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Picture the scene. It’s that time of the week again; the call goes out, “we need something for the blog, today! What can we write about?” resulting in a scramble to find a volunteer writer, think of a good idea, write the post and have it proofed before finally publishing it. If this sounds familiar, it really shouldn’t; it doesn’t have to be like this. With a little planning you could instead be sitting back safe in the knowledge that your content requirements for the next six months are already laid out on a content calendar and responsibilities for creating, assisting and consulting/approving have been shared among your colleagues.
Contrary to popular opinion, the provision of quality, engaging, effective content does not ‘just happen’; it needs to be planned. While there may be a lucky, ‘blessed’ few, who constantly find great ideas springing to mind unbidden, the majority of bloggers, digital marketers and other content-creating mere mortals aren’t usually so lucky. The effective content creator instead needs to work to a content plan to meet their content needs.
The first element to consider in content planning is the audience. Who are you producing the content for? What do you know about them and their needs and interests? Can you and your content solve a problem for them, or can you educate, or entertain them in some way? In a nutshell: what would persuade them to give your content a glance and better still, engage with it? The answers to these questions will form the foundation for your content planning activity.
The next step in the planning process is to create your content calendar. This calendar will plan out, for the next three, six or 12 months (depending on your preference), exactly when you will produce every piece of content, and what the topic and purpose of that content will be. The Fresh Egg team work to a pre-agreed content calendar that details the topics of the themed content blog posts for the next six months.
You’ll probably already have a good knowledge of many major events that will form the backbone of your own content calendar, as your business will already be working around them. For example, a florist will be well aware of Valentine’s Day, Mothers’ Day, wedding season, etc., while a sports equipment company will be working with season and fixture dates for football, cricket, rugby, Wimbledon, etc. firmly in mind. But an effective content calendar will go beyond these major topical events and include details of more specialist events (National cupcake day, anyone?) that could provide an engaging or entertaining hook for your content. It will also outline the frequency at which you aim to produce fresh content.
Be realistic in planning this; if you can’t commit to a daily blog update, don’t plan a daily blog post into your calendar. Your content calendar should be a firm roadmap that you and your team agree to and then actually follow. It should cover all the channels that you need to produce content for, including your website, blog and any social media channels you use and even offline content channels.
An approved and agreed content calendar will ensure everyone in your business knows in advance when new scheduled content will be published, but it can’t cover the unexpected event, when some form of reactionary content will be needed. Who could have predicted that the summer of 2012 would find the UK experiencing some of the worst flooding in living memory? Businesses need to be able to react quickly to maximise the content opportunities that unexpected events and breaking news provide. It's worth bearing in mind that the content creation process will differ depending on the type of content needed, how quickly it's needed and who the respective stakeholder groups are.
An important part of the content planning process is determining who should be responsible for scheduling, creating/writing and consulting on, or approving, a piece of content - ready for publish date. By pre-defining the individuals or teams who will take responsibility for each element of the process, and those who will assist or consult, that stressful search for last-minute volunteers can be avoided. By mapping out content items to individuals beforehand, you can also be confident that you’ve chosen the best person for the job, rather than settling for the only person available.
This all sounds great in theory of course, but it’s easy to put this task off in a busy working environment. It’s undeniable that content planning is a time-intensive process and requires thought and effort from everyone involved. But as the old saying goes, “if you plan to fail, you fail to plan”: the 'If Content is King' series.