Tweak Your Biz » Marketing » Content Planning: How To Get Started

Content Planning: How To Get Started



Brian Clark, the founder of Copyblogger, suggests that to succeed in blogging you needed to stop thinking like a blogger… and more like a publisher.

In other words, use blogging tools to share content but think like a publisher when creating the actual content.

Of course, this leads to the question: how do you start to create content like a publisher?

What is Content Planning?

One way to do this is to create a content plan. In same way that a project manager creates a project plan with deliverables, milestones and due dates, the content plan takes the same approach but focuses on content as the deliverable.

‘A content plan describes who, what, how, where and when content is developed.’

The benefit of creating a content plan is that it:

  • Clarifies who owns each piece of content
  • Defines the format for providing the content
  • Identifies who receives, reviews and approves each content
  • Identifies the sign off processes behind the supply of content
  • Determines the frequency in which content is updated and
  • Highlights project deadlines

Getting Started

The simplest way to get started is to identify ALL your content deliverables so they sync with other business and marketing activities.

For example, if you have a product launch in December, then identify, develop, and prepare content before launch date. As your product hits the shelves for XMAS, your content begins to kick in at the same time, supporting other initiatives that run in parallel.

Content Planning For Blogs

Here’s a suggested approach for developing a content plan for a medium size blog:

  • Customer Persona – Define your top three customer personas. These are short pen portraits of key target customers. Keep it brief; highlight their pain points and most urgent needs. 200 words max.
  • Content Schedule – Outline the key content deliverables you need to produce for the next three months. For example, blog posts, white papers, case studies, and videos.
  • Content Mix – Define the types of content your customers want to consume. For example, besides text, they may also want video (YouTube), audio (iTunes) and presentations (SlideShare).
  • Keyword Strategy – Identify the top twenty keywords you want to target. These should be a blend of keywords you can potentially ‘own’ and long tail keywords for your business sector.
  • Call To Actions – Identify the most important call to actions for each content deliverable, for example, email capture, sign up for webinars, download software, Like a Facebook page or add a comment.
  • Category – Where applicable, define a fixed set of categories so you can tailor content for each section. This keeps content focused and protects you from diluting the impact of your message.

Creating an Editorial Calendar

The next step is to plan how content will be created.

We’re all familiar with the Editorial Calendar that newspapers use; well, it’s the same idea just modified for publishing to the web.

Create an Excel spreadsheet and then add the following columns:

  • Category – Content must fit into one of the categories as defined for the content architecture.  For example, on Bloggertone, we have categories for Sales, Marketing and Finance. This lets us optimize our content for these channels and build up expertise in these domains.
  • Number – Assign each piece of content a unique number. Create a simple but practical naming convention, such as ContPlan-Oct5-BT-F, which means Content Plan, publish date Oct 5 on Bloggertone, Final version.
  • Title – Create a working title for each article. These can be changed later during development.
  • Priority – Assign a High, Medium or Low status to each deliverable. This helps prioritize content and assign writers and designers where needed.
  • Content Developers – Assign team members to each type of content. Some content assets may require more than one person, for instance, when developing video tutorials or infographics.
  • Format – Identify the format, for example, video and other specifics. Highlight if the video is to be developed for the iPhone, Android, YouTube or TV.
  • Due Date – Assign a due date by which the content must be delivered.
  • R/I/D – Highlight any risks, issues, or dependencies for this deliverable. For example, is this content part of a product launch, special promotion or branding activity?

Publishing Workflow

At this stage, we’ve identified the content, assigned resources and developed it. What’s next?

Publish!

This should be the easy part but… if you’ve tried to do this without a plan, you know what happens next.

  • Blog posts get written but not reviewed.
  • Podcasts get recorded but not tested for quality.
  • Videos are shot but not formatted correctly; don’t get uploaded to YouTube and stay on the hard drive…

There must be a better way.

A more effective way to do this is to define the following:

  • Submission process – when you’ve finished the content, identify who checks it for quality.
  • Editorial review process – when you’ve finished the quality review, identify who does the editorial review.
  • Publishing process – when you’ve approved the content, identify who publishes it.

Conclusion:

Does a content plan really work? For me, the benefit of using a content plan is that it gives my content focus.

Without it, readers get confused by the constant shifting in the subject matter, the message loses focus, and efforts become diminished.

Instead, see your content as something that needs to be cultivated. Create the environment, plant the seeds, and help your content travel far.

How do you plan your content? Do you use an Editorial Calendar? How do you keep your content on track?

“Image from Matthias Pahl /Shutterstock.”



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The Author:

Ivan helps people run their online business more effectively. Find out at www.ivanwalsh.com http://www.ivanwalsh.com

Add Your Comment

  • http://www.tweakyourbiz.com Niall Devitt

    Great post, Ivan and one that I am familar with having to manage content for Bloggertone. The key point as you have outlined is that you need to plan ahead to get the most from your content strategy. Something else that needs to be considered in conjuction with content creation is promotion. After you’ve published, how do you plan to let people know about your content? Perhaps food for a part 2? :)

  • http://www.ivanwalsh.com Ivan Walsh, Media Writer

    You’re right. An Amplification Plan is needed to drive the content, otherwise no one finds it. 

    Part two I guess :)

  • http://twitter.com/beatricewhelan Beatrice Whelan

    Great post Ivan. I think a content plan is vital for any successful blog especially if you blog with a purpose like increasing traffic, search engine ranking or online sales. The great thing about a content plan is that is forces the blog owner to think about an overall strategy and goal for the blog – similar to a business plan in this way I suppose. I think you or someone else shared something before about having a business plan for a blog?

  • http://www.ivanwalsh.com Ivan Walsh, Media Writer

    That’s it Beatrice, it keeps you on track ESPECIALLY if you’re working with a team of writers. 

    Creating a
    content plan ensures that all the content assets are working in unison otherwise
    anarchy breaks out J

  • http://www.ivanwalsh.com Ivan Walsh, Media Writer

    Hi Christian,

     

    The advantage
    of your conversational plan framework is that you can see what’s beginning to work, eg CTAs and
    other indicators.

     

    Many bloggers,
    when they have spikes in traffic, can’t work backwards and determine what
    actually worked.

     

    This is
    very frustrating (I’ve been there J) but the content plan protects you
    against this… to some degree.

     

    Ivan

  • Derbhile

    Totally agree – a content plan is a vital first step in identify and promoting your message. Deadlines do give focus, but another important aspect of a content plan is to think about where the best places are to promote your content and include promotion in your schedule. And at the early stage, think about the types of content that are most relevant for your business. Then you can plan out the different ways in which you can spread your message.

  • http://www.smartsolutions.ie/blog/ Elaine Rogers

    This is one of these moments – I read a post and think – of course I should be doing this stuff, even for a one-(wo)man blog!! It’s like having a proper marketing plan, a proper accounts plan, a proper exit plan (!).

    Planning is the the foundations stone of execution, and if not done properly and orderly can be more a hindrance than a help.

    Great post Ivan, I would need to read it a few times to understand the consequences, and the true benefits of having a content plan

  • http://www.sianphillips.ie/ Sian Phillips

    Thanks Niall. I thought Margaret would be an interesting interview but it went way beyond that – such a great success story

  • Margaret

    Thanks for the lovely comment Niall :)

  • http://twitter.com/annedepuryperez Anne Perez

    Great interview Sian. As a stay at home mum I can relate very much to how Margaret felt at the beginning. Its an inspiring story to read. 

  • http://www.hounddogsocialmedia.com Hound Dog Social Media

    Hehe, a fun typo. I am all for BYOB in the office! =) “The technology research firm Garner estimates that 90 percent of businesses will support BYOB by 2014.”

  • http://tweakyourbiz.com/ TweakYourBiz

    lol, thanks for spotting that. It’s now changed :)

  • Think Energy

    Bring your own devise (BYOD) is a trend that is becoming more popular in many small businesses. Check out our list of pros and cons to the new policy – bit.ly/1c9T3S3

  • http://about.me/Lindeskog lyceum1776

    I think it is good that you could bring your own device (and beer! ;)) to the workplace. The question is how you take care of the security issue.

  • http://about.me/Lindeskog lyceum1776

    What’s your favorite beer? :)

  • http://about.me/Lindeskog lyceum1776

    How about TYB beer? ;) In Sweden a TV-serie got a beer, The Sunny Side (non-alcoholic or low % alcohol).

  • Nagrad

    Also, did you mean Gartner as the research firm, or is Garner a different IT research firm?

  • http://www.krishtechnolabs.com/ Krish TechnoLabs

    Interesting article. The most critical thing is not to ignore your users and always keep an eye on them. It is important to pay attention to their inquiries and watch their behaviors to act accordingly.