The landscape of content creation is littered with the abandoned blogs, podcasts, newsletters, and social streams of countless brands.
They began with hope and promise, but ended grinding to a halt, remaining only to remind their creators of their failure. Most were doomed from the start. The reason why?
Lack of planning.
That planning could be as simple as taking time to come up with ideas for content. It could be that they had ideas, but there was no strategic thinking behind them and so they failed to achieve the goals of the brand.
The stats speak for themselves; this 2020 report from the Content Marketing Institute found that of the least successful content marketers, only 19% had a documented content marketing strategy. In contrast, 69% of the most successful did have a strategy. And where does a strategy go without planning? Nowhere.
This might be a familiar story to you. Have you given up on a blog in the past, or found it a struggle to post consistently across your social platforms?
Benefits of planning your content output
Planning your content properly, weeks and months in advance, can help you avoid content catastrophes in a number of ways by:
- Allowing you to maximise the amount of content you generate from each subject.
- Putting less pressure on you to come up with last-minute ideas.
- Making it easier to ensure you’re creating content for all your audience profiles or reader personas.
- Allowing you to track the performance of your content against the goals you set for it.
- Allowing you to ensure you’re not always creating content of the same category (opportunistic, newsworthy, strategic, or engaging).
While that explains why it’s important to plan your content, this piece is about how to plan and manage your content more effectively. So let’s look at that.
The three main pains of content planning
Most brands’ hopes for content success end up dashed on the rocks of reality due to a lack of planning in one of the following areas:
- Idea generation (or ‘ideation’).
- Editorial calendar planning.
Let’s tackle them one at a time.
How to generate content ideas
Before you start generating ideas, you need an understanding of your audience and your purpose.
If you don’t know who your audience is, or think you know but aren’t sure, here’s a free guide to help you through the process.
When you understand your audience, you’ll know the pains and obstacles they need to overcome, tasks they need to complete, and goals they aspire to.
You’ll also know how your offering can help them with all those pains, obstacles, tasks, and goals. All this data should be catalogued and easy to access; you’re going to be using it a lot.
Turning to purpose, there are five main aims for content marketing:
- Build brand awareness.
- Drive people to visit your site.
- Generate sales enquiries.
- Improve conversion rates.
- Support client after-sale and retention.
And to achieve them you have a range of approaches that you can take:
So already, if you create one piece of content about one particular pain that one type of customer experiences, with each of the four approaches, for each of the five main aims, that’s 20 pieces of content.
But we’re not done yet.
If we break the approaches down further, there are several categories (mentioned above) of the kind of content you can create;
- Strategic — In-depth, detailed content that drills down into a particular subject. White papers, eBooks, and blog posts all fall into this category. If you create a single well-researched asset like an eBook, you can use that as the basis for many smaller pieces of content across different platforms, each focusing on a different area of the larger subject. Repurposing your content like this cuts down on the time you need to spend coming up with entirely new ideas.
- Newsworthy — Announcements about notable achievements of your brand, discoveries, awards, new client wins, or the release of resources. This type of content is often self-promotional and, as such, doesn’t help your customers. However, it does help provide credibility and social proof, which are important for reputation-building.
- Opportunistic — This type of content is harder to plan, but could include social posts around current industry or social topics, highlighting activities within the business, client success stories, or stats.
- Engaging — Content that explicitly asks for input or feedback from its audience: online polls, questionnaires, and requests for recommendations fit into this category.
Direct engagement is the best way to connect with your audience and demonstrates the importance you place on their opinions and feedback. In turn, they feel valued by your brand.
When you put all these aims, approaches, and categories together, you’ll see that you have a huge range of options when creating content. Apply them to what you already know about your audiences and your own offering, and you shouldn’t ever run out of ideas for content.
The trick now is managing those ideas and working out what content you will post, where, and when. And for that, you need an editorial calendar.
Editorial calendar planning
You already know that you need a balance of content in order to reach all your audiences and tackle their various pains, obstacles, tasks, and goals.
Using the example above, if you’ve created an eBook — let’s say about how to use a software tool your company has built — you could write a weekly blog and social posts that each focus on a different chapter of the book.
An editorial calendar helps you deliver that content on time by allowing you to plan weeks and months in advance, so you can achieve that balance across your content output.
What does an editorial calendar look like? A humble spreadsheet. The helpful guys over at Hubspot have templates which you can download for free here.
All you need to do is add columns for your aims, approaches, and categories, then you can plan out your content with confidence that, when you come back to it in a few weeks’ time, you’ll know at a glance exactly what you’re creating content about that day, for whom, how, and why.
An editorial calendar is also important as a reference tool after you’ve shared your content, when you’re reviewing its performance. It’s easy to get distracted by ‘vanity’ metrics like number of likes, but if your intention was to drive people to your website and the content hasn’t achieved that, you know you need to change your approach with future content. Your editorial calendar can show you what your original aim was.
It can be a big job to post all your content across a range of platforms at the right time. Reminders can get forgotten, and juggling logins to multiple social media accounts can easily lead to mistakes.
Helpfully, there are a number of tools which you can use to plan your content delivery in advance, so it gets scheduled and posted when it needs to be.
Here’s a great list of tools you can use for your social content scheduling.
And while most people are aware of Mailchimp, it’s not the only kid on the block. Discover some alternatives you can use here.
At Prize Content, we deliver content through Arro, a tool we designed and developed that allows us to plug directly into a website’s CMS as well as tools like Mailchimp and Hootsuite. Through Arro, we can post content across your website, social profiles, and mailing list, simultaneously, at the click of a button.
Ready, steady, content
With the information and understanding you now have, you should be able to plan content that gets the results your business needs.
You’ll be able to see what content you’re making weeks and months in advance using an editorial calendar, post it at the right time using scheduling tools, and review its performance against the aim you set for it at the beginning.
So what are you waiting for? It’s over to you to go and engage your customers with some compelling content.
If you’re finding planning content for your brand an uphill battle and need some support, get in touch with the team at Prize Content today to see how we can make it hassle-free.