It’s that time of year when businesses begin to reflect on the past and look toward what the future year may hold. They start to see what worked for them in terms of their content marketing, what fell flat, and how they can improve upon their efforts in order to attain their business goals.
Here at Vertical Measures, we’re no different. We’ve started the process of forming our 2013 content marketing plan and editorial calendar by reflecting, brainstorming, strategizing, and planning. We’ve thrown out idea after idea while drawing up new tactics, and tossing out the old. But all this raw creativity needs some structure; it needs a plan.
So, how do you start creating that plan? As stated before, you reflect on the past and look to the future…sounds easy, right? Not so fast. The best and most effective way to go about creating a content marketing plan is to get serious about the steps you need to take well before the New Year begins. For that reason, we’ve developed a free downloadable tool to assist you in this process: The Content Editorial Calendar Template.
You can use this calendar to plan out your marketing efforts with a yearly and a monthly view, which helps you to get clear on the big picture and details all at once. “Think like a publisher!” is a big saying around our office, because magazines, newspapers and the like know how to plan their content far ahead of time with specific goals in mind. Anyone who produces content on a regular basis should model their own planning on what a magazine editor does, and the calendar template is extremely helpful in creating a solid, executable strategy. It can be the cornerstone for your planning, giving you a structured location to funnel all your ideas, plans, and goals into one place.
Think of all this like a puzzle, a content marketing puzzle: Your content marketing strategy is the big finished picture, and the editorial calendar will help you put all the pieces together in order to get where you want to be (hopefully, a masterpiece work of content marketing art!).
Here are our recommendations on how to start planning now for an effective 2013 by using the calendar template, available for free download.
Before you start piecing together your puzzle, you must know what worked or didn’t work previously. Ask yourself these questions:
- What type of content did you deliver this year?
- How did you distribute this content? (i.e. Social media, blog, newsletter, etc)
- What failed…what succeeded?
Now that you know where you’ve been, think about where you want to be. Decide where you envision your company within a year, and use this as a guide as you are filling out your editorial calendar.
- Where do you see your business in a year?
- What type of clients do you want to gain?
- What type of work/services do you want to be doing?
- Do you have new audiences you want to reach?
This is the fun part! Get together a group of employees to have a brainstorming session. If you have multiple people in your company, gather brainstormers from multiple departments: sales, marketing, HR, creative, etc. This variety of perspectives will spark the creative process and give you tons of ideas to draw from. Remember: this is a free form session where ideas can bounce around and different people can take the lead. Always try to have one person who will be guiding the conversation however, as brainstorming can sometimes get out of hand! This person will ideally be in charge of gathering all the raw ideas after the session, and creating a structure within the calendar template.
Questions to Spark your Session
- What do you want to see in your content marketing that has been missing?
- What types of content do you want to start creating? (i.e. infographics, interactive video, interviews, etc.)
- How can you improve upon old content?
- What new methods of distribution can you think of that would be more effective?
Once you’ve reflected and brainstormed, this is the time when you can start working directly with the calendar. We recommend looking as far ahead as possible with a broad view of your next 12 months. Then you can zoom in even further and plan specifically for 60 to 90 days in advance.
Using all the information you’ve gathered, walk through the yearly view of the calendar template first. Rather than sticking your square content into a round marketing plan hole, take the chance to have a bird’s eye view of your company and see what is naturally built into your year. This can take the form of conferences, seasons, billing cycles, holidays, and more. Let these naturally occuring aspects of your year inform the content you produce.
Now we’re down to the nitty gritty. Use all your research, brainstorming and yearly bird’s eye view to inform this next step. The monthly view is where you get the chance to plan out exactly what is happening within your strategy. You can schedule what day what is posted, what type of content it is (blog, video, etc), who is in charge of putting together the content, where you will distribute the content, and more.
4. The Last Piece
Now that you have a view of your goals and a detailed plan for 2013, you get to implement it! The great thing about using the content marketing calendar is that it makes you accountable to fulfilling your plan. Deadlines are sketched our far in advance and post dates are ready to go without you having to scramble at the last minute. This template has been a lifesaver in guiding our own planning process, and we know it will be helpful to you as well, whether you are an entrepreneur, small or big business. But don’t take it from us, download the template now and see for yourself!