It’s a struggle journalists have had for centuries, and now we are faced with the challenge as we become influencers or industry leaders or brand journalists.

How can you keep your content fresh? What will people respond to? What will they want to share? What will keep them coming back for more?

Here are five ways that will help you consistently create shareable content.

1. Subscribe to SmartBrief. The SmartBrief newsletter aggregates at least 10 articles per topic, per day. Topics include entrepreneurship, leadership, social media, and many others. This gives you a steady stream of content that is applicable to your interests.

2. Pay attention to current events. There is almost always something happening in the news that you can comment on for your industry. Let’s say there is news about a promising new breakthrough in treatment for the illness your charity works to eradicate. Write about it. Now that Yahoo! is requiring employees to work in the office, explore what that means for human resources or culture or leadership in your audience’s organizations. When you begin to read, watch, or listen to current events, you’ll find ways to relate it back to your expertise. The more you do it, the more natural it becomes.

3. Go through your sent email. This is a tip from Andy Crestodina, the co-founder of Web development firm, Orbit Media. Go through your sent email to see what types of things you’ve sent to customers, prospects, and vendors that could be used for content. Most of us write email messages to explain a sales process, a feature or benefit, or our thinking. Use those email messages to publish non-proprietary information online.

4. Conduct Q&As. Interviews work well as content because you’re giving people access to someone they wouldn’t otherwise meet. It may be the big keynote speaker at your industry’s annual conference, someone you respect or admire for the movement they’re making, or people inside your organization. Pull the person aside and ask a few questions, recording the answers for your content program. This works with audio, video, and written text.

5. Get help from your salespeople. Sit down with your sales team--or take a few minutes on your own if you’re the rainmaker--and ask what kinds of questions come up in meetings with prospects. They may include pricing, delivery, referrals, and point-of-differentiation questions. Create content around these topics. If a question is coming up in sales meetings, people are searching for it online, too. Be found for those questions.

Of course, you can also try the time-tested method of keeping a notebook full of ideas; news clippings, photos, images, or simply a list of headlines.

Whichever you choose, these five tips will help you stay current and provide valuable content for your customers.

Tips for Generating Leads and Driving Sales

Too often, we hear about public relations, content marketing, email campaigns, and social media as a goal in and of themselves. We talk about increased website visitors, fans and followers, but not about how they relate to the cold, hard cash your business needs to survive.

Connecting those two key areas--communication vehicles and how to influence customers to buy--is essential in order for those efforts to be valuable investments of time and resources. Here is what you need to know about generating leads and driving sales from online communications.

Use content

The very best way to generate leads is through content. Think about content with two perspectives: Free and paid. Paid content doesn’t necessarily mean money is going to change hands. Instead, paid content means you’re getting something in exchange for your content, such as an email address or phone number.

Let’s say you want to have a free monthly webinar, but people will have to register to attend. This is both a free and “paid” model. They are paying you with their email address, which means they have given you permission to market to them, and they’re getting an informative, free webinar.

For the most part, the people who register for your webinar are qualified leads. Some will be competitors because they want to see what you’re up to and will want to mimic you, but most will be people who want to do business with you.

Once the webinar is finished and you have a list of attendees, you can decide about whether to hand those leads over to your sales team or to put them into a lead-nurturing program to receive additional content, and push them through the marketing funnel to a decision.

Use the right tools

Small business owners might not have any customer relationship management software, so you track everything in Excel. That’s okay as long as you’re tracking leads somewhere. Of course, this also means you’re manually tracking how leads are finding you, what they do once they land on your site, where they go from there, and whether or not they end up buying. The more leads you generate, the harder using Excel or a whiteboard becomes.

An example of a good combination of tools might be Salesforce for customer relationship management, Marketo or Infusionsoft for email and marketing automation, along with advanced Google Analytics. If your organization can’t afford that combination, consider cost-efficient alternatives such as Highrise or MailChimp, which can help you track customer action and conversions more accurately. Don’t wait until you can afford enterprise-level software, but use what is available to you now in an effective way.

Track how someone found you

Did they subscribe to your blog or follow you on Twitter? Did they download a white paper, attend a webinar, attend a live Q&A you hosted through Google Hangouts, or did you meet at an event?

Knowing that will help you determine the types of content they need next to make a decision. And, when you track where they came from and what they did through the sales cycle, you can begin to pinpoint what kind of content works best to drive sales. Create a holistic approach with all of your media efforts, and you’ll soon become a necessary hub in the wheel of information.