There’s no denying the fact that content continues to dominate the marketing mix. Brands that once relied heavily on paid media are shifting the balance towards content that offers real value to their audience, either in the form of information or entertainment.
Coming up with a content plan from scratch can be a daunting task. Luckily, at Harleys we’ve become pretty good at it (if we do say so ourselves), so we’ve put together this guide to help steer you towards creating the ultimate content plan.
What is a content plan?
A content plan outlines which digital and physical assets your business will produce over a set period of time. It will usually cover web content, images and videos, social media posts, blogs, case studies and a whole host of other content types. Take a look at this list from Hubspot if you’re in need of some inspiration.
Whilst the phrases “content plan” and “content strategy” are often used interchangeably, in reality they are not the same thing. A content plan dictates what will be produced and when, whereas content strategy is concerned with the less tangible question of why.
Of course, in practice either is useless without the other, so it’s important to spend time with your agency formulating a great content strategy before delving into the details of a content plan.
Getting started: Who are you talking to?
The first question to ask yourself when content planning is who is your target audience (or audiences)?
Avoid unhelpful stereotypes about age and gender and focus on your customer’s likes and dislikes, topics they’re interested in, what industries they work in, and most importantly – what problems do they have which your product or service solves?
Where are they?
The next thing to define is where your audience spends time consuming content. Do they use social media and if so, do they use it actively? How do they find information about products and services? Do they subscribe to mailing lists? Do they use mobile? Desktop? Voice assistants? You get the idea.
By considering the places your customer consumes content regularly, it should become clear which should be prioritised in your content plan. From here you can begin to discuss what kind of assets you want to create, based on what content types suit each platform. For example, if your customers are heavy social media users, creative visuals and video content are great ways to reach and engage them.
What do you want to say?
Start with the key messages that you want to communicate; perhaps it’s “our product can solve a problem for you” or “we are experts in our field”. From here, consider the secondary messages; you might be encouraging customers to meet your brand at an event, or start a career with you.
Broad, top-level messages can be referred back to during the content planning process to ensure new content ideas address a core message.
Defining a strategy
Now you can start to devise a strategy. There’s no one way of doing this, but your agency will be able to guide you in the right direction.
- Match your list of core messages to your tangible business objectives (such as lead generation, brand awareness, or sales) and order them by priority.
- Perform a content audit of all existing content across all channels, considering whether the existing content is performing well and addressing all the messages you want it to.
- Finally, outline your budget and the resources available to you for the implementation of your content plan.
By taking all this information into a strategy discussion with your agency you’ll begin to see your content priorities fall into place. Once you have an idea of where your content gaps are, and which areas you want to focus on, it’s finally time to introduce the Holy Grail – the content plan itself.
Documenting your content plan
Everyone likes to plan differently, and your content plan could take multiple forms – it could be an Excel calendar, Trello board, whiteboard or a combination of multiple formats.
The only essentials are that the plan includes a calendar, and many find it useful to distinguish between different content formats, topics, or business objectives addressed. You can also list the people responsible for each item, as well as the budget behind it.
As you plot new content ideas into the content plan, spread them evenly over each platform, and ensure each topic or message has a consistent frequency throughout the year.
Balance out evergreen content with some more topical items that you may want to create special content for. These might be annual dates like Christmas or International Woman’s Day, or cultural events such as the Olympics or the finale of a TV show everyone’s buzzing about.
The secret to the ultimate content plan
Planning your upcoming content in detail is important, but the real key to a successful content plan? Flexibility.
Jumping into a piece of content that you planned a year ago without reviewing whether it’s still right is a mistake too many brands fall into. By reviewing content success, you can learn more about what your audience wants and what they respond to. You can then use your new insights to further improve your (already great) content plan as time goes on.
The best content plans are fluid, constantly reviewed, and highly responsive to allow you to react to new developments or trending topics in your industry. This fluidity also encourages creative thinking all year round (yay!) rather than once a year in a planning session (boo!).
Bringing your content plan to life
When it comes to bringing your content plan to life, the best way to get a head start over your competitors is to get your creative agency involved right from the start. At Harleys, we offer content support from the initial planning stages, right through to creation and activation.
Our content strategy team are on hand to seamlessly join the dots between creative ideas and business objectives. When it comes to executing the content plan, being involved from the objective-defining stage allows our dedicated teams of writers, designers, videographers and developers to harness a deep understanding of client needs, resulting in efficient production of great content.
At Harleys we live and breathe creativity, and we know more than a thing or two about content strategy. To find out how we could help you form and carry out your brand’s content plan, get in touch with our team.