creative planning

“Plan 2020 content.”

It’s been on your to-do list for a couple of weeks now, but it keeps getting bumped for more urgent matters. After all, it’s just one line item. It can’t take that much time … right?

A content plan isn’t something you can check off your list in an hour, afternoon or even a week. It requires serious thought and effort. It’s about much more than just brainstorming story ideas.

A proper content plan is made up of three parts — strategic planning, creative planning and tactical planning — all of which are essential. Trust us: Making the time to plan your content now will save you and your team a great deal of time throughout the year. Plus, it will make executing your content much easier and less stressful.

Let’s take a look at the three phases of content planning and why they’re important to nail down now.


Strategic Planning

OK, here’s some good news. The first piece of your content plan rests largely in your marketing plan. So, if that’s already done, you’re ahead of the curve. If not, you need to get started on your marketing plan, like, yesterday.

You’ve got to have an overarching marketing strategy that’s driven by business goals already in place before you talk about the content you’ll use to execute your plan. Without a well-defined marketing plan, it will be challenging to create effective content.

So what exactly do you need from the marketing plan? Take note of any key dates — product launches, trade shows and events at which your leadership will be presenting. Then get to know your audience inside and out. Don’t assume it’s the same year to year. Finally, understand the actions you want people to take, and determine where you are trying to drive traffic.

Now you’ll determine your content needs for the year. Do you want to create a video series in advance of a trade show? Blog posts leading up to and following a speaking engagement? A microsite dedicated to a new product? Decide how many and what types of content you’ll need throughout the year and when you would like each piece to launch.


Creative Planning

In the creative planning phase, you’ll zero in on your content’s purpose and messaging. Start by writing a content mission statement that outlines the “informational needs of your customer.” Your content mission will help you analyze your brand messages against what your audience needs and craves. Use it as your guiding light, and refer to it before creating or disseminating any piece of content. All content must adhere to your mission.

Next, write down the major messages you want to get out there.

Now comes the fun part. Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm! Invite your team and some folks from other departments to toss out topics/ideas for blog posts, downloads, podcasts, videos and more that marry your messaging with the content needs of your customers.

Once you have a catalog of on-point ideas, match them up with your timing needs, and voila! You’ve got an editorial calendar for the year.


Tactical Planning

Now it’s time to get tactical. This is where you get out your 2020 calendar and put together a production schedule. Start with your content launch dates and work backward. You’ll probably need more time than you imagine, so don’t wait to start this phase. If you want to have a produced video ready to go by January, for example, you’ll probably need to assign the script no later than Oct. 1.

As a companion to your production schedule, it’s a good idea to set up a content tracker so you know where each piece of content is in the process at any given time. I like Airtable for this, but a simple spreadsheet works, too.

That’s it! Now it’s time to start producing actual content by searching for subject matter experts and getting them on board, assigning copy and finding writers and designers to execute your vision!

Easy, right? I know it sounds like a lot, and it is. But trust me when I say, it is so worth it. Once you have these three phases mapped out, all you’ll need to do the rest of the year is follow your roadmap. It makes producing planned content that much simpler and allows you to react to inevitable surprises and create unplanned content without too much disruption.

If all this sounds overwhelming, consider bringing in help. We can assist in planning your 2020 content, but don’t wait. The time to plan for next year is now. Check out our three-step process for working with you to create a content plan.