I remember when conventional wisdom said brands needed to add a few blog posts per day and post on social media dozens of times in a 24-hour cycle. The idea was that by saturating your audience’s RSS or Twitter feeds with your content, brand recall would improve and you might even get a customer or two from it.
It was exhausting.
Fortunately, unless you’re a publisher, the days of posting 3-4 blogs and sharing 30-40 Tweets every day are over. But we often meet clients who come to us struggling to come up with ideas for content — and for ways to reach their audience — even now, when best practices indicate quality matters more than quantity. So, they put off their posts and let their platforms go stale, or they share content impulsively, while the idea’s still fresh.
It doesn’t have to be this way, though: by planning your marketing content ahead of time, you’ll have a holistic vision of your future so you can know exactly what you should be working on, and when. And when you’re spending less time coming up with content, you get more time to focus on serving your customers.
In all of my client engagements over the last few years, I’ve noticed three key aspects all successfully-planned content marketing programs have.
They use a content framework
A content framework allows you to layer stories across platforms and time. With most content frameworks, you start by identifying core ideas that will always be true about your organization. From there, you can use those core ideas to start a foundation within your framework.
You don’t have to come up with the content framework on your own — several already exist, like YouTube’s Hero-Hub-Help framework (which works quite well for video but is actually similar to a typical publishing process), or Joe Lazauskas and Shane Snow’s Story Funnel Matrix framework, which helps you identify which stories you want to tell, and where they fall within your sales funnel.
I’m particularly fond of frameworks because they’re the first step to setting up your publishing cadence, giving you room to identify where your key moments are taking place and where you have some flexibility to work in regular evergreen content.
Once you have a clear understanding of your big-picture strategy and which day-to-day tasks you’ll need to complete, you can put workflow automation tools like Buffer and Zapier to work for you, amplifying your message and making it even easier to connect with your audience.
They have an editorial ecosystem
You might have already heard of editorial calendars — tools that help publishers determine overall concepts and themes across time. Typically, these are quarterly or monthly concepts that tie directly back to your business objectives. Just as your company has its seasons, so should your content.
When we create editorial calendars, we like to look beyond themes, taking a more integrated media approach that optimizes content for each platform and property you’ll be sharing on. After all, you might have the best message ever — but it won’t do much for your brand if you don’t know how to get it to your audience.
Instead of viewing an editorial calendar as a hard mandate on concepts, we recommend considering it a tool for visualizing the ecosystem where your content can thrive. Once you’ve identified your big-picture ideas, you can uncover areas where the message overlaps with different audiences — revealing where and when you should share each piece of content in order to reach the right people, in the right place, at the right time.
When you create an editorial ecosystem, you meet your audience where you are instead of expecting them to come to you. You can clearly see how to break content into multiple parts, creating new content in the process. And you’ll identify areas within your framework where you can re-share your top-performing pieces across platforms and over time.
They fill in the blanks
Once you’ve got an idea of how you’re going to structure your content, where it’ll live, and when you’re publishing it, it’s time to create a content calendar.
This is your opportunity to outline the specifics: Which personas does that social campaign target? What messages are going in your newsletter? Who’s writing that blog post, and what keywords do you need to use? Which of your customers’ pain points are you going to address in that video?
Content calendars don’t always look like traditional calendars. In fact, my favorite tool for creating calendars is Google Sheets, where I create something resembling a Gantt chart for my editorial calendar and then creating a more detailed version as my content calendar. Other people use tools like Trello, Airtable, CoSchedule, or even sticky notes on a wall to develop their content plans.
But regardless of the tool you use, a thorough content calendar will show you where you might be super-serving one slice of your audience while under-serving another.
Without the right systems in place, staying on top of your content can feel like an insurmountable challenge. With a robust, holistic publishing process, you’ll know exactly what, where, and when to share — and you’ll be able to make the most of your marketing content by planning ahead.
As part of our content strategy consulting program, you’ll spend six weeks working with our team to outline the stories you want to tell and identifying the best platforms for each type of content — we’ll even set up your editorial and content calendars, too. Schedule your Discovery Session today to learn how we can put our system to work for your business.