2. Channel your most hard-ass reader
You've probably had a client or editor who picked your work apart, or a reader who took you to task for inconsistencies or logical errors in your writing. As much as you may dislike this person, pretend you are them as you go through the questions. Challenge yourself. Ask the hard questions. Ask for proof.
3. Do your research
Not sure, say, how unique your idea is, or whether it's relevant to enough of your audience? Look it up!
For example: Your audience is high-end restaurant owners, and you have an idea for a blog post on how to prevent guests from leaving without paying. But how relevant is this for upscale eateries? Is there really a plague of designer-clad clientele scarfing down their Kobe beef and Maine lobster burgers and dashing out the door?
Try Googling to see if you can find surveys of restaurant owners, discussion threads on the topic, or other data that hints at whether the old "chew and screw" happens at higher-priced restaurants.
Or maybe you're a journalist who wants to pitch an article to a health magazine about new treatments for rheumatoid arthritis. Check out the publication's media kit to find out the demographic breakdown of their readership, then research how common RA is among this group.
Final example: You're the content strategist at a bank and have an amazing idea for a guide on how to interpret your credit score. Is it unique? Type the proposed topic or title into a search engine and see how many similar stories pop up.
4. Set it aside
We know you want answers now—but if you're having trouble judging how to answer the six questions about your idea, put it aside for a few hours, or even a whole day. Come back to it when you're fresh, and you may have a better perspective on it.
5. Pretend someone else wrote up your idea
You didn’t come up with this idea. You must be mistaken! Someone else did, and they think it's 100% relevant, useful, and all the rest. Do you, as a disinterested party, agree? If you saw this piece of content somewhere else, would it strike you as stale, irrelevant, or common?
6. Remember that you don't need a "perfect" score
Brainstorm Buddy uses advanced logic to score an idea; it's not just "Click Yes on all of these and you're good to go." Some criteria are more important than others, and the score you get on one of the questions can be affected by your answer to another one. So if an idea lags in one area, it may be saved by fulfilling another one of the criteria.
Not to mention, Brainstorm Buddy makes allowances for evergreen topics and other types of ideas that may not seem like a win as you're going through the quiz.
Try it out and you'll see!
7. Use Brainstorm Buddy with...a buddy
If you simply can't decouple your emotions from your idea (which is common and normal!), ask a friend or coworker to go through the six questions with you—or for you. You may think your idea is useful and surprising, but your buddy might not agree. A quick discussion about how well your idea hits any of the criteria can help you get the most accurate score.
When I taught classes for freelance writers and on-staff content producers, I discovered that if an idea wasn't 100% perfect right off the bat, the writer would want to ditch it and try to come up with an entirely new idea.
Don't do this! In many cases, if an idea doesn't work it's because it's lacking on just one or two criteria. Find ways to shore up the weaknesses and it may end up that your idea will work after all.
If your idea earns a low score in Brainstorm Buddy, you'll get tips on how to improve it. Instead of moving on to the next idea, consider how you might tweak your idea—and then run it through the tool again.
A FINAL NOTE: IT'S NOTHING PERSONAL
Content creation is a business. Your job is to come up with ideas that will help your brand reach its goals. If an idea doesn't make the cut, it's not a reflection on you—any more than your turning down a free sample of cheese bites at the supermarket is a reflection on the manufacturer. (Maybe you're a vegan. Or lactose intolerant. Or full from lunch.)
Your ideas are not you. So evaluate your ideas as realistically as you can against the six criteria, knowing that it will be worth it when you hit on an idea that's pure gold.