How to Create a Flexible Content Plan. Unless today is your first day as a content marketer, you know that a documented strategy is important to the success of content marketing.
But let’s face it: Not all of us play a direct role in developing or overseeing our company’s strategic, high-level view of content. For some of us, the job is to deliver on the promise of those strategic ideals.
And to do that, you need to develop a content plan that positions your content marketing program for long-term success. If you’re developing a tactical editorial content plan for your organization or improving an existing one, read on for a handy guide and some of our best resources to help you.
What is a content plan?
A content plan documents the policies, processes, team resources, and decisions related to the tasks required to implement your content marketing strategy.
As with building a content marketing strategy, editorial policy planning can seem daunting at first. You need to consider the many moving parts and design each aspect according to your strategic goals.
Your plans should also allow for flexibility, as your content will likely need to adapt over time to changing business professionals, emerging technology trends, audience preferences and other changes.
Fortunately, if you break the plan down into three main areas, the tasks become clearer, making the process much more manageable. These three areas include:
- Guidelines and governance
- Processes and tools
- Team resources
Definition of guiding principles and governance policies
Governance is at the heart of any editorial program. The decisions you make and the guidelines you set define and differentiate your brand’s content experience.
Set the tone, voice, and style of content
Define the qualities and characteristics that make your brand’s content recognizable and different from others. Clearly define the preferred tone, voice and stylistic standards that all of your content should adhere to.
Set standards for editorial quality and value
Your editorial team should enforce content quality standards that make your content worthy of your audience. Poor quality content can hinder results and reflect poorly on your brand value and reputation.
Any content should be judged on its ability to deliver the value your audience expects. Ahava Libtag’s book, Creating Valuable Content, a Step-By-Step Checklist, gives you a great starting point for quality assurance. If your content doesn’t meet these standards, consider sending it back to the drawing board.
Take the Shortcut: For a deeper look at how to take control of your digital content, consider creating an editorial board, as CMI Strategy Advisor Robert Rose suggests in this article.
Define your workflow
The right workflow isn’t called the secret sauce of content marketing success for nothing. If you don’t identify the steps, signatures and stakeholders involved in turning ideas into assets, you run the risk of failures and bottlenecks. Tasks won’t get done, necessary approvals will be missed, deadlines will be missed, and even minor mistakes and failures can easily turn into a nightmare for productivity.
Encourage communication and collaboration
Once the workflow is defined, help team members understand their role in the content creation process – and how it affects and overlaps with the responsibilities of everyone else in your content program. This will make it easier to implement tools and techniques to help improve communication and collaboration as your team members carry out their responsibilities.
A detailed editorial calendar is a great tool for managing collaboration. It helps each team member see where each asset is in the production process, what tasks still need to be completed, and who needs to be worked with to see it through to completion.
As your team works more efficiently, you may realize that they are generating more ideas for content than they can count on to deliver. To keep the influx of ideas from turning into complete creative paralysis, you need a system for evaluating ideas that allows you to prioritize projects that best meet your goals and reject those that might hinder productivity, take resources away, or go far beyond the core purpose of your content.
Evaluate content requests
When word of your content team’s successes spreads throughout the organization, you may get requests from other teams, departments and business units that want you to help them achieve the same results. It’s helpful to have policies and documents for handling content requests to save your team’s resources for projects that are best suited for success.
Built in quality assurance
While your team can be flexible in how it manages editorial processes, procedures and collaborations, be strict about one thing: maintaining the highest standards of content quality. Even a small factual error in your content can undermine your brand’s credibility on social media in an instant. Implement a quality assurance (QA) process to keep typos, grammatical errors and factual inaccuracies out of published content and keep your brand reputation high.
In addition to basic content marketing tools such as calendars, workflow maps and checklists, make sure you have the right technology infrastructure in place. Depending on your goals, team resources and budget, technology systems can range from simple spreadsheets and desktop publishing software to full-scale content management systems (CMS), multi-function marketing automation solutions and more. You should assess your technology needs early in the planning process to make sure you have everything you need to create and execute your strategic content marketing vision.
Without the necessary human resources, even the most expensive content program is unlikely to deliver the expected return on investment. Your content planning process should consider each role, the skills and knowledge team members need to bring to their roles, and the support that will allow everyone to reach their potential.
Culture and mindset
Because of the nature of the work they do, content teams typically function best in an environment that fosters creativity, minimizes distractions, and allows for easy sharing and discussion of constructive feedback across functional groups and organizational structures. Attention to the small details that foster a more supportive content marketing mindset and collaborative culture can pay off in increased team productivity, reduced turnover rates, and increased efficiency and effectiveness.
Team structure and roles
The potential for success of your content marketing program is in the hands of your team members, so proper staffing, functional roles and overall team structure is a critical component of every editorial plan.
Although today’s content teams have to learn to do more with less, they can only be expected to multitask if they have the right skills. And while some skill sets, such as writing, editing and design, are a must for any content marketer, others may just be necessary when you’re ready to take your content programs further.
Depending on the size of your organization, the resources available, and the level of maturity of your content marketing, determine which skill sets need to be acquired immediately and which can be outsourced, shared, or done without until the need grows.
Now you’re ready to get creative