Affinity Diagrams: Drive Spontaneous Genius During Content Planning Sessions
You’re a content manager or business owner, and you’ve got ideas for how you want to conquer the Internet. You probably also have writers, content marketers, designers, and other idea men and women on your team—whether that team is in-house, contract, or both. That’s a lot of ideas.
Your content marketing calendar can become cluttered quickly with all those ideas, and the result is often a cacophony of content that doesn’t mix, doesn’t match, and doesn’t do much for your brand’s online wardrobe. One way to get everyone on the same page—and ensure your content isn’t clashing—is by using an affinity diagram in your content planning session.
What Is an Affinity Diagram?
An affinity diagram is a tool used in project and team management that lets you quickly identify and group a large number of ideas. The diagram helps you sort through chaos and discover natural order and relationship between ideas, content, products, services, and platforms.
How Do I Put the Diagram to Work?
To conduct an affinity diagram analysis, gather your team in a meeting room with a large table. You can also create an affinity diagram on your own or use a web-conference interface to brainstorm with a virtual team. The diagramming session works best in freeform on a table, floor, or wall, but you can use a virtual white board system.
- Provide small notecards or sticky notes and markers to the team or yourself.
- Take time for brainstorming, either alone or as a group. Record each idea on a separate note. If using a virtual meeting space, record ideas in a typed list each person can view.
- Spread notes on a large table or floor area.
- Look for ideas that are related and place them next to each other. If you are able to do this as a team in the same room, don’t talk as you are defining relationships. If you are doing the exercise online, you’ll have to communicate so that the person controlling the diagram can move ideas.
- If one idea seems to belong to more than one group, make another note with that idea.
- Some ideas may not belong to any group, and it’s okay to have loners.
- Once all notes have been placed, discuss or think about the chart that has been created:
- Do you see patterns in the ideas?
- Does the chart spark new ideas or clarify ideas? You can add new notes to the table.
- Are ideas categorized in a way that helps your content plan?
- Do ideas fall into natural timelines?
- Should you move some ideas around?
- Create a title for each grouping of ideas.
- Have someone record the chart by copying it onto paper or taking a picture of it so you can reference it later.
Content Benefits of an Affinity Diagram
Some benefits of the affinity diagramming process include:
- Sparking spontaneous content ideas you wouldn’t have had without structured communication or brainstorming
- Defining content idea relationships so you can develop an editorial calendar that is effective and logical
- Understanding which ideas are interlinked so you can drive integrated marketing online
- Identifying ideas that may be great but which don’t fit into your current content marketing plans or needs
Bio: Sarah S. is a trained project leader with an affinity for diagrams. She also likes words and loves to talk content marketing plans with clients.