About 42 percent of B2B marketers think their current content marketing strategy is effective. That doesn’t seem too bad until you remember that leaves 58 percent of marketers flinging words at the wall and hoping they stick.
Are you a 58 percenter? Have you often found yourself staring into the editorial abyss or crying onto your jumbled desk calendar? Would you give your left earlobe for some insight into content planning strategies that actually work?
Fear not, friends. You’re so not alone.
Look, I’ll be honest. I’m an old hat at content planning but I’m still not perfect. If you’re like me, choosing what you’re having for dinner tomorrow night is an epic feat, so the idea of laying out your content calendar months or even a year ahead of time is enough to make you duck back under the covers and watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine GIFs in peace. Andy Samberg – swoon. To achieve any measure of content planning success, it feels like you need to be part psychic and part thought leader with a whole lot of educated guessing thrown in.
The best approach? Experts agree that top-notch content planning is an ever-changing combination of solid strategy and calculated room for growth. Add a splash of intuitiveness and a shot or two of tequila (your mileage may vary), and you just may have a recipe for audience engagement.
Laying it Out Long Term
Most major publishers plan their content out a few months in advance. That’s an ideal timeline for content you know won’t change. Scheduling your Top 10 Sugar Cookie Recipes and Gift Guide for Wookie Enthusiasts posts to drop right after Thanksgiving or posting your ode to all things Irish in early March is pretty much always going to work. Marketing Land refers to these types of content as“time-based” and “event-based.” Put yourself in the shoes of your ideal customer and imagine what they’d like to see pop up on their smartphones. What would draw them in? What would make other publishers and news outlets take notice and share?
The same goes for evergreen content that’s going to be interesting and useful no matter when it’s read. A buyer’s guide for blenders might be slightly more useful right around Mother’s Day (kidding), but people shop for small kitchen appliances year-round. Put up the initial post when it makes sense, then reshare on social media when the topic becomes particularly relevant again.
Worried about getting out of sync with your readers? Don’t. First of all, you’ll be balancing out this long-play content with more timely stuff (see below), but there’s another factor at work. As an editorial master, content guru, chief strategist and lead planner with all the power, you’re not just following the crowd, you’re telling them where to go. Prep for Vogue’s iconic September issue starts 6-8 months in advance. Are they worried about relevance? On the contrary, they’re deciding what will be relevant and it works because the editorial staff is supremely confident.
Space for Special Features
Here’s the thing: If you plan all your content out ahead of time, your blog is going to get staler than an extra-large bucket of discount movie theater popcorn. To be an authority, you also need to create content that oozes urgency. Of-the-moment references, breaking news, day-of reactions — all of these things teach readers that you have your finger on the throbbing pulse of society (or of your industry, as the case may be), and that lesson will drive traffic in some pretty impressive ways.
Posts that go from ideation to creation to publication in hours or days have a certain magic to them. Readers can smell the importance. They’ll feel the buzz, feed off it and begin to associate your brand with being “in the know.” That can be a key asset when it comes to establishing and/or reinforcing your authority. Want to be an influencer? Then this kind of content is imperative.
Looking at an Overview
I like a three-pronged approach to calendar creation (though, to be completely transparent, I’m constantly tweaking my strategy and finding new ways to be more efficient — or to compensate for procrastination). Brands that post 16 or more blogs per month more than triple their traffic compared to low-posting competitors, but how you allocate those blog posts matters too.
- Start by plugging in seasonal features: spring cleaning, summer vacation ideas, back-to-school sales, how to winterize your home.
- Next, add in your monthly features and regular columns. This could be the newsletter you send out the first of every month or the bi-weekly “Ask Arnie” Twitter chat that’s taken the interwebs by storm.
- Finally, leave a little space for spontaneous acts of marketing. These could be a simple as writing up a reaction to a news item or creating a day-of ad drumming up interest in the act you just booked into your nightclub for this weekend. By building in wiggle room, you’re ensuring that you get a full calendar without being the company that overloads everyone’s news feeds with a motormouth-like deluge.
Here’s the kicker: Content planning is a lot like being a Kanye West fan. Just when you think things are plugging along nicely, something happens, and your entire belief system is suddenly thrown into chaos. You have to be able to roll with the punches, and having a firm foundation — those long-play content ideas we discussed above — is your key to remaining creatively available and strategically open to those last-minute topics that resonate with trend-hungry consumers.
Remember, the majority of marketers create at least one new piece of content every single day. If you don’t fancy living life tethered to your keyboard, you better start thinking ahead.