Working in marketing – be it traditional marketing or content marketing – can be all-consuming.
You can easily find yourself so thoroughly immersed in the field that everything outside it becomes shut out of your consciousness. This closing off can be fatal to ideas generation, and when it’s your job to come up with ideas, this is obviously not a good thing. The ability to generate great content depends on staying tuned in to what’s going on around you.
It’s as easy as read, watch, listen, learn.
As well as being one of life’s great pleasures, reading opens you up to hitherto unknown worlds, concepts and philosophies. Not everyone has the time or inclination to tackle novels or non-fiction books, but it’s not such a big commitment to follow great publications on social media, where you get spoon-fed links to amazing long-form articles. Some of my favourites are The New Yorker, The Atlantic and Aeon, while local political and cultural publication The Monthly produces high-quality content and offers three free articles a month to non-subscribers. Also make sure you follow your local (and any other) quality broadsheets.
We all love sitting in front of the box (or computer screen) to watch a good series. Those beloved by us all – Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Breaking Bad – are not only fantastic entertainment, but they often say something meaningful about the times we live in. Beyond this, watching documentaries is an excellent way to delve into real-world political situations, unusual slices of human life or stories of great artists or other cultural figures. Where to find them? Netflix, YouTube, Vice, your humble free-to-air station and countless other places. Pick something you wouldn’t normally watch and see what you get out of it.
Radio is far from dead, and stations like our own Radio National offer an extensive array of programs on everything from science to religion to health to literature. As is the case with most savvy radio broadcasters, its programs (and additional content) are also available as podcasts. Internationally, the USA’s NPR network is a goldmine – series like This American Life, whose broad remit is to tell the stories that go into making America (they can be about almost anything) have deservedly become iconic. Then there is the wealth of standalone podcasts – a recent favourite for me has been US film critic Karina Longworth’s You Must Remember This, which tells the forgotten stories of 20th-century Hollywood.
Many of us baulk at the idea of going back to school, but there is something to be said for tackling study at a later stage of life. And in reality it doesn’t have to be onerous – there are many short courses out there, and they’re generally designed to fit around people’s working lives. Melbourne’s Centre for Adult Education (CAE) has been running for decades and offers courses in languages, writing, design and art, among other things. Meanwhile, The School of Life – an offshoot of the original School of Life, founded by writer and thinker Alain de Botton – offers single classes with a philosophical bent. (A Sydney School is opening soon.)
Getting across the broader culture for content-generation purposes is not about anything as crass or obvious as reading or watching something and then promptly lifting that idea. It’s about letting everything you watch, read or hear percolate in your subconscious so that when it comes time to generate content, your brain can tap into what you’ve ingested to come up with some interesting and (hopefully) original ideas.
Or as my favourite obscure pop musician, Lawrence, sang on “The Osmonds”, his ’90s ode to ’70s culture: “I soaked it in now it’s all dripping out.”