Creating great content is fun and even exciting, but it’s only one step of the puzzle if you’re looking for results. There are a million pieces of content on the internet, and even fantastic content can fall through the cracks if it’s not in the right place at the right time. It’s just not enough to produce great content when all the content in the world is at the fingertips of anyone with a smartphone. How do you ensure your content is not only engaging but gets the attention it deserves? The answer is planning.
A great plan is essential for every phase of your content marketing ecosystem. We discuss content strategy often in the Clever Content Club Blog, and strategic planning is critical as you zoom out and look at your whole process, but tactical planning is just as important. On a tactical level, you want to plan for how to produce great content and ensure you are getting the right content to the right audience at the right touch points.
The farther ahead you can be in planning content conception and production, the better off you’ll be in producing a consistent flow of content with consistent quality. This includes identifying those big events and holidays you can build content around. We all know when the Super Bowl takes place; proper planning allows you to make sure your concepts for related content enter your pipeline early enough to be ready for the big game. Consistently updating your progress helps you identify early when you’re likely to have a gap in content, so you can figure out how to fill it.
One key to filling content gaps is knowing what you have in your toolbox; you can often get even more mileage out of your old content by adapting and/or remixing it into something fresh and new. You can even revisit old content and provide an update. Got a blog post from 2016 about upcoming trends? If it held up well, use that to build a fun new blog piece examining how well your organization did in its projections. A good content management system that incorporates content intelligence features is superb for this; for example, CONCURED’s platform allows you to index your content, apply tags and keywords for easy searching, and scores your content. This is also helpful for reacting to trending topics; when everyone’s talking about an event on the news and you’ve planned properly, you can find the right piece of content and share it for an easy win. However, that easy win is only easy because of your prior planning.
Planning even includes how to amplify your content; once you click publish, how do you get the word out? For most of us, social media is a huge part of earning the organic reach that makes content marketing so successful. We’ve written a lot about buyer personas and how to target the right content to your audience by effectively utilizing them. Expand that to your amplification strategy; think about when and how your audience connects and engages with social media.
If you’re trying to reach executives for a B2B services company, you might want to get that great infographic up at 9:30 am on a Tuesday on LinkedIn. If you’re marketing for a clothing company that specializes in teens, you’ll probably want to look at after school times to drop your best content. Drill down to your audience’s interests and figure out when your specific customers are most likely to be online and engaging with your kind of content (and probably don’t count on LinkedIn to reach the teens.)
Jazz musicians may make magic with improvisation, but they still need sheet music to riff off of. By planning and building a good process, that takes the stress off much of your content marketing production…which lets your creative mind soar when you have an opportunity to soar when you think up a great, fresh, topical response to a trending topic or conversation. Some of the biggest content marketing wins come from finding ways to leverage existing trending topics. Good planning allows you to have the available time and energy to take advantage of this.
An editorial calendar is an essential tool for content marketing planning. It provides a roadmap and framework for the process of developing content and shepherding it through your organization’s process. This is NOT the same as your content marketing strategy; this is a tactical tool, designed to help manage many of the issues mentioned previously and plan out the ground-level work of your content marketing program.
For many large organizations, new content has a dizzying series of checks and signoffs from stakeholders throughout the organization. This takes time, especially since for some stakeholders, signing off on your content may not be their highest priority. A thoughtfully-built calendar will account for this time and ensure you’re not finishing your perfect Super Bowl tie-in video after baseball season has started.
There are many software solutions for this, but at its heart, any good editorial calendar will include the following info for each piece of content:
Who is responsible for creating the content? Who will post it and promote it? Who ‘owns’ it for the purposes of making sure the deliverable meets deadlines and quality benchmarks?
Who is the content for? Is there a specific buyer persona activated by the content? Who is your audience?
What is the purpose of the content? What objectives is it aligned to? Are there other pieces of content connected to it? Is there a particular spot you’re targeting in your funnel, or point in the buyer’s journey?
What type of content is it? Long-form blog post? Infographic? Short video, long video, podcast, Instagram image?
What channels do you plan to use to distribute and amplify the content? This is especially important to know if you need time to adapt it to a different format or medium.
A timeline with due dates for each stage and time blocked out to usher it through revisions and signoffs as needed. This should include, for larger projects, times to check in with relevant parties and keep the content moving if needed.
If you work with contractors or outside agencies to produce content, using an editorial calendar solution that can be easily shared with stakeholders in and out of your organization can be very helpful. This is especially true for big projects where multiple parties may be simultaneously working on different pieces of a content marketing initiative.
While not strictly necessary, it can sometimes be helpful to include a field that answers the question of why you are creating each particular piece of content. Including a rationale for each piece of content helps focus your thinking and connect your higher-level strategic planning to your content by evaluating it against those overarching considerations.
We talk a lot about content strategy because the higher-level planning is where many content marketing novices need the most help, but it’s important to plan just as carefully at a tactical level. At the end of the day, planning is the best way to ensure that the right content is getting made and amplified at the right times to the right people. The best thing you can do for your content to reach your audience instead of forever languishing in the vast wastelands of forgotten content? Solid, realistic, and detailed planning.
The Clever Content Club
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