The Hunt for the Perfect Content Calendar Continues

2017-08-16 7:08

By Peter Springett | @PeterSpringett

Which of these descriptions best describes your content calendar?

A well planned, easy to follow schedule of your content, dutifully supporting the goals of the business.

Or that feeling you get when you realise that no one has posted to the company blog for a week, and you’ll need to spend most of the day chasing contributors before giving up and writing the articles yourself.

Getting to the first scenario means finding the right content calendar for your team. But, while it’s easy to describe the function of the calendar, the benefits are hard to realise. So, let’s start with a few definitions. In my mind, there are three types of content calendar.

  1. ‘Belt and braces’: A basic table or spreadsheet mapping articles, white papers, videos day by day. There are plenty of templates that you can download from Hubspot, eConsultancy and others. Here’s a good list from Curata
  2. The hack: Software such as Google Calendar or Trello configured as a content calendar, taking advantage of the ability to notify, attach and share drafts for approval and publication. A more sophisticated option, but one that requires buy-in from all content and marketing stakeholders.
  3. Workflow tool: Usually supports collaboration and tight integration with social. You’ll often find such calendars included in marketing platforms such as Kapost. Standalone examples include CoSchedule. Of course, these premium services come at a price, with CoSchedule starting at $30/month.

Now let’s think about the objectives. What problems does a content calendar solve? Here are my top five based on recent experience.

  1. Makes business value of marketing visible. Your calendar should be clear view of how you plan to support business goals, from sales growth to recruitment and retention. Just as your business will have quarterly goals and micro goals, so your calendar will typically have quarterly ‘hero content’ and ‘micro-content’ that map to these objectives.
  2. Increases efficiency. The calendar puts everyone on the same page, not just the marketing team. A clear schedule enables you to commission well in advance and ensure that every contributor knows what they need to deliver and by when. When you send an author a schedule that shows their place in the larger scheme, they are more likely to deliver compared with an isolated email reminder.
  3. Sets a steady rhythm for quality content. A content calendar is rather like the drummer in the band. You need star content performers who can improvise front of stage, but your calendar sets a steady beat that everyone can dance to. That said, there’s room for improvisation – see point 4.
  4. Improves agility. As well as supporting the business (point 1), your calendar will have positions for articles that reflect the wider need of your customers and your industry. If you are a payments business, you’d better make sure you have content to share or repurpose when Apple launches the new iPhone in a few weeks’ time, for example. You also need to have resources on hand to respond to breaking news. At this point in time I’m on my toes, reading up about Brexit and AI to name but two topics where I know I’ll need to turn copy around quickly to keep up with the headlines.
  5. Improves quality: I often talk about the content production cycle as a process of elimination. As the year progresses, your web and social analytics will show which formats, topics and authors engage best with your audience. Double down on the most successful performers and make sure you prioritise these over less effective content as the weeks progress.

My final piece of advice? Content calendars and weather forecasts have a lot in common. They’re very accurate in the short-term, although as a Brit that means about five days. But the long-term forecast is changeable. Don’t hesitate to keep your calendar constantly updated based on changing business tactics and the wider industry news cycle. (And always bring an umbrella – especially if you live in the UK).

Digital Leadership Associates: We are a Social Media Agency. We do three things: Social Media StrategySocial Selling and Social Media Management. Drop us an email and let’s talk about how we can make an impact on your organisation.

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