The Definitive Guide to Planning a New Content Initiative
For most people, the start of a new year is a busy time. Many of us spend time reflecting back on our accomplishments from the previous year. We also look forward and plan for the year to come. Marketing departments across the globe are no different. Many marketers are evaluating the performance of 2015 campaigns and content initiatives, and in content planning mode for new corporate objectives and a slew of new tactical initiatives.
With Divvy’s heavy focus on content strategy and planning, we work closely with many of our customer to help them think through the editorial strategy for each initiative, and the realities of what it will take for them to execute successfully and sustainably. To help the broader marketing community, we’ve developed a comprehensive ebook that asks the 10 most vital questions that should be answered (before you start executing anything) to ensure the success of each content initiative.
Content Planning Guide – Executive Summary
Before you and your team get too deep into the weeds of execution, ask yourself these 10 questions.
1. What is the primary purpose or mission of this content initiative?
Seems obvious, eh? In reality, I’m no longer surprised when marketers have a hard time articulating the purpose of their various initiatives. There’s way too many shotguns at this party. And answers like “building brand awareness” or “to generate more leads” isn’t good enough. You need to dig deeper. You need to create a purpose that delivers a specific value for not only your business, but the targeted recipient of this content.
2. Who is the target for this initiative?
Notice I said target (singular). If you’re producing content for everyone, you’re producing for no one. Countless content marketing research reports (like this one, slide 9) reinforce that audience relevance is the largest contributor to effectiveness. All too often, new Divvy customers struggle to fill in our “target audience” field with a defined list of target buyer profiles or personas. And I get that personas are often hard to nail down (although platforms like Akoonu are making it easier), but not defining a specific, single target audience for an initiative is just setting yourself up for failure.
3. How long are we planning to keep this initiative going?
Is this just a short term experiment, or is your executive team expecting this to be a never-ending channel? Certainly the type of content or medium often dictates this answer, but if you’re starting something like a new email initiative, social channel or website property, it’s pretty important that you think this through. If the initiative fails, do you have an exit strategy? If it starts blowing out the top of your funnel…(see next question).
4. Have we chosen a content topic or area of focus that we can sustain? In other words, might we run out of content ideas?
This is certainly an area where a lot of content initiatives die. Writer’s block kicks in. Your subject matter experts get tapped out. You’ve grown tired of writing about the same ol’ topic and hounding people for new ideas. On the surface, you may think of these as resources or process issues. In actuality, these are symptoms of a larger problem. Check out the ebook for some exercises that will ensure you never run out of high-quality content.
5. Have we chosen a publishing frequency that we can sustain with high-quality, relevant content?
The content quality vs. quantity debate has been going on for almost a decade now, and in my opinion, quality wins everytime. No matter which side of the argument you lean towards, we discuss some harsh realities of which marketers need to be aware. And at the end of the day, you should pick a publishing frequency that you can sustain with good stuff. Start slow. You can always increase your frequency as your processes get better, you start seeing success, and you can dedicate more resources to it.
6. Do we have the people and processes in place to sustain this initiative?
We see this everywhere, and guilty of it ourselves… You start strong, but over time other responsibilities start to take priority, or passion fades, writer’s block creeps in and frequency sputters. The best way to combat this is to have dedicated resources (people), documented processes (regular content planning, production workflows), good tools built for this process, and accountability in place to turn your team into a well-oiled content machine (a.k.a. a publisher). Sustainability tips and best practices incoming!
7. How will we know if/when this initiative has been a success?
What does success look like for this initiative? If you defined a specific purpose, how will you know when that purpose has been achieved? Or are you at least gaining traction? Are there specific metrics or key performance indicators that can be monitored? Try your best to specify some measurable, time-bound milestones in the future and document them so that your team and your superiors understand what you’re shooting for.
8. Do we have the right tracking and reporting mechanisms in place to know when we get there?
With metrics or KPI’s identified in the previous step, it’s obviously important to build or connect the appropriate tracking mechanisms for capturing and reporting on this data. Sometimes that’s as simple as inserting some Google Analytics tracking code. Sometimes it’s a multi-pronged tracking and reporting methodology that might take some time to set up. Bottom line, figure it out before you start.
9. Do we have a solid distribution or promotion strategy that will ensure we get enough eyeballs on this to reach our goals?
If your new content initiative will be targeted at a group of people with whom you already have a relationship (ex: a customer list or subscriber list), then perhaps you don’t need to worry about this question as much. But if you’re starting something from scratch and trying to reach new eyeballs, you have your work cut out for you in today’s noisy environment. “If you build it, they will come” is obviously a ridiculous assumption. Let us set proper expectations for which distribution and promotional strategies may be needed when trying to reach owned vs. earned vs. paid audiences.
10. Which content planning, production and workflow tools are you going to need to execute your new initiative?
Every day, more and more companies are realizing that their current system of endless spreadsheets, status meetings, and emails is way more painful than it should be. And HEY LOOK! There’s a bunch of cool-looking content marketing platforms out there that will rescue us!!! Herein lies the problem. What types of platforms do you REALLY need? Within the content marketing platform category alone, there are dozens of tools that handle various aspects of the process. Let us provide some guidance to help you weed through the noise.
We hope we didn’t scare anyone.
This probably isn’t your first rodeo and you know you should have all this figured out (and documented). It certainly wouldn’t hurt to sit down with your team and run through these questions. As a bonus, download our strategy worksheet to document your plan. Refer to it often as you build and execute. You’ll be glad you did, and I promise your new content initiative will fulfill it’s purpose.