As we head towards the close of the season, we are working hard to put the polishing touches on our business goals, priorities, and deliverables for the coming year. Some call it creating New Years resolutions; some call it setting intentions (more on that next week!), while some simply call it smart business practice.
Whatever you call it, planning is essential. And when it comes to the content you will share with your tribe next year – failing to plan is planning to fail.
So you know you need a plan. And you may have even heard about this fancy thing called an editorial calendar. But what is that really? And how do you create one? Where do you start?
First things first:
What is an editorial calendar – and more importantly – why should you care?
A content or editorial calendar is a simple tool used to organize content, article placement, due dates, and author responsibilities. It can be as simple or robust as you need. You might have just one master calendar or separate calendars for each information stream.
Content planning allows you to:
- Plan ahead
- Avoid last-minute content disasters
- Generate fresh and winning ideas
- Increase your content quality
- Target audiences more effectively
- Significantly ramp up your ability to promote new offerings
Ok – I get it! I want to create my plan to deliver awesome, relevant content! Now what?
Here’s where we get down to details.
The best way to begin is to think about your business goals over the coming year. Do you have new programs you are planning to offer? Are you trying to grow a particular sector of your market or reach a new audience? Do you have new products coming out that you’ll need to promote. Make a list of all of those things first.
Now think about the things you wanted to talk about this year but never found the time, or didn’t have the right research, or felt like maybe there was not enough information to share. Add those to your list.
Finally, engage in some friendly competitive research. I’m not talking about espionage here – just take some time to do a little reconnaissance. See what folks who offer similar products and services have been up to. See what they are highlighting, promoting, and talking about. Now think about how you can bring more value to those conversations for your audience. How can you inject your unique insight, perspective, and ideas into the areas that matter most to your existing and prospective clients?
You should have a pretty long list of potential ideas at this point. Read over it and start to notice any overarching categories or content buckets.
Is there a big chunk of ideas that focuses on one particular service you offer? Maybe that could be a series of blog posts that really dives into the nitty-gritty details.
Are there a bunch of outlier topics that don’t really jive with the rest of the material? Don’t sweat it – just make a catch-all category and worry about those pesky items later.
Once you have categories defined along with a list of potential topics for each – take a few minutes to jot down the main points of each idea. This will help you quickly determine if there is enough material for a full fledged blog post or if the content is more concentrated in nature – and therefore better suited to a Facebook or Twitter delivery.
Jot down any ideas on potential images that would complement your text. Maybe a few thoughts on a possible Pinterest Board or Instagram upload. Make those delivery notes for each item so that you have a guide for how you want to distribute the content – don’t worry you can always tweak it later.
Now comes the fun part – promise.
You have just created all the material you need for a successful content plan for the coming year. All you need to do now is plug it into the calendar and file it away for next year. Right?
Well – kind of. Yes you do need to plug all of these wonderful ideas into a calendar but there are just a few more things to cover.
Timing is an important consideration. Do you want to do one blog post a week? Two maybe? Do you want to be sure to engage with your audience daily on Facebook? Do you want to grow your Instagram following this year? These are all important business and content delivery decisions that will affect your final editorial calendar layout.
Assuming you have these timing goals firmly decided upon and top of mind – go ahead and plug in your content ideas with notes on delivery into your editorial calendar. This can be a simple excel spreadsheet with a list of dates or a more fancy document with national and “novelty” holidays already notated.
You can use holidays as entry points for engagement. For example – a restaurant owner or food manufacturer might leverage novelty holidays such as National Pizza Day to offer discounts or free with purchase coupons. A clothing or gift store could offer a free ice cream cone on National Ice Cream day. You can also provide content like top ten lists for local or industry related items that will be useful to your audience. You can download a sample calendar idea for January 1 and a list of interesting “holidays” by clicking here.
A word on change
Remember that this is your plan – which means –you can change things when necessary. Is it going to be an extra month before that new program is ready? No problem- just shift your promotional content timeline out a bit and pull in some of the less time sensitive, but still useful, content to fill the gap. Read an awesome article during your morning blog review session that you just have to share with your tribe? No problem – shift your scheduled Facebook posting to a later date and drop in that great new content you just found.
The goal here is to have a plan – not necessarily to so rigidly stick to that plan that you miss out on great opportunities to share knowledge or promote your business. That’s just self-defeating in the end.
Armed with this new knowledge – go out and create your master content plan for next year’s engagement. While you are it – set some goals for leveraging social media; be it a new platform for your business or simply penetrating further to grow your tribe. And remember – we are here to help if you get stuck or need some help with implementing all of those great content ideas.
How about you?
What are your content goals for next year? Have you used an editorial calendar in the past? How do you plan for audience growth success?
Image Credits: Shutterstock