Dec 182013

Content Planning

You know that story about the cobbler’s children not having shoes and walking barefoot uphill in the snow? It’s a heartbreaker and it’s one we can all relate to. We all know what it feels like to kill ourselves for someone else, only to let our own needs go unmet.

Whether you work in an agency setting writing content for others all day while your own blog sits dry, or you’re in-house writing content for every department but yours, it can be difficult to keep your own content marketing goals on track when competing with other business goals. But having a strategy helps.

Your content strategy will get your car back on the road and power you toward where you need to go. But only if you build it.

Determine Your Goals

Align the content you’re creating with the goals of your business, whether the goals are to:

  • Generate leads.
  • Shorten the sales cycle.
  • Retain customers.
  • Build your brand.
  • Show off your voice.

By matching your content to the customer lifecycle, you ensure you’re hitting customers with the right message, at the right time, when it’s mostly likely to make an impact and have a positive effect on your business. This is the goal of your content. All of the engagement and shares are a means to this.

Determine your goals and know what you want to accomplish. Once you identity that, you can focus on creating the content you need.

Determine Your Resources

If you have a small internal content team tasked with creating content – from blog posts, to scripts, to billboards, to ebooks, to animated cartoons and beyond – you have to be smart about where you’re spending your time and what you’re working on.

  • How many people are on your team? How many can be dedicated (or almost dedicated) to content and how many can pitch in at various intervals?
  • What are they strengths? Words? Video? Speaking? Technical writing? Illustration?
  • How much of an investment do you need? 
  • How many times do you want to blog? 
  • How many newsletters do you want to create, at what intervals? 
  • What else is in your pipeline?

Create your Wish List and your Must Haves to find the middle ground between what you want to create, and what you can realistically create without straining your resources. By taking stock of what you have at the beginning, you can set proper expectations and ward off frustrations that may come later.

Understand Your Audience

It’s time to get down and dirty with your customers. It’s not enough to only know the basics. Instead, we need to invest time into developing customer personas and creating stories around who they are, what they want, how they view the brand, and how you can best serve them.

Analyze your analytics, survey your audience, do social research, interview customers – do it all and create the stories you need to base your content from. This is what will make your content marketing successful.

Without this step, you’re creating content for a dark room and hoping there are people biting. With personae in hand, you not only get to see the people you’re writing for, you become their best friend.

Create Your Stories

Hey, guess what? Your customers aren’t the only ones with stories to tell. Your brand has one, too. By understanding your customers’ stories you can identify which of yours are most relevant and important.

  • Does your sustainability focus and “made in the USA” stance matter to customers? 
  • Will your international shipping hit home with your audience’s needs? 
  • Is it your attention to detail or customer service that’s going to fulfill their desire?

Forget what your mother told you, you don’t know what’s most special about you until you know what’s special about your customer and you fit in.

Once you identify your brand stories, how can you incorporate that into everything else? How does it affect your voice, how you look, the way you present information? Start putting the puzzle together.

Look Through the Archives

No one said your 2014 content marketing strategy couldn’t include bits and pieces of years past. Take a stroll through your company’s content assets to see what already exists, what just needs the dust blown off and what in your catalog is up for reuse.

  • Has your company been sending out newsletters or direct mail pieces for three decades? Do you still have access to the old ones? Scan them and put them online and give your customers a nostalgic look at what once was.
  • Have a controversial blog post from last year that really got under people’s skill? Can you host a panel discussion on the same topic and invite some of the conversation’s big players to attend and speak?
  • Have you published an interesting case study that would make a great infographic?
  • Is there evergreen content created last year that didn’t get the promotional push it deserved?

Use these items. Help reduce the amount of fresh content you need to create by utilizing what already exists. Catalog what you have and what you can build from it.

Create an Editorial Calendar

We’re starting to think about the types of content we can get to creating. Awesome. Take that list of what you have and use those customer stories and persona to figure out what’s missing.

  • What stories aren’t you telling? 
  • What needs aren’t you meeting? 
  • What parts of your funnel still need back up?

Look for opportunities to leverage holidays, industry tie-ins, and your business calendar.

Once you have it, chart it. Create an editorial calendar (Google Spreadsheets work wonderfully) and map out your content for the next three months. Take into consideration your resources, your team’s strengths and how much content you can realistically create.

Create accountability by listing out when drafts are due, when final versions are due, who is responsible for writing, what the content themes are, the format, etc. Make the calendar accessible and viewable to everyone on your team. Put these deadlines in with the rest of your work deadlines. Make yourself a client.

Create a Plan For Reuse

Don’t be content to use it once and let it die. Develop themes that can be pulled together and expanded upon.

Anoint a Content Evangelist

Create a respect for, and culture of, content in your organization by putting someone in charge of it and giving it a face. Someone whose job it is to high-five the creator of that kickass blog post or to congratulate the design team on the interactive infographic they stayed late to put together.

Making someone directly responsible for celebrating internal success will help keep internal buy-in. This person should also be the one tracking the metrics behind the organization’s content and tweaking things as needed.

It’s cold outside. Make sure you and your children have shoes by putting a plan in place now to ensure it happens.

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