"Go to the library," my professor instructed us, "and pull out three books. Open those books to any random page and write down the first full sentence you see. Then come back here."
We did as we were told, and after quickly shuffling through the racks returned to our college classroom. "Now," he continued, "pick one of those sentences and use it as a prompt to write a new story."
This assignment may sound absolutely crazy to some, but for me, it became the catalyst to a creative boom. I remember my startle—create something with this random information?—but soon enough it got my gears churning, thinking about how to transform the misplaced sentences into a piece of art.
While you may think the methods of a college fiction writing class hold no water for your business model, you may be mistaken. Thousands of companies are generating content through freelance writers, guest contributors, or if working through the Tidal network, a group of qualified bloggers. But asking for content can be tricky. While you want to generate honest and authentic work, sometimes the product is not all you hoped it would be. Offering a prompt can solve this dilemma.
Direction. It's what all of us want at times, even in a creative space. Prompts provide a basic guideline, a springboard to launch from. For many, it will help drive original content, perhaps pushing a writer to a new creative place. For others, it will help remind them of the client's goals.
Additionally, prompts help you communicate your own strategy. Asking for content is one thing; knowing what kind of content you want is another. Prompts will also help you narrow down your direction and zero in on what should be achieved through the assigned task.
Prompts can arrive in various forms: Q&As, contests, or a call for specific content.
The content was streamlined and consistent. Each post related to the other.
Another example is Vanity Fair's International Best-Dressed List. The quality of submissions continues to astound the fashion community. The clear instructions and expectations of submissions have generated thousands of top-notch fashion images.
So the next time you're thinking about hiring creators to generate content, consider providing a prompt to help your freelancer, guest writer, or blogger along, and help you as the host decide what direction you'd like for the campaign. Making this small change will generate more inspired, fresh, original, and thoughtful content than you ever thought possible.