Why do I need a content schedule?
There are lots of benefits to using a content schedule, for me the most important reason is that it helps maintain my sanity. By scheduling my content I can ensure that I’ve got a constant pipeline of high(er) quality articles being published. I’m not rushing at the last minute to hit publish, and get plenty of time to review and modify articles. It also gives me the extra time that I need to research and source data & images for my articles. I’m going to assume you’re already sold, so let’s dive in and have a look at what a content schedule is and what’s involved.
You can download a copy of my content schedule here, the rest of this article will reference this document.
What should be included?
A good content plan should cover all the copy you’ll need to create over the next few months. It can include everything from you social media (twitter, facebook, linkedin, etc.) through to your press releases and blog posts. Different mediums will have different volumes of posts, so you may want to separate the content plans into multiple tabs to prevent things like your twitter updates from drowning out all your other content.
Do you really need to fill out all the columns in this enormous excel sheet? Ideally yes, but I know it’s not practical for everyone. So I’ve tried to color code the columns by importance & relevance. The blue fields are essential to making your content plan work, everything else is for tracking. You should modify the columns & the priority to suit you.
How far ahead should I plan my content?
Try to create a plan for as many months as is practical for you, this really will vary based on the amount of time & resource you have. Personally, I like to keep 3 months worth of article titles ready, and top-up every month. I try to keep 4 weeks of articles ready for automatic publishing, and begin fleshing the articles for the second & third month out as I go along.
What do I put into my schedule?
Everything. All your content. Absolutely anything you want to publish at all, including anything that goes out in an ad-hoc, last minute manner.
I usually start my content plans by highlighting important dates the plans needs to accommodate. For instance Christmas, Chinese New Year, a significant Corporate launch or industry event. This allows you to create topical information on the approach to these activities, and illustrates how you’re connected to the industry.
Theme based content planning
I’ve previously talked about the benefits of using content themes, this is the perfect opportunity to create themes with ideas that flow neatly into each other. Here’s an example of how you might plan a series of articles in a theme:
- What is Omni Channel Retail?
- Examples of Omni Channel Retail
- Using NFC & QR Codes in Omni Channel Retail
- Using Email as part of your Omni Channel Retail strategy
- Creating your email schedule (this is the start of the next theme)
You could assign these the same category, varying tags, and deliver them as a series. Grouping related content together makes it easier to navigate content on your site, and allows you to deliver much more in-depth information without overloading any one post – enhancing your position as an authority in your field.
If you need some inspiration on what to write about, stay tuned. I’ll shortly be writing about different methods of sustainably creating content. There are lots of different methods & styles, I’m sure one of them will work for you.
Just because you have a content plan doesn’t mean you should follow it blindly. Be mindful of current events and remember to consider the communities sentiments at large before allowing your content to publish. This is especially important if you’re using an auto-post system.
It’s not uncommon to hear about the woes between marketing & sales, but it’s more worrying when there’s no problems between the two. Sales usually have a short term vision, compared to the traditionally mid-long term marketing focus on branding, positioning & lead generation. So if there’s no problems between the two, either the sales team is accustom to working on long lead time clients, or marketing is just acting as a lead generation extension of sales.
If terms like brand value, thought leadership, and added value are important to your company, then marketing shouldn’t just be about lead gen and sales. It’ll be tough to develop brand value without a mid-long term vision (and investment) into the verticals that don’t directly result in leads/sales. Those are usually verticals that have no real effect on your brand value. It’s not made any easier when you have to report (defend) against ROI orientated metrics – and what metrics shouldn’t be ROI orientated? There’s a strong incentive to keep pushing for the short term gains.
Which is why it’s so refreshing to see a Marketing Dashboard that has branding as a component of the key metrics. This is a sample Marketing Dashboard that I’ve compiled based on a few that I’ve used – it includes short term lead-gen goals as well as longer term elements, and is designed to be modified to suit your needs:
(There are a few more guides available on the Marketing Resources page)
If your marketing department is functioning as an extended sales arm, be prepared for a long internal change management process. It’s not about changing a spreadsheet, rather than it is about changing the management perspective on what marketing can do for the company. As well as getting some distance from the sales team, which is going to be hard given their enormous vested interested in having the extra hands (and leads).
The questions to ask are, why does the market leader in your industry command a premium? What can we do to achieve that market position? What can we do to justify charging a similar premium? The metrics are important, but conveying them in a meaningful manner to your stakeholders, so they understand the value you’re bringing to the team is more important. Without regular effective communication, your marketing budget will be no more than a slush fund for sales activities & your marketing team will just be an extension of sales.