Right on time: nailing your content plan with audiences, channels and purpose
Get inside any creative’s head and you’ll find a world of chaos. Breaking news, trending topics, customer pain points – the list is endless.
An editorial calendar is the key to making order from this chaos. A solid content plan will not just feature story ideas. It will examine the purpose, channels and longevity of your content. It takes the data you have on your audience and turns it into a problem-solver, an educator or an incentive for new customers.
Why create a content calendar?
A content calendar allows you to allocate time and resource over a given period. Rather than a reactive approach, for example, writing a last-minute blog on a trending topic, it gives your content long-term value. It also helps to designate channels for different audiences and intentions.
The team at Contently divide content into two categories: pillars and topics. Pillar content should be the cornerstone of your brand, discussing top-level issues. While this may be ‘evergreen’ content, it’s important to look at your pillars from a fresh perspective.
Topics are the sub-categories of these pillars. Let’s say a pillar is a long-form blog about SEO trends for 2020. A topic could be a shorter blog explaining one trend in more detail.
Your data is key to making an impact.
At the top level, distribute pillar ideas evenly across your chosen time period. Within these blocks, you can examine topics in greater depth. But what about audiences, channels and purpose?
Study the data you have to find out how your audience engages with your content. For example, you might find that video content performs better on social media. This could be a 60-second summary of a broader topic, which you can explore further with a long-form blog.
Likewise, you might find certain content resonates with one audience more than another. Decision-makers and senior executives will more likely value a whitepaper over an infographic.
Define your content’s purpose
Not all content is created equal. That’s why we have evergreen and topical content. In this context, both pillars and topics come under the evergreen umbrella.
While pillars make you a thought leader, topics address your audience’s questions. Evergreen content addresses a common pain point for your customers, offering a solution that is unlikely to change. This could be a how-to guide, a long-form explanatory blog or an instructional video.
The benefit to evergreen content is long-term SEO value. Your customers are also more likely to convert when you present yourself as an authority on a topic.
Evergreen content has noble intentions, but alas, it’s not sexy. You can plan evergreen content months in advance and see a steady stream of high-value customers. But it’s not likely to make you go viral. If that’s your content’s purpose, then reactive content is the way to go.
The value of topical/reactive content is that it encourages discussion in the short term. For a brief time, you may see more website hits or brand awareness.
Naturally, social media is a great way to light this fuse. See how other top food brands reacted to the news of Piers Morgan’s ire at Greggs’ vegan sausage roll. Better still, Channel 4’s reaction to complaints from viewers attracted 70,000 likes on Twitter in 48 hours.
The Contently team call these reactions the “weeds” of your content. High-level topics inspire stories, which can be both topical and anecdotal.
Always leave gaps in your content plan for topical content. Certainly, we can’t predict the news, but we can predict seasonality and the scope for stories in the short term.
Scheduling your content
Timing is everything with content planning. When scheduling, avoid media frenzies like general elections or royal weddings. Conversely, be prepared to talk about hot topics when the time is right, such as national conferences that attract media attention.
Plan your resource
It’s best to plan one to three months in advance, rather than a year. Markets might change, product launches might be delayed or your staff might leave. Schedule meetings to discuss where topics fit into your pillars, then assign a percentage of resource to each channel.
Let’s say your pillar is web development and the topic is UX. Assign 75 per cent of resource to three long-form blogs and 25 per cent to a short explanatory video.
Leave the stories until last
Those gaps serve a bigger purpose than you might think. A competitor might get to something first or inspiration may strike suddenly. Subscribe to industry updates and keep your eyes open for any last-minute topical ideas. You may even be inspired to write about your own personal experiences.
Be flexible and have a Plan B for when the inevitable obstacles hit.
But wait…will my content last forever?
You’ve probably seen the ubiquitous how long does content last infographic floating around the internet. The truth is a little more complicated.
Your content will last, but its impact won’t. Schedule your campaigns with this in mind – for example, a Black Friday promotion should have maximum hits for a limited number of days. Reactive, topical content is ideal for this. Look at the SERPs for topical content around events such as this and emulate their style.
Deep-dive content, on the other hand, will last for much longer. A large-scale scientific study may be the first of its kind. You can also plan for expiry dates by researching the publication date of a new study/movie release/anything else that will render older content irrelevant. Use this as a springboard for your next content. You’ve covered the pillar theme – now refresh it and see what’s new.
- Expect mix of evergreen and flow content, using seasonal data to plan reactive pieces
- Always consider intention and shape content accordingly
- Use existing data to determine the best channels for different audiences
- Schedule three months in advance and be flexible.