Does the idea of content planning give you and your team nightmares? It can certainly be tedious and challenging. There are many facets involved in content planning, and it’s a critical aspect of content marketing to get right.
However, it is possible to master content planning in such a way that you may begin to see it as easy. The key is to have the right tools and processes in place. Simplify content planning with these eight steps to take your content frequency, consistency and quality to the next level.
Step One: Nail Down the Scope
In order for your content planning processes to take shape, your team needs to have a solid understanding of the scope of your content operation. This can be as simple as identifying:
- For which channels and content properties will they be responsible to produce content?
- What is the frequency of content that will be published for each channel/property?
- What topics will be covered in each channel/property?
- Who will be responsible for covering each topic beat?
When you set clear expectations and frequency goals at the start, now it’s just a matter of working backwards through the remaining steps and finally, working the plan.
Step Two: Document Processes and Content Workflows
Having a well-run content marketing operation starts with having the right content planning framework. This framework includes documenting your processes and content workflows. What’s a plan without guidelines and structure?
If you have your entire team aligned around processes and content workflows, there’s no chaos. You can quickly streamline activities and tasks. Maybe you have processes and workflows, but they are disorganized and not centralized. In this case, it will be helpful to use a content marketing software solution that allows you to house these in one spot.
On the other hand, if you don’t have processes and workflows, you need to devote time to developing them. This exercise will involve your entire team’s feedback. Learn where the roadblocks and gaps are so your plans aren’t derailed.
Step Three: Break Down Silos
Silos are often the Achilles heel of content planning. In content marketing, there is a lot of individual work, but there is also a great need for content collaboration. This collaboration may also include those outside your content team like SMEs, product managers, support personnel, and sales. For content planning to work seamlessly, you have to eliminate dysfunctional silos.
By removing silos from content planning, you’ll be able to work more efficiently and effectively. Without the barriers that often exist with silos, the path to simplifying your content planning is much clearer.
Step Four: Reduce Friction with Proper Training
Does your content team know their roles? Is there a clear path with repeatable steps? If not, this could be your weakness in content planning. You want your entire team to be able to work effectively, and that means you need to have proper onboarding and training.
When a team member doesn’t know how content planning works and what their role is, there is sure to be friction. Friction causes challenges within any team. Build up each player to understand how integral their part is to your content marketing success.
One of the best ways to do this is by giving them effective tools. In the case of content planning, your team must have a content marketing platform that has the right features and flexibility. With this type of support, there is less of a chance of any lingering friction.
Step Five: Develop a Content Creation Supply Chain
Content planning is tied to your content creation supply chain. This supply chain means that you have a continuous flow of new ideas and that you consider ways to repurpose content in other channels or formats. Unfortunately, both of these practices can get lost within a busy marketing or communications department.
Every company is going to differ when it comes to how ideas come about. Some companies may struggle to conceive of enough new ideas due to lack of strategy or limited resources. Others have too many ideas and ultimately need to implement a formalized intake process to capture, review and approve content requests coming in from all areas of the business.
Another obstacle to overcome here is thinking of each piece of content as a one-trick pony. Instead, think about each piece of content and its long-term viability. Consider all the different places it can live and also how it can influence and be a foundation for future content. By this, I mean, would it be a great backlink for future posts or articles?
Rather than thinking about your content plans as a linear path, think about how each piece of content could be connected and have life beyond a single piece. Additionally, think about how shareable and compelling each content piece is and how it can make an impact on social media, email marketing, social selling, and more.
Step Six: Keep Content Planning Centralized with a Content Calendar
Using a content calendar may be the most important step if you’re trying to simplify content planning. A content calendar is the backbone that keeps your schedule pro-active and strategically aligned. With a content calendar, your team will have complete transparency on each content project. It documents the status, stages, tasks, roles, and more.
A content calendar should organize everything in one place as well as allow for easy communication and collaboration among team members. No matter how intricate your content plan is, you should be able to develop custom configurations to fit your specific needs.
Step Seven: Know Your Audience and Where They Seek Information
A big part of content marketing is the distribution of your content. You don’t simply create content, put it on your website, and walk away. It has to reach your audience. So, you must know where they are most likely to want to find it. This could include social media sites, email marketing, third-party websites, or other channels.
To leverage your content and attract those key buyers, you need to understand where they are so you can promote effectively. Keep in mind that those channels could change, so this is a step, like most of the others, you’ll have to revisit.
Step Eight: Ensure You Can Measure and Optimize
Content analytics are a significant part of content planning. While this importance is mostly tied to the ROI of your content efforts, the key insights you learn from these metrics are integral to the content planning process.
Yes, you need to know that your content is helping you meet your goals, but you also need to learn from these analytics and use that to optimize your planning. For example, you may find in your analysis that your audience consumes infographics and eBooks the most. With this knowledge, you know that these formats are most interesting to your readers. This information would then inform your plan. You could tweak it to include more of these specific types of content.
Content planning doesn’t have to be cumbersome and complex. By following these eight steps, you’ll find that content planning may no longer conjure dread. Your team might actually enjoy it! Learn more about how to simplify content planning with our recent webinar series: The Big Simple Guide to Content Planning.