How many of you reading this blog post are planners? Raises hand. I feel you.Now let’s talk about your content marketing. When you post on Facebook, publish a blog post, create an instructional video, or send out emails to your clients, are you keeping track of each piece of content in a content calendar? This includes when it was published (or will be published). I’m sensing some blank stares.
Okay, let’s take a step back. First off, if you’re one of the blank stares, you’re not alone. Only 32 percent of companies report having a written process for content marketing execution, says Content Marketing Institute. In other words, 68 percent of businesses could really use a content calendar.
What is a content calendar?
It’s a handy document used to keep track of all the content your organization is generating. But that’s not all. Your content calendar is your lifeline for getting ahead of the flood of content your teams are asked to produce, whether it’s a side-by-side comparison of two of your top products or a social campaign to promote an upcoming event. It provides answers to the five Ws of content:
- Who is the content for, and who’s responsible for creating it?
- What type of content does your audience need, and what purpose will it serve?
- When will it be produced and published?
- Why is it being produced?
- Where will it be promoted or distributed?
Read on to find out how content calendars help simplify your content marketing efforts.
1. They help you plan and stay organized.
Remember last month when your CEO asked you to write a blog post? When did she want to review it? Or when you got a request from the sales team to create a one-sheet for a new product launch—which of your core audiences did the team want to target?Maybe you have the dates and details recorded in a notebook or in a notes doc. But wouldn’t it be easier if you could refer to one document and know on a weekly and monthly basis what pieces of content needed to be produced? No more digging for deadlines or scrambling at the last minute to slap up a social post. We’ve all been there before and can agree that poor planning is the antithesis of strategy.
2. They keep everyone on the same page.
It’s not just you. Bob really has been breathing down your neck about writing a case study for his latest client. You could tell Bob to back off, but the more peaceful solution would be to develop a document where Bob and others in your organization have visibility to what you’re working on. Not only will this help control the ‘lurkers,’ but it will also prevent duplicated efforts. When everyone can see who’s working on what, there’s less of a likelihood that you’ll end up with multiple versions of the same piece of content.And when he sees your content calendar, Bob will know his case study is on your radar and will be delivered as planned.
3. They align your content with your content marketing strategy.
Before deciding what types of content you want to create, your team probably had a larger conversation about your company’s goals. These goals are often taken directly from your marketing plan—maybe you want to increase sales, generate more leads, increase brand awareness, or retain current customers. Whether you have a formal or informal marketing plan (we recommend the formal route), your marketing goals should drive your content marketing strategy. So if generating more leads is one of this year’s top goals, lead generation should also be a priority for your content marketing efforts.What types of content could you create to generate more leads? This is the type of content you’d want to build into your content calendar.
4. They hold your teams accountable.
Content marketing takes a village—or at least a committed team. Everyone in your organization is a content contributor. Yup, even Bob. And this doesn’t only mean writing the content. It can also include serving as a subject matter expert, providing data points, editing the content, supplying design assets, and publishing or distributing the content.Your content calendar should delineate roles and responsibilities. If you have the right structure in place, your contributors will know what you need from them, when you need it, and how it contributes to the company’s goals. Putting someone’s name in print on a content calendar for all to see also makes them accountable to follow through and deliver.
5. They allow you to track performance and results.
Do you remember what you did last month? As in every piece of content you created and published? If so, kudos to you, amazing human! But for the rest of us, this is where a content calendar comes in handy.One of the most important components of content marketing is being able to measure the success of your efforts. At the end of the month or quarter, you can go back to your content calendar and assess what went well and what didn’t go so well. Often you can see where trends emerge—was there a particular topic that performed well in the previous month? Is there a specific time of the week when your social posts were most successful? A video tutorial that generated thousands of views?When you know what works, you can do more of it in the future.
Spreadsheet or software?
Both are solid options. One benefit of using a spreadsheet is that you can find many free templates online. You can also easily share a spreadsheet with your entire team (no need for everyone to have a login or account). Plus, most people have access to Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets (and you can even have multiple people in Google Sheets collaborating at once).There are a variety of paid content calendar tools—CoSchedule, HubSpot, SharpSpring, Trello, DivvyHQ, and Basecamp are some of the most popular options. The great thing about this software is that you can create workflows or processes, assign tasks to specific team members, and track progress along the way. Many tools also allow you to set and track key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure your success.
The bottom line?
A content calendar is an incredibly valuable tool, and you should go with the option that works best for you and your team.If you like what you read but still have questions, shoot us a note. We can share the tips we’ve learned helping our clients build content calendars and our own experience with the Meld content calendar.