One of the lessons I learned during my ad agency days was the value of a good “swipe” file. A swipe file is simply a file (or box) where you throw ads, articles, brochures – anything you like or think is particularly effective. When you were given a tough assignment, you’d sift through the swipe file, and often, what you saw would trigger a new idea or a new direction.


I continue to use a couple types of swipe files. If your organization published a newsletter, one of them can help you ensure that you have a steady stream of content.


Anytime you read something that might interest your readers, cut it out and toss it in your swipe file. Perhaps it’s a magazine article, maybe a story from a newspaper, maybe just an interesting fact – it doesn’t really matter. You can even throw sticky notes with article ideas in there. You can maintain a swipe file online by cutting and pasting from interesting sites and blogs


Once you’re ready to work on the next issue, scan through your swipe file, and you may be surprised how many good story ideas come to mind. A swipe file is also handy when you have a gap to fill and aren’t sure what to use. If you get good enough at it, you’ll never want for a story idea again!