You’ve returned refreshed from summer vacation, and the kids are getting ready to head back to school. You know what that means: It’s time to start thinking about 2022!
Now, we know what you’re thinking … 2022?! We’re only barely halfway through 2021!
And you’re right. But trust us when we say that waiting until Q4 to start thinking about next year’s content is too late, especially when you consider that most execs start to check out around mid-November. That really only gives you August, September and October to plan for the coming year and to get content for Q1 going. And if you rely on outside help, keep in mind that a lot of freelancers and content agencies book up at the end of the year, too.
Plus, do you really want to be rushed starting a new year? Of course not. If you want to be able to do your best work, then starting in August will give you your best chance to do it. So, where should you begin? By setting some content goals for next year. Here are a few to consider as you plan for 2022.
Goal #1: Use data to drive your content decisions.
Over the years at AVC, we’ve invested in various types of content for our own marketing purposes. (See? We practice what we preach!) And, of course, some have been more successful than others. But a few years ago, we put up an assignment letter template with barely a thought. After all, it was the exact file we use when assigning content to writers, so it took zero effort to prepare. And you know what? It’s been our most successful download to date.
The takeaway here is to never assume you know what your audience wants. You need to test the waters. Conduct surveys. Study Google Analytics data. Take a look at your newsletter dashboard. What are people clicking on? Where are they spending their time? What ads are successful? What keywords are working? Use the information to determine what types of content you should be creating for next year.
Goal #2. Think three steps ahead.
Getting a jump on your 2022 content plan is only half the battle. To really make the best use of your time — and everyone else’s — you’ll need to be strategic with your resources. That means thinking ahead about how you’ll repurpose content where appropriate, piggyback on interviews with subject matter experts when possible and take steps to select the right writers for your assignments.
Goal #3: Improve stakeholder relations.
Over the past few years, we’ve noticed more and more content teams functioning as in-house agencies where teams come to you to request a flyer, website, brochure, social media graphics, whatever. And while this may be better than those teams designing their own flyers (egads!), it’s also had the negative effect of putting some marketing teams in the role of production house instead of strategic partner.
This year, make it a point to put your team back in the strategic driver’s seat. Have conversations with your stakeholders. Instead of just delivering the banner ads they asked for, find out what their goals are and recommend the best solution. Maybe that’s not actually the all-employee newsletter article they requested. Maybe a series of emails to select employees would better serve their purpose.
Whether you are communicating internally or externally, you have more tools and resources than your stakeholders understand. That’s why it’s important that as a communicator, you build these relationships so your stakeholders will be more transparent with you about their objectives, and you can in turn deliver for them in a meaningful and strategic way.
Goal #4: Focus on metrics that matter.
There’s plenty we can measure in marketing: clicks, page views, downloads and unique visitors. Conversions, media coverage, sales leads, awards won. And even just the sheer number of content requests fulfilled.
But which metrics are most important? The truth is, I can’t answer that for you. It depends on your organization, your leadership’s expectations, your own goals. But what I can do is remind you that no one can do everything and do it well. So this year, select a few key metrics to focus on and improve, and make sure all of your strategies, all of your content, drives back to those metrics. Keep tracking everything else, of course. But only make strategic decisions with your chosen few in mind.
Goal #5: Contribute to the business objectives.
We can produce a great piece of content that earns oodles of creative awards, but if our audience doesn’t take the action we want, we need to figure out why. Is it possible that we have a faulty service or product? That the pricing is off? Absolutely. Not everything comes down to the success or failure of marketing. But it is critical that we as marketers make sure we’re doing everything in our power to contribute to the business objective, whether that’s selling a product, fundraising for a capital expenditure or increasing market share.
If content marketing isn’t represented at the executive level, make this the year you get a seat at the table. You should be involved from the earliest stages of launching a new service or acquiring another business. It’s not fair to be held accountable for the outcomes of such endeavors otherwise.
You Can Do It
Suddenly, August doesn’t seem too early to get started on next year’s goals, does it? Remember, starting now will ensure you have the time to think, to be strategic, to get leadership buy-in, to set your budget and to create. And being able to do those things makes the job fun. So for your sake and your team’s sake, get ready to jump into 2022 now. And, as always, if you need help getting started, putting together a content plan or executing one, we’re here to help.