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Content Planning: Building an Effective Content Marketing Strategy

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Hot take: content is important for your marketing strategy. 
We know, we know. We’re really going out on a limb, here. 
But that’s only because there’s so much upside with content marketing.
However, the downside of content marketing is the need to continually put together fresh content.
Maybe you need two blog posts a week, two or three videos a month, etc.
It’s exhausting.
Too many marketers sit down when they need content and spend half of their time wracking their brains to come up with an idea. The problem is that they don’t have effective content planning.
Many people don’t even manage the bare minimum of setting up an editorial calendar.
Proper content planning takes more than that, and this is where a content marketing platform comes in. You can use the platform to help you plan your content out over the next weeks or months.
Let’s start with the first piece: The editorial calendar.

Why Do You Need an Editorial Calendar?

An editorial calendar shows all of the content you plan on posting and when you will post it. There are several advantages to this.
First of all, it reduces the “I have to get a blog post out now and my mind is blank” phenomenon. Instead of waiting until the day you need to post then trying to come up with ideas, you make notes of your ideas and then slot them into the editorial calendar.
When you sit down to produce content, you can then look at the editorial calendar and take pieces from it. This allows you to stabilize your workflow and produce high-quality content ahead of time. It also helps you have time to look over and edit content instead of taking the risk of sending it out as is. Ideally, you should be writing content to be posted several weeks in the future.
Content marketing software can then automatically post your content on the scheduled date. Nothing gets forgotten.
A good content marketing platform will let you go back through the calendar and see what performed well so you can tweak it.
Finally, it ensures that you keep a consistent posting schedule. Without a consistent schedule, your audience will tend to drift away. And you may find you get more unsubscribers when you do post new content.
However, an editorial calendar is only the beginning of proper content marketing planning.

Setting Your Rules and Style Guide

Another important aspect is that you need to have a style guide. Without a style guide, you can have inconsistencies in your content that people will notice. For example, in written content, it’s very important to either use the Oxford comma or not use it. In video editing, you want to use the same intro and outro so that people can immediately connect the video with your brand.
Having solid rules about the content you post makes sure that your brand is kept consistent. And that everyone on the team can produce content that reaches the same high standard. Team members can claim posts from the editorial calendar, complete them, and hand them in for editing with minimal impact.
Your style guide also needs to include any legal and compliance issues. For example, if you make dietary supplements, it’s very important to reiterate in all of your content that your products are not approved by the FDA to treat diseases. Failing to do so can get you sued. Using templates can help with this, by allowing required disclaimers to be added to a post quickly.
Other rules you need to set are legal. Making sure all photos you use are clear in terms of right, for example, and that you don’t use the content of which you can’t identify the source. A marketing asset management platform can be very useful here, and Welcome has this functionality. Letting you add metadata to all of your content assets to track sources, rights, etc.

Tracking Metrics and Planning for Your Audience

A good content plan looks both forward and backward. Tracking the metrics of each piece of content and tweaking the plan accordingly is vital.
Make sure that your content is reaching the intended audience. You can write a post that goes “viral” and have it achieve absolutely no good because it’s circulating in completely the wrong audience. Your content needs to be popular with the people who buy your product. And your content strategy needs to cater to multiple audiences.
This means that your calendar needs to tag pieces with what demographics they have appealed to so you can make sure to pay attention in the future. Ultimately this can allow you to work out which products to connect with each piece of content. Sometimes this is obvious; if you sell pet collars, you would not link a dog collar to a post about keeping your cat from climbing the Christmas tree. (Can you keep your cat from climbing the Christmas tree?) Other times it can take careful tracking of metrics to make sure that you have a good audience match. And that the post talks about the right problem that the right product can solve.
Doing persona research before you even start can help. But it’s important to make sure that your personas are active and dynamic, not static. SEO research is also part of this. However, a lot of marketers place too much emphasis on it at the expense of content quality. A good marketing platform, such as Welcome, will store and track all the metrics you need to make sure your content pieces are correctly targeted and will attract the right prospective customers.

Finding the Right Tools

Theoretically, you can do an editorial calendar as an Excel spreadsheet (or a Google sheet). In practice, you need the right content marketing tools and processes to keep your content planning solid.
This means you do need the right content planning software. In fact, marketers say their number 2 biggest challenge is not having a single, unified calendar to visualize their campaigns and projects. When you have a team, you need to keep everyone on the same page and track your workflow. Many teams use something like Scrum or Kanban boards to do this. Some kind of planning board for each task can tie into your editorial calendar. Everyone, then, knows when the deadline is on a piece of content, where in the process it is, and what needs to happen with it.
You also need tools to automate posting to blogs and social media so that posts are never forgotten or overlooked. You need to connect your marketing platform to your email marketing list. Lastly, you need a technology platform such as Welcome. It can streamline all of your content postings and ensure that scheduled posts always go out on time.

Controlling Ideas

Content planning can sometimes send you from famine to feast.
Instead of desperately trying to hunt the elusive idea beast, you may well end up in a position where you have too many ideas. Planning too far ahead is unwise because your circumstances and budget may change, something may come out of development that knocks over the applecart, etc.
So another part of the content plan is a system for evaluating and prioritizing ideas. In the early stages, you may need to do brainstorming sessions to fill out the editorial calendar. But as the system matures you will also need a way to determine which ideas to go with and which to leave on the shelf.
Shelved ideas are not necessarily gone for good. They might end up being perfect for an unexpected event or fitting the bill for a request from another department. However, some ideas may be so far from your primary purpose that they are best rejected.

Quality Assurance

The last, but still important, piece of the puzzle is proper QA. One major advantage of having a proper editorial calendar is the ability to get content done well ahead of time. This means that you have time to do proper quality assurance.
Always have somebody other than the content creator review the content. Too many people rely, with written content, on spelling and grammar checkers. These automated checkers can often miss typos when the typo simply produces a different word. They may also contradict style guides.
Somebody should also fact-check all of your content before it goes out. Content planning lets you build in time for this. It also lets you tag content as approved as it goes through the process (for example, it might be tagged as approved by the proofreader, approved by the fact-checker, and approved by the head of marketing before it goes out. Those might, of course, be the same person).
To do content planning right requires not just an editorial calendar. But a lot of other pieces as well. Welcome is your comprehensive marketing software platform which you can use to get all of these pieces together. Are you ready to give it a try? Start with your free Welcome account today.

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