Content Planning Lessons Drawn from the Journalist’s Newsroom
With so many elements of journalism applying to content marketing, it’s easy to see why pros in the latter field often have training or background in the former.
Researching, interviewing, developing hooks, prioritizing information, and working against tight deadlines — these hallmarks of operating in the newsroom are ever-so-relevant to today’s content marketers, which is why Curata has argued that the discipline desperately needs more journalists.
But one of the most critical competencies that gets overlooked in such discussions is content planning.
Where production is perpetual and teams need to stay nimble, the fundamentals of editorial planning and journalistic oversight are highly pertinent for content marketers.
The News Never Sleeps
The challenge in planning for news publications is reconciling a need for structured scheduling and logistics with the unpredictable nature of covering stories as they happen.
There are similar challenges in content planning for marketers, albeit not to the same extent. Under the direction of a guiding strategy, we can better forecast specific content projects and initiatives several weeks out. But it’s important to avoid rigidity. We do need to be adaptable and ready to pivot when the market shifts, or client needs change, or timely topics of interest to our audience emerge.
Recently we discussed the differences between a content calendar and editorial calendar. As we noted then, the best approach in our current environment is striking a balance between the two — a firm-yet-flexible outline of the content pipeline that is detail-oriented and objective-focused.
A Simple Plan: Keep Your Content Agile Through Journalistic Principles
Former news editors who make the transition to content marketing leaders bring a welcome perspective. If you have history in the journalism realm, or your team members do, we highly recommend leaning on that experience as you formulate your content operation and production plans. And even if you don’t, try incorporating that profession’s mindset.
A couple years back, Paul Vereijken published a post at Desk-Net suggesting that media outlets should plan their newsrooms like cookie factories.
“Before the factory can start baking a cookie,” he wrote, “it has to make sure all the ingredients are present, and both machines and staff are ready.”
He elaborates on the metaphor to make a basic point: you can’t foresee the unforeseeable, but you can prepare for it. And when you have a strong, dedicated infrastructure in place, your team can be responsive without feeling rushed.
“Not all journalism can be planned. But most journalism can be planned; short and long-form journalism, press conferences, sport events, town hall meetings – all of that can be foreseen in advance. As can those lengthy pieces that bring depth to a topic like the financial situation of Greece.
Sure, we couldn’t know the exact date of publication. But from January 1st of this year we already knew that a piece like that was great to have lying around. The cookie factory doesn’t know exactly when summer will start, but they do know that the fruity flavours will sell way better when it does.”
Paul Vereijken – Digital Product Development
Think in similar terms while planning your content. It’s a good idea to add major industry events and conferences to your content calendar, so you’ll be cognizant of them while charting your articles and assets. Populate your idea repository with concepts tying to newsy subjects you know might potentially arise, so you’ll have a jumping-off point to help your team set things in motion quickly. Maintain open lines of communication so everyone is able to quickly collaborate and seize opportunities in real-time.
Never Missing a Beat
Content marketing teams can apply journalistic practices not only when it comes to scheduling and planning, but also structure. Many news outlets have writers and reporters assigned to specific “beats” (regions, topics, sports teams, etc.). This enables each individual to really get in tune with what they’re covering, continually growing their expertise and building relationships with key players in the space.
Why not use the same approach when it comes to content? You probably already have team members with particular interests and specializations, so try to match them up with their natural fits. You can then color-code your editorial calendar to divvy up the various beat categories, or even create unique calendars for each one. Enterprise content teams can also overcome roadblocks and boost efficiency by assigning internal beats to team members. For example, one team member may cover the product development team while another stays in touch with the customer success squad.
Ready for Anything
As Rishad Tobaccowala has said, “The future does not fit into the containers of the past.”
While we don’t know what shape the future will take, keeping our content plans malleable and our contributors well versed on specific topical areas will help our marketing strategies meet the future in any form.
DivvyHQ can be molded to your company’s content operation and is built to infuse these journalistic principles. Take it for a spin and be ready for whatever comes next.