They say two heads are better than one, but we say the more the merrier — especially when it comes to bringing you actionable tips and insights to fuel your digital marketing efforts.
That’s why we’re proud to announce our “Collective Wisdom” series. Throughout the series, we’ll be bringing you insights, tips, and perspectives from some of the top marketing minds to help guide your content marketing strategy. With each entry, you’ll quickly learn proven methods, taking you from the very beginning of the content planning cycle to post-publication amplification and optimization.
Where should we start? At the beginning, of course.
In this piece, we explore the crucial planning stage that essential for content marketing success.
Planning Your Content — Get A Jump Ahead By Stepping Back
Having a solid plan in place is the foundation of any successful content marketing journey. There are several considerations you’ll want to consider before jumping into creation, helping ensure that you have a well-thought-out and meaningful plan from beginning to end already in place.
Tactic 1: Commit to Having a Plan
As the old saying goes, “A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.” For marketers, that single, first step is committing to developing and documenting your content editorial plan, even if it’s not super sophisticated to begin with.
Unfortunately, some digital marketers often skip this step entirely. And with 32% of marketers staying organized is a top content planning challenge. Documenting a content plan that you can consistently refer back to will most certainly help.
If you don’t know where to start, start with reading the DivvyHQ and TopRank Marketing report, which features marketers Michael Brenner, Tamsen Webster, Carla Johnson, Robert Rose, and others sharing methods for creating proper content calendars and involving team members in the content planning process.
Tactic 2: Build and Ask a List of Sharers Before Publication
You know that once you release your content into the wild, you need to promote it. But do you spend time upfront locking down who could help you spread the word? If not, the upfront effort is worth it. You’ll have a key next step built in your process, rather than scrambling last minute.
Building a list of target sharers is a two-step process:
1) Reviewing your known contacts
2) Researching and qualifying others who would find your content relevant and share-worthy.
When it comes to researching newbies to add to your list, EmailField’s Aman Thakur likes to use BuzzSumo to discover people who have a history of sharing content similar to what you plan to publish, by searching for keywords related to your piece.
Thakur then recommends looking for relevant BuzzSumo articles that have over 200 or so Twitter shares, filtering the list by people, and exporting them to your sharer-contact spreadsheet or document, a technique he outlined for CMI.
Moz contributor Isla McKetta is a fan of using Followerwonk to search through Twitter profile biographies to help build a list of influencers in your niche who may be well-suited to sharing your content, as she details in the Moz guide to content marketing.
Tactic 3: Plan Post Reuse In Advance
Actionable Marketing Guide’s Chief Content Officer Heidi Cohen takes the time to plan out content reuse and even the creation of ancillary works. She suggests:
When you write your post, craft related, tailored pieces at the same time. Present a different aspect of the same topic with each piece. Write two complete posts rather than having a single post in two parts.
Consider where your content will be most likely to fill the needs of those viewing it, and how that will best work when it comes time to reuse and rework your initial messaging. Doing this in the planning stage can both save time in the long run, and ensure that content reuse is done in a well-thought-out manner, instead of possibly being forgotten altogether.
Cohen and others recommend fashioning a measured pace for doling out new versions of your initial content over time, each incorporating a new element or perspective on your original content, or perhaps using updated statistical data, all the while considering where new audiences for your work may exist.
Our own Caitlin Burgess also explores the advantages of experimentation and the role of creativity when planning content reuse, in her helpful “A Tasty, Strategic Addition to the Content Marketing Table: ‘Repurposed Content Cobbler’.”
“If there’s one thing that every content marketer has in spades, it’s a fully stocked content pantry,” she says. “From white papers and eBooks to blog posts and original or third-party research, all of that robust and niche content has the potential to be sliced, diced, and repurposed into something new and fresh.”
Tactic 4: Use Target Audience Personas to Supercharge Your Content Calendar
Understanding the pain points, needs, and attitudes of your target audience is critical if you want to develop a content strategy that wholly resonates. After all, how can you be the best answer for your audience if you don’t understand what questions they’re asking or what problems they’re trying to solve.
Social Media Today Community Manager Emma Wiltshire knows how important it is to create marketing personas well before launching content. Knowing the search queries you want to show up for and how they align with the needs of your target audience should be fully understood before you begin creating new content.
Tactic 5: Find Your Best Distribution Options
Savvy marketers understand that the job has scarcely begun once they’ve hit publish on a piece of content, and recognize that amplification is crucial. Those who don’t build distribution and sharing into the planning process risk losing out on a key element in the planning cycle.
As Cathy McPhillips, Vice President of Marketing at Content Marketing Institute (CMI), said:
“You spend so much time creating epic content, so why not spend that same amount of time coming up with a plan for distribution and promotion? It can be a down and dirty spreadsheet — fill in dates, audience, messaging, and what you’re trying to achieve.”
But where should you plan to share your content?
Heidi Cohen also recognizes the advantages of finding the best distribution options for your content, and the time to make these decisions is before content has been completed.
Owned, social, and third-party media all have specific uses, and finding out whether your campaign is best suited to using just one or all three is an important step in the content planning process, outlined nicely by Cohen in her “60+ Ways To Maximize Your Content Distribution” guide.
Weigh the value of each publishing platform and channel, and when you’ve chosen those best-suited to your content, it’s helpful to document the plan and share it with all your team-members, so everyone knows what’s expected, including which key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics will be used throughout the lifetime of the campaign to reach your goals.
Don’t Just Wish — Gain A Major Advantage By Planning Ahead
As Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.” Take her famous advice to heart, and focus your wishes and goals into creating an actionable content plan.
By taking the time to follow these steps — documenting your plan, building a sharer list, incorporating reuse ahead of time, using audience personas, and finding your best distribution options — you’ll gain a major advantage over those who skip over some or all of the planning stage.
When you’re confident in your content planning process, you can move on to the crafting and creation portion of your campaign, and we’ll take a closer look at that stage in the next part of our Collective Wisdom series. Stay tuned!