A content calendar helps you plan a strategic and effective marketing campaign. More important, it helps you maintain one. This becomes your roadmap to make sure you hit the right stopping points along your route.
Create Your Content Calendar Around Three Main Components
The tool that you use to build your calendar isn’t as important as the factors that you take into consideration. Before you schedule anything, consider these 3 components.
1. Your Audience
It is all well and good to say “I want to write three blog posts a week,” but what if your audience only wants to read a post per week? Conversely, you might decide that you want to publish social media posts everyday, but what if your target audience prefers to read newsletters?
The point of the two questions is simple — your content calendar must take into account the needs (and behaviors) of your intended audience, as well as your publishing capabilities.
Audience personas can help you to identify the ideal publication schedule. These personas should be created from marketing insights, existing customer profiles, demographic information, and insights gleaned by your sales teams. The personas should help you to identify the “who, what, where, when, why, and how” of your content marketing campaign. In other words:
- Who will read your published content?
- What will they want to learn?
- Where are they in their level of knowledge on the topic?
- When will they read or view your content?
- Why will they want to read or view your content?
- How will they engage with your content and company?
Answers to the bold questions should drive your decisions.
2. Resources at Your Disposal
All of this could seem overwhelming. You might look at the tasks at hand and think to yourself, “but when will I have time to complete my other tasks?” It’s understandable. Fortunately, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Build your calendar around the resources that you have at your disposal. When we say resources we mean:
- The people on your team who can help you create, edit, and publish content
- Existing content that can be re-purposed into new pieces
- Customer generated content or marketing pieces
- Guest posts from industry partners
3. The Purpose of Your Content
The final component that you need to consider in setting up your content calendar is the actual point of doing all of this. A good content calendar keeps you focused on serving this purpose.
Protect Your Purpose
Scheduling can be memorized. The calendar’s actual strength is making sure that you’re devoting enough attention to the right topics under your umbrella.
Your content will have both a purpose (educate, persuade, delight, retain) and a format (article, video, infographic, social post).
Figure out the main purposes of your content. What are you doing for your audience?
Jot down the top purposes you can think of, and then rank them.
Example: Our non-profit animal shelter page should persuade people to donate, but we want them to also share pics of the available animals…
They might rank their purpose like this:
- Persuade to donate
- Encourage sharing
- Share in general love of animals
Content that serves the dominant purpose should run more often.
Maybe throw in some percentage guidelines like “50% persuade, 30% encourage sharing and 20% share general love.”
On their content calendar, they’d want to devote more attention to videos or articles that primarily persuade people to donate. It deserves more slots on the calendar, no matter what kind of content it is.
It’s like packing for a winter trip. You’d want to leave plenty of room for hoodies and sweaters. That warm hat can just be tucked into a small side pocket.
You can do the same with your core topics or priorities instead of your purpose. Rank them and then allocate the space.
Example: “We want to talk about success stories of adopted animals more often than updates about the shelter’s expansion.”
In order to create a content calendar that effectively helps you to create, publish, analyze, and adjust a marketing campaign, you will need to take into account the following items:
- The time needed to create new content from scratch. - In this timeline be sure to account for review periods as well as the inevitable revision.
- The set publication date, as well as the follow-up review period. After all, a content marketing campaign is only as good as the results that it achieves, and you will need time to review and act on your results.
- A schedule that can be followed (without exception) for the length of the marketing campaign.
Now, Start Scheduling
I like to start with a plain calendar template and start dropping things into place. You can always move it to another tool later. Its layout makes the frequency easy to see, and any gaps in your plan become obvious.
Try color coding
This is great for teams to show who is responsible for delivering each item. You can also color code by format just to make sure you’re building variety into what you produce.
Give social posts some room
Your social posts have room to be far more frequent than other formats. You might give them their own calendar page for detail.
If you’re sharing with a team, digital tools like Google Sheets (like Excel, but easier to share) and Evernote are better options than paper.
Set up spreadsheets so that the time spans (days, weeks) are uniform. (For example: set up 5 lines per week, whether you use both lines every week or not.)
Overcoming Common Content Calendar Challenges
There are several potential challenges that you might encounter during the creation of your content calendar. The below questions (and answers) will help you to overcome these challenges.
If you can deliver a better presentation in person, then capture that on video and stick with a format where you do your best work.
What if you’re a one-person marketing team?
You’re not alone–really. Many others are in the same boat, and the good news is that you’ve got help on your side. There are tools and resources that make a one-person team act like a larger department.
Content creation services like WriterAccess help with writing and editing. You can choose the writers and editors that you need to create your content, which will inevitably give you the time that you need to spend on reviewing, publishing, and strategizing.
I like it because it gives me a fresh perspective on a topic. Someone will write an angle I hadn’t considered, and I can still edit my own take into the article.
**How can you keep churning out content on time? **
That’s one of the purposes of your calendar. It helps you budget your time for upcoming content. A simple solution is to under-promise and over-deliver. Sometimes that might mean “to yourself.” In other words, if you don’t think you can commit to one blog post a week, then start with a blog post every other week.
As you become accustomed to publishing content on a regular basis, you will discover new ways to streamline processes and further free-up your schedule so that you can create additional content.
Also, find your comfort zone. Some people write better than they talk, and some hate the idea of typing out their words. If you can deliver a better presentation in person, then capture that on video and stick with a format where you do your best work.
I can’t possibly think of that many ideas
This might be one of the toughest challenges for marketers across industries and across experience levels. You start with a list of ideas up front and then scratch your head when it’s time to write.
- “Ugh, how can I write 500 words about that?”
- “What was this one supposed to mean?”
- “Didn’t I cover that already in another article?”
Not only that, but those solid ideas go fast. Sometimes we’re jotting down topics at a time, and others times we’re looking at a blank screen.
The Challenges are Worth It
The message is all around us: content marketing continues to pay off in value. When you combine individual pieces that work well together, you can reap long term rewards off of a thriving content marketing campaign.