“Just post something” just doesn’t cut it.
Think about the times you’ve urgently needed to write a blog post, and you couldn’t think of anything of substance to say. You felt your post was unoriginal, uninspired, uninspiring. And do you know what else? Your readers can tell you’re struggling.
When you make a long-term blogging plan, you make your work as a content marketer easier, more effective and—dare I say it?—more fun.
- Easier, because you’re no longer struggling for relevant blog topics to keep your content stream flowing.
- More effective, because you’ve put serious thought into creating content that speaks to your readers where they are — a core principle of content marketing.
- And more fun, because when you’ve been planful and strategic about blogging you’re more free to get creative (even a little loose, if it’s audience-appropriate) when you get down to writing.
Your blogs will have more value, too, because analytics will quickly give you hard numbers on which posts are hot, and which are not.
How long is a long-term blogging plan?
Like any aspect of inbound marketing, effective blogging requires commitment. If you’re new to the game, a six-month blogging plan is probably the sweet spot. It signifies real commitment, but it’s also achievable—especially when you consider the wealth of content sources and inspirations available to you, including:
- Customer FAQs
- Industry news and trends
- Company news
- Value-added “how to” tips for your customers
- “Listicles” — Relevant Top 5 or Top 10 lists
- Breaking news
- Fresh ideas from your company’s leaders
Hold brainstorming “whiteboard” sessions with people from different departments in your company, and you’ll come up with a couple dozen topics in pretty short order. Post at least once a week, stir in social media promotion and you’ve got a pretty robust content marketing plan on your hands. (I’ll be posting a more detailed exploration of “Where Do Blog Topics Come From?” shortly, to stay tuned.)
To go big, think small.
StitchDX’s Todd Felton has some terrific ideas around going big with a 12-month plan—and like any big project, you can do it if you take small (in this case, 3-month) bites:
“In the first three months, I like to be as detailed as I can get. For each week, I try to identify audience, topics, audience takeaways, related social, and content assets like images or graphs.
“For months 4-6, I enter detailed blog topics and any related social week by week. While not as detailed as the first quarter, this section of my editorial calendar allows me to plan out some content that may need a longer lead time (such as guest blogs or research pieces).
“Months 6-9 include broader blog topics that are tied to events or specific dates, as well as big-picture themes that I haven’t addressed yet—those blog titles can be somewhat generic now, more specific as I get closer to writing or assigning them. This is a useful section for insuring your blog is building the right audience with the right content.
“The last quarter, months 9-12, is more of a shortlist of any remaining stories that I know I want to tell, but haven’t told elsewhere, as well as topics connected to seasonal events.
“This method assure that all of my important messages and issues are addressed at some point during the year. I nail down details as the year passes and deadlines approach—but this ‘big picture’ keeps me ahead of the curve. Having a 12-month calendar also helps me to remember any evergreen stories that occur at the same time each year. For example, for my educational reform nonprofit clients, August and September are always full of back-to-school stories.”
I love Todd’s thinking here, because it lives in the real world. It respects the fact that it’s hard to see sharply 12 months into the future. It’s flexible, because change happens (and comes with opportunity). And it’s totally achievable because you’re plotting just 3 months at a time.
Time flies. How and when do you start your NEXT plan?
Whether you plan out 3, 6 or 12 months, I’d like you to think about content planning not as an annual exercise, but as a rolling process — an infinite thread, even. Getting back to Todd’s method, you can extend your calendar as new ideas reveal themselves—as well as data showing which posts are moving the needle.
“But… but… we’re so busy!”
I’ve been around the (writer’s) block enough to know that the best intentions to make plans are no match for the go-go business world.
But consider your alternatives: The stress of trying to be creative and original under deadline pressure. The possibility that your posts won’t attract readers. And that dispiriting feeling that you posted something kinda lame when you could have done so much better with a little more planning.
To quote any number of gym teachers and dads since time immemorial,
If you fail to plan, you can plan to fail.
Your turn: What’s your method for content planning?
Share in the comments, and remember to download our ebook to learn how your awesome content fits in with the overall inbound marketing approach (Spoiler alert: It’s mission-critical.).