How can I continuously create and provide interesting, engaging and relevant content to my potential and current customers? This question often troubles marketing and communications professionals.
Even when the company’s personnel includes talented writers and tech-savvy social media experts, constantly creating new relevant content may feel like a challenging task from time to time. A content calendar may be the solution you are looking for.
Businesses tend to be motivated to create and share more content, but the scarcity of time and human resources often gets in the way. Especially the companies who handle their digital marketing and content creation in-house can often struggle with carrying out all of their planned content.
However, the root of the issue is not always the amount of resources itself, but instead the inefficient use of those resources due to poor planning.
A content calendar is an easy way to combat this issue and to make the most of your company’s scarce resources. It is an effective tool for coordinating content creation and helps divide your team’s upcoming workload into clear, easily-manageable units.
By implementing this tool to your planning process, you will have to spend less time on wondering what to write, and instead focus on the creation itself. We gathered 10 tips to help you get you started in creating your own content calendar:
1. Define your goals
When planning your future content, start with the question: what is the main goal of it? The answer to the question should be used as the basis for determining the right channel and format. Is the content meant to produce new leads, direct readers to a website, gain visibility or possibly grow the number of your Facebook followers?
The set goals have a substantial effect on to whom, where and how often you publish content. It is therefore important that your team has a clear understanding of your goals prior to and during the planning process.
Defining your goals should therefore be the first step to implementing a content calendar. Pushing out content without a clear purpose will not benefit your company – it will only waste resources. The person working on each project or item on the calendar should have a clear idea of what the expected results are.
2. Create a template for the calendar
There is an abundance of tools that offer calendar features on the web – feel free to choose whichever template suits you best. However, as adopting a new software can be time-consuming, your content calendar can be as simple as a basic spreadsheet.
The calendar should have a share option if you're planning content together with the whole organization. For example, you can create a calendar template with the free Google Sheets tool, which allows anyone participating in content creation to edit the sheet on their own computer to add comments and ideas.
Your content calendar can be constructed according to your team’s specific needs, but it should include at least the following information:
- The channel in which the content will be published
- The topic
- The type of content
- The date and time for publishing
- The person in charge
- Follow-through: has the content been published according to schedule?
Here is an example of what a simple content calendar template can look like:
3. Choose your channels
Find out which channels your current and potential customers use. This will help you define the kind of content you should be focusing on creating. Should you publish articles on your blog? Pictures on Instagram and Twitter? Videos on YouTube? A survey on Facebook?
It can be beneficial to publish content on various different platforms and in multiple formats, as this will broaden your audience. However, make sure you have enough resources to focus on the platforms you choose to appear on. Prioritize your most important channels and focus on creating high quality content instead of aimlessly posting on all of the platforms you can think of.
Social media posts tend to be the easiest and least time-consuming type of content to create. However, make sure that your content calendar is not just a social media calendar, but that it includes other more in-depth content as well.
Press releases, expert articles and guest blogs should be included in your communications and marketing plan for the year, as they are likely to bring more value to your potential customers by providing more information.
In addition, social media can be used as an effective way to cross-promote and share your more in-depth content. Posting an infographic from a blog post on your Instagram, or sharing an article on LinkedIn or Twitter will create more traffic and bring customers to your website.
4. Start with the calendar year
Use the calendar year as a base when you start to plan your content. Mark down all important events that you want to build your content around – holidays, trade fairs, seminars and trainings. This easy step will help you determine the kind of seasonal content you will need in the future, and help you estimate the upcoming workload, which allows your team to prepare for it in advance.
5. Add your own content
Once you have written down all of the important dates, start to fill in the blanks with relevant content ideas. This content can include:
- Theme posts – Are you participating in a trade fair or a seminar? Is something related to your operations the current topic of discussion? Follow the general conversation in your field and grab the current topics fast.
- Serial posts – Are you specialized in a service that you would like to tell more about to your customers? Serial posts are a great way to educate and bring forth your expertise.
- Expert articles and guest blogs regarding your services and current topics in your field
- Press releases about the launch of a new product, research results or your company going international, to name a few
- Seasonal or holiday greetings
- Videos or pictures from events, campaigns, products and projects
- Stakeholder stories and interviews in the form of a video or a case example
- Interesting and funny details about the organization – Who visits the office, and what goes on during a coffee break?
Make sure that you have enough relevant ideas to fill your schedule. Add variety to your content to keep it interesting.
6. Keep evergreen content at hand
Content that is not tied to a certain date or time will always remain useful to both your customers and your company. As contemporary themes remain relevant and are constantly searched online, this kind of content is likely to keep getting clicks and visits even after the initial buzz after publishing.
It is also easy to reintroduce your older timeless articles and blog posts to your audience by adding links to them to your newer content related to similar themes.
Timeless content can also save you at times when there are delays in your schedule. As it can be created and published at any time, it is good to have ready-made content stored somewhere to be used at times when your team may have to prioritize other tasks. There should be a place in your calendar for timeless content ideas that can be used anytime.
7. Make use of prior content
You don't always have to create content from scratch. Most companies have useful content in store that hasn't been utilized, such as data from the CRM system and customer survey results.
Old blog posts can also be reused and updated through different channels, such as turning them into short videos. Your potential customers may look for information on various different platforms, which is why it can be a good idea to present similar ideas in different formats. This way you will make the most of all of the valuable content you have created by reaching different target groups.
Here is an example of a video created based on an article from 2019 Blog SEO: 17 Tips to Make Your Blog Rank Higher on Google (With Real Examples).
It is also important to make sure that the content on your website is up to date, as many potential customers may browse through your older blog posts or articles. Reviewing and updating them occasionally to ensure that your content is accurate will make you look professional and reliable.
Mark the updated articles to let your readers know that your content is up-to-date, and you continuously want to make it more valuable for them.
8. Decide on the publishing frequency and set time limits
Think about how often you can realistically publish new content. As creating content is time-consuming it is important to choose a publishing frequency that works for you. Understanding your own boundaries is crucial to the efficiency of the calendar. If it is too full, the content will suffer. However, there should be enough content to create traffic on your website and bring value to your customers on a regular basis.
A content calendar will help you spot the busiest times for your company. Planning ahead will help both individuals and the whole team prepare for the company’s busiest months by ensuring that projects are started and finished well before the publishing date. In other words, the planning should always be time-constrained to make sure that the deadlines are met.
However, your content calendar should not be set to stone – a certain degree of flexibility should be considered and allowed in the scheduling. There might be occasions when your company must be able to quickly respond to external events or news in your field. Therefore, sometimes it might be a good idea to move the originally planned and less urgent content for later, and react to the fresh news instead.
9. Update and review your plan
There is no definitive answer to how long in advance your content should be planned. Planning ahead depends on multiple factors, such as how volatile your field of business is, and perhaps some factors related to your company specifically.
You should keep in mind, however, that the further ahead you plan your content, the better the flow of content stays uninterrupted. A simple guideline is to plan the main content for the whole year, and then plan weekly and daily content in more detail for the following month.
There should be a possibility for individuals to share their thoughts and update their plans when needed. It might be a good idea to review the content calendar on a regular basis with the whole team. This will help you to stay on track, and to adapt to possible changes.
10. Monitor how your content is received
One of the great aspects of digital marketing is that almost everything is measurable. However, after a company spends a significant amount of time on creating and sharing high quality content, measuring the actual effects of the content is often left in the background.
You should devote some time to examining your own operations and data, and consider them in your future plans. Which posts on social media have sparked up the most conversation? Which blog posts have been shared? How much visibility have your press releases gotten in the media?
Once you know what kind of content interests your readers, you can evolve and create even more interesting and engaging content in the future.
Read our guide on measuring the results of your external communications to learn more about the performance of your content.