One of the most effective and affordable ways for startups to engage with existing customers and attract prospects is through content marketing. At the core of content marketing is stellar content that connects you to your target audience and increases exposure for your brand. However, staying on top of your content production process can quickly become overwhelming for fast paced marketing teams at a startup with limited resources. So, how do you stay organized? You probably know the secret mantra lies in creating a content calendar? But are you facing a stumbling block with how to create a content calendar, how to generate content ideas and what tools to use?
If this sounds like you, then let’s dig in.
What is a content calendar?
A content calendar ties together the many moving parts of your content creation process, increases efficiency and streamlines your overall content marketing strategy. Depending on your marketing goals, a content calendar can be organized on a weekly, monthly or sixty to ninety days basis. No matter what your cadence, a content calendar enables you to plan, track and organize your content ahead of time.
Why do you need a content calendar?
1. Provides Insight into the Bigger Picture: A content calendar provides you a fresh perspective to visualize your content. You get to examine your content from a bird's eye view and see the bigger picture. It enables you to analyze which themes/topics are recurring or which topics have not been covered at all, enabling you take stock of the brand story you are telling on a regular basis and mapping it to your overarching marketing goals.
2. Helps Your Team Stay Aligned: Depending on the size of your team, the content creation process can involve many masterminds working their magic to create an awesome piece of content. These could include in-house/freelance writers, editors, creatives, marketing, and sales teams. A content calendar will provide a single reference point to different team members involved in the creation of a content piece, encouraging collaboration and helping them stay aligned on project details and deadlines.
3. Keeps You Organized: Have you ever had to rush up to create a piece of content to promote an event or a product launch? Yes, we have all been there. The best part about having a well-planned content calendar is that it enables you to be proactive rather than reactive towards your content as you can plan in advance around key dates and events, saving you time and energy in the long term.
What are the elements of a successful content calendar
There is no right or wrong way to create a content calendar. How you lay your content calendar depends on your marketing goals. For e.g. some organizations include social media, blogs, and other pieces of content in one robust calendar, while others may have separate calendars for social media and other types of content. Nonetheless, there are few elements that can be applied to any type of calendar.
1. Include a Title: Begin by adding a title for each piece of content that you are working on. Adding a title ensures you are targeting your buyer persona, provides clarity on what is being worked on and may provide inspiration for future pieces of content related to the same topic.
2. Decide on Types of Content: A content calendar can include a variety of content formats that you may be using to reach a particular audience. Having content clearly laid out in a calendar helps identify gaps in types of content. Here is a list of content you could consider including in your calendar:
- Guest Posts
- White paper
- Industry Events
- Product Launches
- Case studies
- Company Announcements
3. Add Key Timelines: Having dates such as due dates and deadlines help you map the exact activity surrounding the production of a content piece or even multiple pieces around a campaign. E.g. imagine you are producing an ebook with multiple chapters. It is likely that it will have a few drafts that will be submitted for approval at different times. Knowing your due date for submitting each draft will help your content writers/managers prioritize for an upcoming deadline.
4. Assign Owners and Stakeholders: Specifying who is involved in producing a piece of content will avoid confusion, particularly, if you have a team of in-house/freelance writers and creatives working together on a project. So, clearly label the names of team members and their assigned tasks.
5. Identify the Distribution Channels: The logical step after creating content is distribution or promotion: how do you plan to promote your content? Are you sharing it on LinkedIn or Facebook? Do you have an upcoming podcast or are you sending an email newsletter to your subscribers? Mapping the key distribution channels in your calendar will maximize exposure for your content. You can color code different categories for at-glance-visual view. Some of the distribution platforms to consider—
- Social Media
6. Specify SEO Details: When developing your content calendar include SEO information such as SEO title and keywords. Typically, you want to include both the primary keyword as well as semantically related keywords. Detailing keywords in your calendar will help those involved in the content creation process to optimize content for target keywords, helping with search rankings and traffic.
7. Establish Workflows: Establishing workflows can go a long way in streamlining your content creation process. Simple workflows that specify at what stage a piece of content is ensures clarity and sets the stage for relevant next steps. E.g. is a blog in the draft or review stage? Has it been scheduled to be published on your website or social media on a certain date?
8. Store Future Content Ideas: Your content calendar is also a repository for future content ideas. So, create space or a tab to dump any ideas after a brainstorm session with your sales or product team or a client meeting and then weave them into your content strategy to produce a piece of content that speaks to your audience.
How to generate content ideas for your calendar
The next step in creating a content calendar is to generate content ideas. Below are three ways you can produce awesome ideas for your content without straining your team.
1. Start With Existing Content Assets : Before you start creating new content, scan your existing content. You might be pleasantly surprised to see that you already have valuable content that you can use. E.g. presentations or decks can be repurposed into videos and blog posts or older blog posts can be tweaked for a fresher perspective or if you have produced several blogs on related topics you can repurpose them into an ebook. Focus on repurposing and remixing content rather than starting from scratch.
2. Slice Up a Long Piece of Content : Did you create a whitepaper for your website? Break it into smaller pieces of content such as a podcast or a blog post or content for your community such as a LinkedIn or a Facebook group. Slicing up one bigger chunk of content into smaller pieces is called content atomization. Content atomization or repurposing content is a great way to lift the strain off your team to constantly produce new content.
3. Evergreen Pieces of Content: Identify those pieces of content in your repository that are not time sensitive. This type of content works great when there are delays in publishing schedules. There might already be evergreen pieces of content available on your website such as an “how-to-guide,” or tutorials or FAQs or case studies that you can quickly spin to produce a fresh piece of content such as infographic or a video.
What tools can you use to create your content calendar?
There are many tools out there that can help you build your content calendar. Your choice of tool should depend on available resources and how much content you want to publish. Here is a list of 5 tools that can help you get started.
Google Sheets: Google Sheets is a great choice for smaller teams, given its free and allows collaboration.
Microsoft Excel: Your team might already be using Excel for different types of reports. So, customize Excel and consider using it to create a content calendar. Here Hubspot shows how to create a social media calendar with Excel but you can improvise the calendar to include other types of content too.
Airtable: Airtable works as a spreadsheet but gives you the power of a database to organize anything. You can create many kinds of campaigns in Airtable including a content calendar. Sign up for a free plan and gradually shift to a paid plan, if the tool meets your needs. Read more about Airtable Content Calendars here.
Coschedule: A work management software for marketers, Coschedule offers a blog calendar, marketing calendar and a complete marketing suite of five products to coordinate your teams, projects and processes. Below is a screenshot of Coschedule’s marketing calendar.
A content calendar can make your life simpler and organized, enabling you to harness the full potential of your content. Start by creating a 30-60 day calendar, perhaps in Google Sheets, and gradually scale your calendar and invest in a more sophisticated tool as you publish more content.