So there you sit, slumped in your chair, watching the cursor blink on your computer screen. You’ve got a content calendar to fill, but boy lunch sounds appealing right about now doesn’t it?
You’re not alone.
Recent DivvyHQ content planning research revealed that coming up with creative ideas, and developing a comprehensive content strategy are top challenges among marketers.
Which is no surprise, really. Each year we’re required to create more content, in more channels, for more audiences. Do we get more time? No, not really.
The result is there’s more content available than any audience could possible consume. In a single minute, 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube, 350,000 Tweets are sent, and 3.5 million text messages are exchanged. Sources vary, but it seems there are between 3 and 5 million blog posts published every day (so hey, thanks for choosing to read this one).
I believe Kimberly “Sweet Brown” Wilkins said it best; ain’t nobody got time for that much content.
With all this content, binging while fighting constant distraction has become the norm among consumers. Simply look to mobile phone behavior for proof; according to Dscout research, the average smartphone user interacts with their phone close to 3,000 times a day. That’s a whole lot of swiping, tapping, and texting.
If marketers are going to reach their customers with relevant content in today’s frenzied media landscape, they must get more strategic. In our recent research, 64% of marketers said their top challenge was developing a comprehensive content strategy.
We get it. You’re freaking busier than busy. You’re struggling to keep up. And developing the right strategy takes time.
Filling a content calendar or editorial calendar (there’s a difference) with relevant and timely content is an important step in a sound content strategy. It might seem daunting at first, but it’s not even close to impossible.
In the following paragraphs, we offer 5 ideas for generating a strategic, balanced and effective mix of content.
Idea #1: Stop Planning Overly-specific Content Months In Advance
We recently talked with Michael Brenner as a part of our 2017 research, and he surfaced an incredibly useful tip from the journalism world, and that is to stop planning so specifically. Here’s what he had to say;
“Publishers don’t plan every piece of content. They commit to a publishing cadence per topic and then find a way to fill that schedule with the best ‘beat writers.’ The one thing marketers can do to improve their content planning is to stop planning each piece of content. The key to an effective editorial plan is committing to a publishing cadence. Build your content operations so that you can deliver on that cadence. This allows you to set an appointment with your audience and focus on the highest quality content but also on a regular schedule.”
— Michael Brenner, Founder, Marketing Insider Group
While you should be feeding ideas into your content calendar that are SEO-informed, and relevant to your audience, don’t spend hours coming up with outlines for each piece. Get some solid ideas logged in your calendar, and focus your energy on execution.
If you have experienced beat writers, they won’t need paragraph after paragraph of details in outline form.
Idea #2: Be More Dynamic
There are dozens of ” best practices” out there for social media, content marketing, and business communications that can be helpful, but at the same time stifling. Don’t get stuck thinking every blog post you write has to be 1,500 words. Or, that each Tweet needs your hashtag. Or that the video needs to be exactly 2:00 long.
Instead, plan a healthy mix of short and long-form content. While habits built around best practices are good, breaking the clutter is better.
Idea #3: Get Obsessed with Your Audience
Sometimes coming up with ideas for a content calendar can be as simple as going out and asking your audience what they want to hear about.
In our research, we found that a measly 13% of marketers attributed ” improved audience targeting” to greater success in content planning.
This was surprising, since audience targeting and audience intelligence are essential to building a content calendar. Robert Rose, who recently joined our Board of Directors, weighed in on this just a few weeks ago:
“Getting past our organizational priorities to truly examine and know what our audience needs is the only way we can ensure our planning efforts will be more impactful with content.”
— Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Advisor, Content Marketing Institute
Instead of throwing spaghetti at the wall, try to find a handful of people that fit within the general parameters of your target audience. Get to know them, and well. Where do they currently go for content? What are the challenges they face? What sort of answers could you deliver about a subject that they can’t find elsewhere? What’s their favorite kind of cookie?
And if your excuse is, “we don’t have budget for marketing research” then I would challenge you to consider how much money you’re waste creating the wrong content over and over again. Much more than investing in a few simple conversations with your customers up front.
Idea #4: Repurpose
When you’re on a tight deadline, it can feel like you need to pull ideas right out of thin air. But starting from scratch is frankly not something you should ever have to do when building out a content calendar.
Most organizations (and likely yours too) have dozens of assets, interviews, and content waiting to be repurposed. Consider recycling content in the following ways:
- Identify whitepapers, or technical publications that can be punched up, and broken up into multiple blog posts
- Find slide decks from internal presentations, or training and create how-to posts
- Mine old social media content or blog posts & freshen them up
- Conduct professional interviews with internal subject matter experts and leverage the content as podcast material, video, or text-based interview content (make sure it speaks to what your customers are most passionate about)
Once you start identifying the multi-faceted nature of a single asset, coming up with dozens of ideas to fill your calendar is much less daunting.
Idea #5: Look to Influencers
In our research, we found that 81% of marketers who reported being most successful with their content planning also will to use influencer-driven content in the coming months.
Wondering why? Typically, influencers are subject matter experts with their finger on the pulse of the customer. And they can also stir up some serious attention online. If you’re looking to feed the content cookie monster, they’ll know what he’s hungry for.
Seek to uncover who your audience trusts, and where they currently go to get information. Are there thought leaders, bloggers, small publishers, or up-and-coming innovators that your customers rave about? Keep tabs on those folks. Track their conversations, posts, and beliefs. This should give you ideas for what you likewise could be publishing.
The second step is to nurture them over time. If you play your cards right, they just might want to partner with you on creating some content.
Here’s what Lee Odden of TopRank Marketing has to say about influencers:
“To bring credibility, quality, and the voice of the customer into brand content marketing, I am very keen on the role of working with influencers. Companies have many reasons to create content and engage with the public, and I don’t know of a more effective way than an integrated approach, where working with influencers plays an important part.”
— Lee Odden, CEO, TopRank Marketing
In all, feeding your content calendar shouldn’t be such a struggle. While staring at a blank calendar can feel daunting, you have plenty of tools at your disposal for filling it with thoughtful, audience-centric content.
Are you looking for more insights and content planning best practices? We recently released a study covering all that, and more. Click here for a full copy of our 2017 Research Report: Content Planning Challenges, Trends & Opportunities.