Product Marketing Managers and Content Strategists are among those responsible for the content planning process to support marketing initiatives. “Step one” in the process of designing a content strategy, however, isn’t the same for everyone. On the other hand, “step one” for anyone is actually deciding what the first step of the content planning process is.
The content strategy itself can be complex and multi-layered. An editorial calendar and well-defined distribution channels are reliable tent poles to support the strategy. Nonetheless, the first step of the content planning process involves stepping back and looking at all your options.
Deciding where to start shouldn’t be done in isolation, and we strongly caution against the urge to create content solely for SEO. Rather, think about the broader context and events that you could influence with your content strategy. Consider getting input from other areas of the organization. For example:
- upcoming product launches,
- industry hot topics, and
- your competitors.
Any one of those three examples could spark a hundred ideas for valuable content. Don’t start planning content from the first angle that comes to mind, though. At the same time, don’t let the multitude of options paralyze you, either.
The following are a few ideas for organizing your strategy for planning content. Your “step one” should become clear once you look at the grander scheme of things.
Objectives of Your Content Strategy
Your content strategy is simply a plan. The content planning process will stay the course if it is driven by clear objectives.
Determine your desired outcomes. For the sake of example, suppose your content strategy involves supporting an upcoming product launch. In that case, the planning process would focus on the desired outcome of building anticipation or highlighting the known pain points that will be resolved. Or, it could focus on attracting warm leads who will be happy to hear from your company’s sales team once the product is available.
Examine your available resources for achieving those outcomes. Staffing, time, and money needed for content planning come into play here. Allocate those resources (or request them) realistically. If you don’t have a good understanding of the cost of content creation (and the content planning process, overall), you can start by looking at the desired outcomes and their value. That will give you a general figure to work back from.
Know the expectations of your target audience. This could be one of the strongest drivers for setting your objectives, particularly if you have some responsibilities related to developer relations. Without an audience, a content strategy is irrelevant. Go back to the product launch example. What kind of content will capture the attention of your audience and keep them interested? Will your content tell them what they have been waiting to hear? What problem do you know they have – that you can solve?
Structure of Your Editorial Calendar
The beauty of a calendar is that it’s a universal method for planning – and therefore, a no-brainer in the content planning process. A calendar is familiar to everyone, and easy to use by most anyone. No matter how complex your content strategy might be, laying it out on an editorial calendar works wonders.
Let’s take the product launch example again. The Product Marketing Manager probably has a date in mind. Put that on the calendar. Work backward from there and book the time of your writers, creators, editors, and graphics team. Schedule parallel and peripheral communications such as teasers and prequels to get the conversation going. Don’t forget to leverage and re-purpose existing content.
The main purpose for an editorial calendar is to strategically coordinate messaging and time it for maximum exposure and impact. Share your editorial calendar with everyone involved in the content planning process. Most importantly, consult the calendar often and stick to it as closely as possible.
Distribution Channels and Conversation
The number and types of distribution channels you plan to use will factor into the kind of content you will create – and vice versa. One may determine the other, depending on your unique situation. Either way, you don’t want to plan your content without considering both.
You probably have preferred distribution channels and know which channels are active and which ones work best for specific types of content. As part of your content strategy, they play an important role. For example, a hashtag strategy on social channels is invaluable for raising visibility, gaining entry into relevant conversations, and driving traffic to specific content on your website.
All the steps involved in creating and distributing each type of content should be added to your editorial calendar. Don’t forget to schedule the critical activity of monitoring each channel. You don’t want to miss responses to any of your calls to action – or any opportunities for engagement of any kind.
Content creation is not your only concern when you set out your content planning process. However, once you have an actual strategy in place – you’ve identified your objectives, secured your resources, and know your topics – creation can begin. Though content creation isn’t necessarily “step one” in the process, it shouldn’t be an afterthought, either. It is, however, a step that can be outsourced.
At Fixate, we create technical content written by practitioners in the DevOps industry for practitioners in the DevOps industry. We work with product marketing managers and content strategists who each have their own approach and set of objectives for their content planning process. Our industry expertise allows us to fill the gaps where needed while learning from some of the best in the business.