Planning Your Content Marketing Strategy
If I earned a dollar every time I heard someone question the difficulty of creating content,
I’d probably be able to retire early and not do it for a living anymore.
Although content creation may look easy to someone who’s unfamiliar with the process, it’s not. When you consider the time you spend researching, writing and designing, creating content can be incredibly challenging and labor intensive. And before you get into the creative, there’s an important step that’s often neglected due to a perceived lack of value, changing priorities, or rushed deadlines: defining your long-term content marketing strategy.
Done correctly, building a content creation framework can actually save time. If you want to create quality content in a scalable and efficient manner, you should have a structure of processes for publishing content, from conceptualization to post-publication. With a framework in place, your team can generate ideas in an organized, scalable manner and strike a balance between autonomous creativity and long-term content sustainability.
One of the most important aspects of strategic content marketing planning is developing a clear, repeatable process. Generally, the five steps in this process are:
- Conceptualizing content
- Planning a timeline
- Creating a workflow
- Reviewing and editing content
- Organizing and storing content
Content ideas should be driven by data.
Sure, you can also do online research, read industry blogs, or take notes at your next sales meeting to capture information on what your target market wants to know. But using data is the most effective way to understand what’s currently resonating with your audience.
At Vela, we love digging into Google Analytics to measure metrics such as website page views, the amount of time visitors spend on web pages, and conversions, all of which can help you figure out what your target audience is interested in. Knowing what they like to read about and buy should be driving the content you create for each stage of the buyer’s journey: Awareness, Consideration and Decision. This article breaks down the right types of content to provide to prospects at the various stages.
Planning a timeline
Planning provides a long-term roadmap for your content
and helps you make confident and tactical decisions about the direction and format your content will take. It also helps you set and stick to publishing deadlines.
When you’re putting your timeline in place, it’s important to be open to change while leaving enough time to execute on your initiatives. Change is constant, and there’s no better example than the editorial calendars that were left in tatters in early 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic. Customer needs shifted, brands refocused on different products, and organizations hurried to create and distribute carefully crafted in-the-moment content.
Even in the midst of a global pandemic, having a solid content plan helps because you have a process in place, even though the content itself may change. At Vela, we recommend having an editorial lead time of at least three months.
When planning content over the span of a quarter, try to develop at least two to three content offers that are based on research and company objectives, and organize it by buyer journey stages. From there, map out the content you need and when it needs to be live. This will give you a sense of the resources you’ll need to produce your content. You may have a large enough in-house team to execute your plan, but if not, planning three-plus months in advance gives you enough time to engage freelance support.
Creating a workflow
In addition to a timeline,
you should build out a workflow process that identifies the steps from initial creation to publication, and specifies who is responsible for each step. Don’t be afraid to get granular – it will help in the long run. Instead of having a process that includes 1) Written, 2) Edited and 3) Published, think about 1) Outline completed, 2) First draft completed, 3) Editing completed, 4) Design and formatting completed, 5) Final draft completed, and 6) Published.
In addition to a comprehensive content calendar, the Vela team uses a blog template to help us stay organized, which we’re happy to share – click here to download it.
Reviewing and editing content
Having a formal review system is necessary to ensure your content is accurate, well-written and aligned with your brand.
Depending on how your team is set up, you might have an in-house or freelance editor review content, and then have an SEO specialist format and update it. In the review process, follow these seven best practices:
- Set clear expectations so the reviewer or reviewers know what to look for. Should they be focused on catching grammatical errors, fact-checking, wordsmithing or all of the above?
- Define roles in the process so each person knows what they need to do and when.
- Determine a timeline, with due dates, so each person is accountable.
- Use a style guide to ensure your content is consistent, particularly if you have multiple contributing writers.
- Have reviewers make suggestions by tracking changes as opposed to making edits directly. This way, the content creator knows where to make revisions as opposed to figuring out what was altered.
- Consider using a project management platform to track progress and facilitate collaboration. The basic version of Airtable is free and allows multiple participants to view updates in real-time.
- Optimize your content for search engines after it is created by swapping out keywords or having an SEO specialist optimize certain sections.
Organizing and storing content
Have you ever deleted an old email, only to have a need to refer to it a short time later?
Don’t manage your content this way. Odds are, you will need to be able to find a piece of published content.
Organizing your content in a way that’s easy to understand is critical for repurposing or reusing it down the road. After your content is finalized, save it in a location where your team can access it, such as Google Drive or Dropbox, and make good use of folders so all of the drafts and elements of your content can be saved together.
A standard naming convention can help you organize content in a cohesive manner. For example, the file name “Blog-Awareness-Camping Gear-DATE-2020” represents a blog article on camping gear written for the Awareness phase, with the publication date. As long as everyone on your content team follows the same naming structure, you’ll have a much easier time tracking down older content
With a bit of planning, you’ll have a solid framework to help you make more strategic decisions about your content topics, the format of your content, and how and when you’ll publish your content. The more frequently you publish content that is helpful to your audience, the stronger your authority and relevance will become within your industry.
Need help developing a content framework? Vela’s talented team can get you on the right track – contact us today. And don’t forget to check out the next article in our content marketing series. It will be posted on October 27, and we’ll cover the various content marketing platforms available to you and how to get the most out of your content on each.