How is content planning handled within your marketing department? Is it a one-person job or a team brainstorming effort? If you work with an agency for content creation, is someone from the agency involved in developing your plans for campaign content?
Are you happy with how you are doing it now, or looking for a different approach?
Here are my top 7 tips for effectively planning content and working with your team or agency to get the end results you want.
1. Bring in key players from the beginning.
When potential customers see your content—marketing, sales, public relations, customer service, anything your company creates—it should be recognizable as being from your brand. That type of cohesive approach starts with involving all communications stakeholders, including agency partners, in the planning process. By developing inbound marketing campaigns and content as part of an overall communications effort, rather than as a piecemeal collection of unrelated projects, you provide a synergy and consistency that builds your brand and reassures leads.
That doesn’t necessarily mean a room of 20 people, but it does mean including key representatives from each department so that they can relay plans and strategies back to their individual teams and set each department up to support the rest.
As you start the planning process for a new campaign, you may want to also review your relationship with your current marketing and PR agency or agencies. Take our quiz to see whether you have the right agency for your needs.
More resources on why it is important to bring everyone involved in communications into the conversation:
- The Information Sales & Marketing Should be Sharing<
2. Start with a campaign strategy, target audience and keywords.
Each piece of marketing content you create should be created with a specific purpose in mind, rather than randomly throwing together a blog post or infographic that is not related to the rest of your content or your products and services. That means starting with identifying your target audience(s)—aka buyer personas—and determining what keywords or problems you will target with each campaign you create.
See our Campaign Planning Calendar Template for a look at how you could organize a year of monthly campaigns, each focused on a slightly different topic or buyer persona.
By identifying the campaign topics in advance, you can plan out a complete complement of content to support your inbound marketing efforts.
3. Consider the entire sales funnel
In planning your content for each campaign, think through the information sought by prospects and leads at each stage of the sales funnel. Content created for the awareness stage will be much different than what you create to support sales efforts in the decision stage.
Because you are approaching your content planning from a campaign standpoint, you can plan it so that each stage of the sales funnel feeds naturally from the previous in order to facilitate lead nurturing. Each piece of content should become more specific, with later stages including more information specific to your company’s products or services. (See our JONES Campaign Planning Solution.)
4. Look for ways to use the same information in a variety of formats.
Doing the research and writing for high quality content requires a significant investment of time and talent, either by in-house staff, an agency or freelance writers. Make the most of that effort by planning in advance to use the information developed in a variety of ways.
By presenting the same information in several formats, you expand the potential reach. Remember that while some prospects may prefer blog posts, others are seeking videos. Some want a detailed report, while others will only take the time to skim a visual infographic.
Find more ideas for varying your content formats in these blog posts:
5. Draw up detailed plans.
Using the brief conceptions outlined as you put together campaign plans, the next step is to create detailed guidelines for each individual piece of content. This step is especially important if you are assigning content creation duties to team members who were not a part of the initial brainstorming and planning process.
You should identify 7 characteristics for each piece of content, whether a blog post, downloadable ebook, video or even bylined articles to be submitted to an industry publication.
Audience skill level
Topic or keyword
Stage of the sales funnel/buyer’s journey
Type of content: blog post, downloadable offer or other
Format for content: template, whitepaper, checklist, case study, etc.
Content structure: list, how-to, FAQ, opinion, etc.
Download our Mapping Content template to use for this step—it has all of these characteristics already outlined.
Providing your writer with all of this information upfront, along with additional guidance, if needed, on resources for researching the topic, will speed the content creation process by requiring fewer rewrites or back-and-forth conversations to fill in the blanks.
6. Make expectations clear.
Editors and managers likely already know this, but we all could use reminders now and then: The more clear you are upfront about expectations, including word count, deadlines, and style usage, the fewer surprises you’ll get along the way.
Carefully consider your campaign plan and work backward to set deadlines that give your team time to do quality work while avoiding delays in campaign launches. If you need, review the five criteria for quality content outlined in our Content Quality Report Card.
7. Follow up with a review to improve the process next time.
Even if you don’t do it after every campaign, it is a good idea to take time once or twice a year to debrief with your planning and content creation team about the process. Review whether deadlines were met, if the content met expectations, if communication between strategists, writers, designers and others involved was sufficient, and how to address any weakness in those areas.
One tool that can expedite the content planning and creation process is a planning worksheet. Our worksheet for mapping content to your buyer personas (download it here) provides a consistent format for laying out the details of each blog post, case study, video or other content piece you assign. Use it in conjunction with a campaign planning calendar and blog calendar to ensure everyone is working toward the same goals and expectations.