How to use a blog post prompt

By Brittany Taylor

brainstorming

How to use a blog post prompt

to create original content for your online business


by Brittany Taylor

published May 1, 2018

updated May 24, 2018


When you’re stuck for inspiration, blogging prompts seem like a great idea. You dial up a Google search, type in those keywords, and envision a near future that features you typing one genius idea after another into existence.

But the reality of blog post prompts doesn’t often measure up to the fantasy.

Using a writing prompt often reminds me of a trip to an antique store. You push through the door expecting to find something fantastic, something you’ve never seen before. An hour later, however, you’re staring at a rusty contraption wondering, “How do you even use this?!”

While I’m still not sure how to wrangle that dusty whatsit I found last weekend, I can definitely show you exactly how to use a blogging prompt if inspiration doesn’t strike immediately. And hey, that’s all of us every now and then, right?

related

Before you get started, learn how to prep for a productive brainstorming session

3 basic ways to use a blogging prompt

No matter your niche, no matter your industry, no matter the time of year or holiday you’re aiming for, there is a blog post writing prompt waiting for you. You don’t even need a writing prompt aimed at whatever type of business you run to be able to use that prompt to inspire a new blog post!

What you need is a set of techniques that will help you bridge the gap between blog prompt and blog post.

The techniques that follow will show you how to do exactly that. Soon, you’ll find blogging inspiration everywhere you look, whether you’re tackling my daily brainstorming prompts on Instagram, jamming out to Spotify’s New Music Friday, or perfecting your #netflixandchill.

Word association

Word association is a common psychological exercise. To use it while brainstorming, start by reading the blogging prompt and choosing a word or phrase to focus on. Then, come up with other words, phrases, or concepts that you associate with the ones you picked.

The associations you come up with will probably be a mix of standard associations and personal associations.

An example of a standard association could be associating the word “dark” with the word “evil.”

An example of a personal association could be associating the same word, “dark,” with the word “stormy,” because you’re a rum guzzler.

Continue coming up with new word associations until one inspires a blog post. Now, it could take a little bit more work to go from these words and ideas to a blog post that is relevant to your business. To get from Point A to Point B, try asking yourself questions.

Sticking with our example, here are a few sample questions you could use to develop a blog post:

  • What do my competitors tend to “keep in the dark” that I could tell my readers about?
  • What is the evil side of my industry that my audience should be aware of?
  • What trend has taken my niche “by storm”?

Word association is my favorite tactic to use with brainstorming prompts. It’s particularly helpful for people who tend to think in tangents or comparisons, or for people who easily find links between discrete ideas.

related

Get my free master class in word association

Emotional association

The last technique had us associating with words. This technique does a similar thing, but with emotions.

Some blog post writing prompts will ask you about an event in your past, like when you found out Santa wasn’t real or the first time you kissed someone. Before you turn your nose up at these prompts, certain that you’ll never write a post inspired by such-and-such event, remember this: The prompt is a starting point, not an end point.

If you’re not interested in focusing your writing on the situation referenced by the prompt, try considering the memories you associate with it, instead. Read the prompt and then recall the experience it refers to. How did that moment make you feel? What about the after-effects or consequences? How did it change your behavior? Do you feel differently about it now than you did at the time?

Once you’ve considered your emotions relations to your experience, apply those feelings to your business, your industry, or your audience. Here are a few examples that do that using the situations mentioned above:

  • When I learned that Santa doesn’t really slide down my chimney to deliver Christmas gifts, I felt like I couldn’t trust my parents to tell me the truth about other things in life. What are some ways trust is important to my customer in relation to my niche?
  • My first kiss was gross, and I remember not expecting it to feel that way. What are some experiences my readers might have that they won’t see coming? How can I help them plan ahead for these experiences?

Anecdotal association

One of the best ways to build a following as an online business owner, especially in a creative field, is to share personal stories.

While you could stick with anecdotes that are clearly on-topic, perhaps referencing how you got started in your industry, there are ways to bring off-topic stories into your business brand, too. A blog post, or a post on a social media platform like Instagram, is a great outlet for sharing a different side of you in a professional way.

One effective way to do that is through anecdotal association. An anecdote, or a short story that is relevant to the topic at hand, lets you bring yourself, your history, and your interests into your content by treating your experiences as examples that illustrate the main point of your blog post, Instagram Story, tweet, or whatever type of content you’re sharing with your audience.

You can use this technique with any blogging prompt you encounter. It could be situational, as in, “the first time you rode a bicycle.” Or, it could be more open-ended, as in, “the guilty pleasure pop song you won’t admit you love.”

Once you’ve read the writing prompt, think about your first response to the question it asks.

If you’re pointed at a specific moment, recall the emotions you experienced then. Take note of the sensations you remember, the mistakes you made, and the lessons you learned.

If you’re pointed at something more general, like a favorite pop song, think about moments related to that prompt. Did you dance to it in 6th grade? Was it a song you shared with a significant other? Was it playing on the radio during an important moment? Bring that story to life with feelings, senses, consequences, and anything else you can think of.

Now that you have your story, you need to build a blog post around it. There are a few ways to do that:

  • Word association. Consider names, lyrics, and other words associated with the story in question, and use the tutorial above to develop a blog post.
  • Emotional association. Delve into those feelings you associate with your anecdote alongside the steps above to come up with a relevant blog post idea.
  • Share a lesson. You know how fables have lessons associated with their stories? You can create a lesson to accompany your story, too. Use your anecdote as an example of the lesson in action. When you do that, your audience is more likely to understand the impact of whatever it is that you’re teaching them.

I know that it looks like a lot of work when you read this how-to written out. The more you use this technique, though, the more automatic it will become. Trust me, your brain works—and learns—quickly!

This tactic is worth honing if you want to make personal storytelling part of your content strategy. To learn more about that, click here.

related

Take these writing prompts out for a test drive! Here are 56 blog post prompts to get you started

About me

Brittany Taylor

My name is Brittany, but my friends and clients call me "Britt." Online small business owners hire me to create content strategies and write their blog posts, email newsletters, and social media updates. I work with bosses around the world from the marshes of Charleston, S.C.

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