Anna McLoughlin

PRO

29 February 2016

The life-changing magic of content planning

2016 calendarI’m not naturally the most organised human in the world. My brain just doesn’t work in a linear fashion.

So to achieve all the things I want to achieve, I’ve had to adopt all kinds of clever systems.

If, like me, you could stand to be more organised and one of your goals is to blog more frequently this year (or you’re being paid to blog for other businesses) then I would love to share with you one particular system that has enhanced my life: the content calendar.

Using a content calendar

Like other good project management tools, a content calendar helps you track all the moving parts in your content creation process, which becomes increasingly important the more people there are involved.

If you haven’t used one, or you’re looking for a new one to use with clients, you’ll find a handy Excel calendar on the Resources page. Alternatively, you can make a copy of this one in Google Sheets.

I like using Google Sheets because, with one online copy, you eliminate the risks involved in running different versions. The ‘Revision History’ and ‘Comments’ functionality are useful for collaboration. However, like any tool, it’s only useful if people actually use it, so if Excel is more familiar to your team or your clients then it might be a better format.

Make your content planning SMART

We all know the trick to setting good goals, right? Make them SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused and timely (yawn). Yes, it’s sounds like a lot of faff but setting realistic goals is another one of those systems I depend upon to actually make things happen, and it makes for really effective content planning.

Specific

What are you going to write? What is the core idea you’re communicating? Who is it for? What keywords are you using? And most importantly, what is the main call to action going to be? A good content calendar forces you to get specific; organising your thoughts and making your content marketing more targeted.

Measurable

Two key purposes of content marketing (aside from helping your clients) are to either grow your audience or to convert the audience you already have into customers. If you write each post with either one of these two purposes in mind and with a specific call to action at the end that you can measure, then you can track and analyse the success of each post.

Achievable

A blogging schedule only works if it’s realistic. So don’t commit to publishing EVERY DAY, FOREVER. Think instead about booking in regular weekly, monthly or evergreen topics on a schedule you can stick to and then batch-write them in advance.

Results-focused

You’ll see that we’ve added a field to our content calendar in order to track each blog post’s reach and track our results, based on the purpose and key call-to-action we identified at the start. This helps you to measure the impact of different pieces of content, giving you insight on what the audience are resonating with and which types of content drive the best results. Then you can rinse and repeat.

Timely

The calendar works best if you use it to think strategically and generate interesting, relevant and timely ideas ahead of time. It also comes in useful if you want to create a batch of content ideas to pitch to a client. Are you planning an event in April? Plan content for that now. Then, think about the other key dates for your business or for your clients this year. Is London Fashion Week massive in your industry? Or Black Friday?

Once you have filled your calendar with a pre-made stock of SMART blog posts, consider blocking out a few days to write them in one go. This concept has literally been life-changing for me. No more blank page panic, no more unloved, empty blogs. Having content written for the months ahead also frees up creative head space, leaving you free to book in client work without neglecting your own business, to spend more time creating new things and learning new things.

So, the core call-to-action in this post?

I invite you to copy, adopt and adapt the content calendar and make more time in your life for the things you enjoy – including but not limited to – exercise that is actually fun, drinking Tanqueray and refreshing Facebook. Speaking of which, feel free to pay a visit our Facebook page.


What do you think?

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Jenny Catton

February 29, 2016 at 3:08pm

Great post. I’ve been meaning to create a content calendar for a while. You’ve saved me hours of work. Thanks Anna!

Joe

March 1, 2016 at 12:37pm

This is a brilliant thing. Thank you so much for sharing, Anna.

Lindsey Partos

March 3, 2016 at 7:35am

Thank you so much for sharing Anna. Very useful.

PRO

Anna McLoughlin

March 3, 2016 at 2:27pm

I’m totally thrilled this has been useful, I’ve got a tonne of prompts for filling in on my blog if you’re ever short of ideas. As you may have gathered, the ideas part is never a problem for me. The actual doing part on the other hand…