When your team is planning content marketing, you’ll likely hear all sorts of blue sky, big brain concepts. That’s great! Bold ideas can yield significant returns, especially if it’s challenging to get your content to stand out.
But, how you plan to execute and set up your content operations could be the difference between dynamite or dud content.
As investor and VC John Doerr said, “Ideas are easy. Execution is everything.” Over our combined 30-plus years creating content for brands, we’ve seen the difference a content plan makes. Read on to get some tips that push your content operations beyond seat-of-the-pants grinding and help you get the most out of your time and resources.
Content marketing calendar
Get your content marketing ideas into a project management system ASAP. If you leave ideas on sticky notes or in your head, there’s too great a chance you’ll lose that one great idea. That’s never a good feeling.
Implementing a simple project management system:
- Organizes and preserves your great concepts
- Helps you visualize resources and time requirements
- Allows you to lay your projects out in a concise calendar
- Builds team accountability in execution
Sometimes businesses invest in technology before having a solid business case. That leads to cumbersome operations just to justify a shiny-object technology acquisition. A content calendar is not one of those things. And for many businesses, a free version of a tool, such as Asana or Trello, offers everything needed.
Here are some tips to get started with your content calendar:
Keep the structure of your calendar simple.
We find that when there’s a lot of tags, color-coding, and acronyms, calendars become overwhelming. These things make it difficult to share your calendar with collaborators or leaders within the business.
Balance quantity and quality of your content.
Research from our content marketing survey suggests a correlation between a higher frequency of publishing materials and content marketing success. There are several reasons for this. For example, search engines typically reward websites that post new content regularly. Also, posting fresh content keeps your brand top-of-mind in the market. However, if your quality suffers, you could take a hit to your brand reputation – so find a balance!
Be realistic and strategic.
Don’t stuff your calendar with projects and get half of it done. Just like any other aspect of your business, take a S.M.A.R.T. approach when populating your content marketing calendar. It’ll save you time from re-cascading deadlines if/when you fall behind, save stress with content creators, and save face if you’re sharing your calendar with department leaders of other teams.
Share your calendar with the organization.
Having all of your content ideas in one location can boost marketing’s momentum within the organization. Struggling to show the sales team the value of marketing? Looking for subject matter experts to help with content in your product development team? A quick show-and-tell meeting gets team buy-in, creates collaborations, and may reveal opportunities to align content to other key projects (i.e., product launches, events, etc.).
Content marketing operations and processes
With a calendar filled with juicy projects, it’s time to nail down how you and your team will get it all done. In the simplest terms, building your content operations lines up your people and processes so you can work efficiently in collaborative environments.
We like to track milestones from ideation through publishing and beyond. Here’s a basic framework of processes:
- Unapproved concept
- Approved concept
- Drafting copy / Drafting graphics
- Audit (refresh or recycle old material)
This is just a start, of course – you can add processes such as social media sharing, distributing internally, or anything else that fits your needs.
Here are some tips for your processes:
Set a date for everything.
Setting deadlines does a few things:
- Projects have more accountability
- Contributors can plan their day and week to hit deadlines
- You get a feel for resource management
Deadlines are also scary as heck. Many businesses treat their content as side projects. If that’s the case, your content may not reach your ultimate goals. So, set a date and talk to your team about reasonable deadlines to draft, edit, and publish content.
Consider the full scope of work.
Does your blog require custom graphics or stock art? Do you need to get a quote from your executive leadership? Is someone too busy to review and approve your copy before publishing? Do you need to write metadata before publishing on your website? Consider these logistics up front, and you’ll be well on your way to nailing deadlines.
Create valuable topics for your audience
We’ve covered ways to generate content marketing topics before, but it’s worth mentioning here. We’re sure you have many ideas, but try to spend some time getting ideas from outside your business (or outside your head).
The goal with topics is to solve a problem for the audience. Or, you can talk about their aspirations, key industry topics, or go in a million other directions. Steer clear of talking about your brand and products too much. Don’t be the annoying cousin always bragging about how great you are.
Listen to what’s going on in your industry, and create content that contributes to the conversation. And if you see an opportunity to raise an important topic, content marketing is a great space to go for it.
Pre-work is half of content marketing success
Great content marketing often takes a bit of pre-work. Sometimes it feels easier to sit down and just “get it done,” but we find that a bit of pre-work saves time in the long run by reducing needs for revisions or feeling stuck. It can also enhance the quality of your content because you’re pulling together all the best ingredients.
Here are some pre-work considerations to get your projects off to a hot start:
Build a scope.
What are the key concepts for your content? This should include the most critical thing to convey and a few supporting details if possible. Also be sure to include details such as word count, design needs, and other project components, so your doers know what needs to be delivered.
Research your topic.
A quick Google search early in the process brings rewards. First, look at the search engine results. These results are what Google thinks are the most reliable answers, so you can learn a lot about how to scope your content to please your audience and search engines. We suggest looking for the common themes of the search results, but distinguishing your content by putting your unique spin on the topic. Then, find a few links that provide the doers context to executing the copy and design.
If you’re creating digital content for your website, be sure to have a few keywords handy. These are a big component of your search engine optimization (SEO), which helps Google and other search engines find your great content. There are plenty of keyword tools out there. Some free options include Google Adwords Keyword Planner (you can use the keywords for non-ad content) or Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest. Two more big players include ahrefs and moz (each having a free trial of their SEO toolsets, yay!).
Content marketing goals
We can’t mention a plan for content marketing without emphasizing the importance of content marketing goals. If there’s one kiss of death, it’s creating content without a mission and goals.
A mission should be your “true north,” which guides the value each piece of content provides. Goals should keep you focused on outcomes. For example, content marketing can build inbound traffic, increase form fill conversions, support sales, build an email subscribership, or support just about any other goal.
Knowing your goal helps you focus your call to action (CTA) and steer your key messages in the right direction.
There’s a lot that goes into proper content marketing operations. But, those that are willing to build a solid plan stand to gain a foothold in their respective markets. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Hopefully, we gave you a head start on your content strategy.
If you have questions about setting up content marketing or are struggling with building your marketing muscles, let us know! We’re here to help.