As I work with a number of brands, the most difficult challenge I see them having is grasping how to build a content calendar. So many seem overwhelmed by the idea of building out a plan for 90-day’s worth of content, yet alone an entire year.
I like to encourage building an entire year’s plan because that allows a budget and plan to be set for not only article production, but photos and videos as well. Now don’t get me wrong. Brands still need to work in the moment of current events and have their content reflect that, but certainly themed topics can be planned for one year going forward.
Before I give you an execution methodology for building a brand content calendar, I want to first share with you a couple of reinforcing facts with regards to why content marketing is so important … It is not hype. I read an article (complete with a great infographic) this week titled, “Why Our Brains Crave Storytelling in Marketing,” and there were two facts that solidify why content is such a vital part of brand marketing. First, 92% of consumers want brands to make ads that feel like stories. Why not just give the audience stories that reinforce the intersection of brand and audience value. The second was that the brain processes images 60 times faster than words. Need any additional motivation for the need to produce pictures and videos?
So let’s get to the helpful part now … How to plan your content calendar. As always, all marketing strategy should start with a complete understanding of your target audience…. What are their wants, needs, interests? What are their digital behaviors. If you do not have access to specific research to gain this information, start Googling and you will find the definitions required. From this information, you want to determine content themes your audience is looking to be covered and social channels where they are active with brands. Consider about 6-10 themes and about 4-8 social channels.
You need to be customer-centric and the first step is always about understanding content that will resonate with them. But in the next step, you need to consider your brand, what you sell, what the value proposition is for customers, and your overall position. Use this information to sharpen your content themes, but make sure you are still planning to deliver content your audience is looking for, not corporate communication.
The last step in refining your content themes is to do some due diligence on your competition. Look at their site, blog, and social channels. Understand what content resonates strongest with their audience. Look at posts and determine what types yielded the most audience engagement.
Once you have your content themes narrowed down, determine the cadence for each topic. How many articles will you produce, photos taken, and videos to be made. When considering content cadence, remember visuals work best. Think about your audience’s attention span. You can likely keep them interested with a number of photos per week, a video a week, and an article or two. Think about which theme topics lend themselves best to article, picture and/or video. Consider ways to generate UGC (user generated content) for some of your content.
I like to take the information I described and create two spreadsheets to determine a brand content calendar. The first spreadsheet lists each theme, the cadence for production, and channels where the content will be seen, as shown in the diagram below.
Use all channels as appropriate for each content piece. Notice that in some cases, the actual content will not be posted on a channel, but rather the social channel is used to reference the content piece and provide a reference link. This is often done with blog articles and referencing them on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.
Once you have built out the Theme/Cadence/Channel Content Chart, add spreadsheet tabs for each channel determined to use. On each channel tab, build a one-year calendar. Next, go back to the Theme/Cadence/Channel Content Chart and copy a theme, look at the cadence specified, and paste that theme on the social channel chart per cadence specified. Do this for all themes and all social channels as shown below.
Now you have a plan in place for content production. Not that you need to explicitly follow this calendar, but it gives plan activities for each week, each month. It allows you to pre-work content production. When executing, consider ad hoc changes driven by cultural changes, news, and brand industry specific events.
Don’t just wing your content production and posts. Your content production should be run much closer to the mentality of a media production company. When done this way, you will see a much greater audience following and engagement. Tell your audience great stories.
Make it Happen,