Content calendars: an opportunity to organize chaos, ensure your content is working together, and coordinate your team towards a unified brand goal. While this all sounds great, the question we often get is “Where do I begin?”. Our approach starts with the big picture first and then narrows down strategically to the best channels that uniquely fit your brand’s goals. Here’s our take on creating a content calendar that is flexible in an ever-changing environment, yet always stays aligned to your brand’s needs.
Create big picture goals
Over the next few months to a year, what high-level content goals do you want to meet and how do those goals address your brand’s reason for existing? If you need some help with this, we often ask people, “What moment are you in right now?” and “What moment will you be in soon?” Maybe you’re navigating a busy season for your industry or you’re experiencing a lull. You could be getting ready to launch something new, or just need to freshen up your customer’s view of something you’ve always offered. Or, you’re just getting started with producing content and you need to establish your voice and share why you exist.
Whatever your moment is, try to plot out the next three to nine months of big picture ideas that you’d like to accomplish. It can be one idea per month or even one idea every three months. The goal is to give yourself a north star for your content in a manageable time frame based on the rhythm of your business.
With each big picture idea that you establish, include a general tone or theme that you’re going to speak through to ensure consistency across content and authors. Regardless of the communication channel that the content is placed on, the words and pictures used for each content piece should support the established tone or theme.
Finally, think about deliverables (both tangible and digital) that can support each big picture idea. While you’ll definitely be creating written copy for all of your content, you’re also going to need various supporting assets. For example, if you’re going to be posting on Instagram, Facebook, or YouTube, images and video assets will greatly enhance your posts. If you’re going to pursue some general brand awareness that will extend into in-person events, you’ll want some branded swag. What will complement the written content of your big picture ideas? Get those thoughts written down so you can start planning and organizing your resources.
Establish content types
When thinking about content, consider what types of content make sense for your business. Forget channels in this moment and focus on what knowledge you can share with your audience and what the purpose of that content is. Here are some examples:
- What: stories of the clients with whom you’ve worked and the fantastic before-and-after they experienced because of your involvement
- Why: selling your greatness; first-hand knowledge of how your expertise uniquely improved the company with which you worked
- What: the latest happenings with your company
- Why: letting your audience know that you’re real, you’re making a difference, and you’re achieving big and bold things
- What: stories of clients who are using your product every day and how they are able to serve their clients/customers better because of it. This differentiates from case studies because focus is the client and their world, rather than you.
- Why: showing that you care about your customer’s customer; you’re in it for making other people’s lives better
- What: ideas and concepts that you, as a leader in your industry, can uniquely speak about
- Why: displaying your passion and expertise; giving your potential customers a reason to trust and want to partner alongside you
- What: opportunities to share your “why” for existing; musings on why you do what you do and why you’re passionate about the products you make or the services you provide
- Why: to create shared excitement and love for all that you do; to connect what you believe with what your customer believes
New Releases and Improvements
- What: updates on new products and services or improvements to your products and services
- Why: to let your audience know that you’re always innovating and to keep them up to date
- What: stories about what’s going on inside your business
- Why: to cultivate intimacy and shared beliefs with your customers
Need an example? Check out the Fifteen4 blog to see the content types we’ve decided currently work for us.
Decide on channels
Once you’ve thought about your big picture ideas and the content types that make sense for your business, start thinking about what channels make sense to deliver your content on. Don’t take on every channel just because it exists and don’t feel the need to take on several channels at once. Start with the channels that uniquely make sense for your content and decide on how many channels you can manage based on your team size.
Your channels may include:
- Your blog
- Guest writing for another blog
- Social channels
- Paid web advertising
- Inspirational content
- Weekly/monthly series
- In-person interactions/events
- Pop-up stores
- Customer appreciation
- Direct mail
- Print publications
- Paid advertisement
- Guest writing
- Company recognition
- Affiliate marketing
Create the calendar
Now that you’ve established your big picture ideas, hashed out what type of content makes sense to ladder up to those big picture ideas, and decided on the channels that make sense to deliver that content, you can finally start plotting it all out on a calendar.
What your calendar looks like and which platform you choose to create it on is up to you. All that matters is that it’s easily accessible, flexible to change, quick to understand, and acts as a unifying hub for all who are involved. Here is the basic information that should be included:
- Publish date
- Big picture idea
- Content type
- Content topic/name
- Channel(s) for delivery
- Due dates for drafts and reviews
Anything else that’s helpful for your team to work off of and is unique to your workflow should also be included.
Change the plan
The goal of creating and executing a content calendar should never be viewed as a job to be finished. Your brand is going to change, your audience’s preferences and behaviors are going to change, and your environment is going to change, which means your content calendar and its capabilities are going to need to be open to change.
Instead of focusing on creating the perfect content calendar, focus on creating a living resource that serves your team well and helps you produce high-quality, desirable content. If you need to drop a channel in favor of another more relevant one, go for it. If you need to slow down your content production because your current goal is overwhelming and causing stress, do it. If you want to try something new that feels risky, experiment.
There is no one-size-fits-all for content, nor content calendars. It’s up to you to find what works this month and be open to molding and changing it next month as you go along.