The content development process centers on the ability to keep inspired. It’s about seeing opportunities to nab raw materials and turn them into marketable content, like bringing a digital camera to a conference or keeping a small video camera in the desk at the office. All it takes is a proactive mentality and a little creativity.
The Essential Piece: An Editorial Calendar
Since the dawn of print periodical publishing, editors have used editorial calendars to manage the publication and ensure timely delivery of new content to readers. Just as traditional print publications have an editor who manages the calendar, a company should include a content strategist who governs the editorial calendar. This might be anyone from the owner of the small business to someone in marketing, to a brand new position created for this purpose. Because the content strategist has a wide array of media to manage — including the website, social media profiles, distribution channels, the blog, offsite content, and more — the editorial calendar is a must-have.
A good editorial calendar plots out a year in advance, every piece of content that the organization intends to publish, including not only the date of launch but the steps included in meeting those goals. The content strategist and creative team frequently review the calendar to brainstorm for upcoming projects, make adjustments based on results, and manage the creation and launch of upcoming content.
By using a calendar to manage the process, you can control publication across multiple media platforms. While it’s recommended that you plot a year out, that doesn’t mean that you can’t adapt your calendar to changing trends. The calendar is a guide to keep you on track with your content objectives, and it can be updated as necessary.
Without an editorial calendar, you run the risk of producing content inconsistently and possibly neglecting publishing platforms that need nurturing. For example, without a calendar, it can be very easy for a week, two weeks, even a month to go by between blog posts. And who’s covering the Facebook profile? Has anyone looked at it lately? Publishing is a discipline that requires constant attention. The editorial calendar helps keep you disciplined.
An editorial calendar details when, where, and how content will be published on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Every piece of content has its own development process, which is managed on the calendar. Let’s go through each step in the process, from setting goals to launch:
The initial conception stage begins with identifying your goal for the piece of content you’d like to create. Everything you produce should work to accomplish a specific and measurable goal. Ultimately, the goal for each individual piece of content should fit in to the goals for your overall content strategy.
Most often, the goals for a piece of content can be narrowed down to branding, traffic, leads, or sales. At this stage, you’ve identified a need that the content can fulfill, like, “We want to attract more visitors to our site” or “We need to push out some awesome content to brand ourselves as experts.” Based on your ongoing research, you might have more specific goals that you’re after. You may want to develop content that will reach a certain demographic in a new way, or you may want to rank for a highly competitive keyword. Once you establish a goal, you can consider content that will achieve it.
Market and keyword research will help to identify the angle you could take with the content and the keywords that you can optimize for. Whether you’re considering your next blog post or an infographic, you’ll want to do research for each specific piece.
I recommend that you constantly conduct research to keep on top of the trends and to find keywords you can target. This will save time when you’re ready to create content because you will already have at your fingertips a working list of keywords you want to optimize for. You’ll have your hand on the pulse of what’s trending in social media, too. Consistent research can lead to inspiration, and inspiration can be invaluable.
Brainstorm for Ideas
Brainstorming is a huge part of any creative process, encouraging the free flow of ideas. If you have a content team, it’s the best way to share the research everyone’s conducted and see how the team envisions the final content piece. At this stage, not only are you deciding what your content will express but you’re also considering what type of content will work best to accomplish your goals.
When it comes to brainstorming, there are numerous techniques out there. You’ll probably settle into a particular way that works for your group to get the ideas flowing, but it can be useful to research new techniques, as well, in order to shake up the creative process. Changing the way you think can encourage creativity and limit writer’s block.
Conceptualizing and Drafting
Once you have come to consensus on an idea to pursue, it’s time to conceptualize the piece and put together a draft. This is a great time to turn to the editorial calendar and review deadlines for the first draft, edit phase, and launch. With the timetable established, you can then allocate adequate resources to meet your deadlines, and determine if your staff can manage the task or if you’ll need to outsource the activity to a writer or graphic designer.
The best way to get a sense of how your idea can work for your goal is to keep current on the kind of content that’s already successful online. Familiarity with the environment will really help you as you join in the conversation. Encourage the people in your company who will be developing content to keep current on the trends in your industry. The more familiar your team is with existing online content, the better your chances will be for creating engaging content.
Edit and Launch
After the draft is finished, give the content a final edit. Even if you receive an article or blog post from a professional writer, I suggest that you edit every piece of content to be sure it’s the highest quality before it gets posted, to ensure that it truly represents your idea and content goal. The editing phase is your last chance to review the piece before launch. When you edit, remember that this represents your brand, so it should be as crisp and clear as possible.
Before you go live with any content, make sure to check for grammar, spelling, and mechanics of style. This is a quick check that someone apart from the author should do. Often a writer will get entrenched in creating, and when it comes time to check for mistakes, might not be able to see the forest for the trees. Even if you have outsourced to a writer, it’s best to review the content in detail before launch. Even professionals can make mistakes! For small businesses with limited resources for content production, try hiring an intern from a local university to do your editing. In fact, interns are great sources of inspiration for content, and they often provide a kind of energy that can only be found in college students — you may want to consider keeping an intern on board as part of your content development team.
When it comes to launch, make a concerted effort to meet your deadlines and keep on track with your schedule. Content marketing hinges on frequent postings of fresh material. Once you launch new content on your site, remember to distribute it across as many relevant channels as possible, and start promoting right away.
Do you have any other tips when it comes to content development?
Note: the above is excerpted from my book Accelerate! Grow Your Business Through the Convergence of Search, Social & Content Marketing. It is a 250 page, step-by-step guide that any organization can follow to kick their content marketing strategy into high gear. Buy your copy today!