03 May 2016
Content Calendar

7 Easy Steps To Build A Content Calendar

If content marketing is part of your strategy this year, having a documented plan is essential for great results. In today’s crowded media landscape, you can’t just produce ad hoc blog posts or dabble in social media to compete. To get your voice heard, you need a consistent, considered plan for how you’ll create conversation, build a community and position your brand. You need a content calendar.

It will keep your team members accountable and give you greater visibility. You can also measure your performance, refine your output and achieve better results. Whether this is your first time building a content calendar, or you’re looking for ways to improve on last year’s schedule, we’ve put together a simple seven-step guide to get you started.

1. Pick Your Tools

It’s important to find the right format for your business – it won’t be the same for everyone. The tool you use will depend on the size of your team, the amount of content you plan to create, your collaboration process and your budget. Programs like Excel and Google Sheets are excellent if you’re starting out, because you can customise them to your own preferences. This does mean a bit of extra work, so if you’re strapped for time you can use a template or online calendar tool. A great option is TeamUp, which has both free and paid options and allows for easy collaboration. The free version has all the basic features you need, including colour coding, branding, multiple admin and access levels, and different calendar views from monthly and weekly to agendas.

An example of how to map out your schedule in TeamUp

2. Map Out Your Year

Start broadly by planning out your year. Consider your sales cycle, industry and company events, holidays, product launches and news announcements. Mapping everything out like this will highlight practical considerations like team absences and busy periods where you’ll need to create content in advance. Once you’ve done this, brainstorm broad themes for different parts of the year, to help plan what content you’ll create. For example, you might want to focus on New Year Resolution themed content over January, while in June you can create content centered on the end of financial year if you operate in Australia. If you have a major company event scheduled in September, maybe August should be dedicated to that theme.

3. Assign Content Formats

Assign your themes to relevant content formats to paint a picture of the range of content you’ll be producing. Some themes will be suited to longer, in-depth content like whitepapers or research projects, while others will work better as blog posts or social updates. Planning formats in advance is a helpful way of structuring your content production. Once you’ve pinpointed major pieces, like webinars or a research report, you can use these to plan less intensive content, helping to fill out your calendar. For example, you might run a series of blog posts to promote your end of year webinar and follow-up with an email marketing campaign. Now you’ve got three whole months of content production planned.

The team at CoSchedule uses Post-its to distinguish between their content formats

4. Develop Your Topics

Planning is crucial but don’t feel like you have to write out your specific content topics for the whole year. You’ll probably find trends in your industry change and your business priorities shift. Start by planning out topics for the next three months. You should choose subject matter based on the content format, the audience, the related promotion or call-to-action and the relevant keywords. Each topic should also relate back to a business goal. Don’t just create a whitepaper on data analytics because people are talking about it – how is it relevant to your business? More importantly, how is it relevant to your audience and what can you say that’s worth hearing?

5. Create Your Schedule

How often will you be creating and distributing content? If you’re planning to blog twice a week, plug this in. If you’re releasing an e-book each month, add specific dates of publication to keep your teams accountable and plan deadlines. Make sure you specify the topic, theme and related campaign so that everyone can see what’s required. Allowing room for reactive content is important too. You might want to leave one day a week free for a blog on a relevant topic or industry concern.

The weekly view offered in this Hubspot template makes it easy to see what’s coming up

6. Schedule Reviews and Meetings

Your content calendar isn’t set in stone – it should be a working document that helps you to organise your resources, priorities and efforts. Schedule an audit after three months to assess how you’re going and make any necessary changes. By planning out your content quarterly, you’ll be able to adjust your calendar based on your results and add any relevant topics that arise. It can also be helpful to include regular brainstorming sessions. Some businesses will prefer to keep these separate to the content calendar, but the important thing is that you’re planning for regular catch-ups. Research from the Content Marketing Institute shows that the majority of effective B2B marketers meet daily or weekly with their content marketing team.

7. Plan For Ongoing Communication

Businesses often plan enthusiastically in January, only to leave their strategy by the wayside as the year gets busier. To make sure you get the most out of your calendar, include guidelines for using it throughout the year. How will it be shared and accessed? Will you have a system for marking when a task has been completed or published? Will everyone have the ability to edit and change the calendar? Setting clear tasks from the beginning will help you to avoid missed deadlines and keep your team accountable.

This template from the Content Marketing Institute includes status and progress fields to help you keep up to date.

Summary

Get prepared for the month, quarter or year ahead with a well-structured content calendar that will help you stay on track. Pick a format and process that works for you, and get your team involved for better collaboration and communication throughout the year.

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