The 5 must-dos for effective content planning

It has been 24 years since Bill Gates coined the phrase that has come to shape the Internet era: Content is King.

Gates envisioned that, just like broadcast, the Internet would be used to generate revenue from the creation of content.

Fast forward a few years and, with almost no cost to the creator, the Internet has enabled millions of us to publish and distribute content across the globe.

For those that seized the opportunity, it has given them the chance to connect with their audience, no matter where they are, by showing their expertise and securing sales opportunities.

While Gates’ observations still ring true, the rise of social media, smartphones and digital publications has tipped the supply and demand scale as consumers are now inundated with content.

As of January 2020, there were over 1.74 billion websites on the Internet, which makes it exceptionally challenging for consumers to find useful information. This is why creating content alone will not help businesses achieve their content marketing goals. Those that are successful in bringing exceptional value to their audience are super-targeted and purposeful in cutting through the noise.

So here are our five recommendations for effective content planning.

1. Be clear about what you want

The first step for creating a content programme is to identify your company’s business objectives.

It is imperative that you establish content marketing goals that will support the business and which are Specific, Measurable Achievable, Realistic and Timely (SMART).

Then you need to know exactly who you have to target to achieve your goal and define your audience. Do you know who will be receiving the content you’ll be creating and how they can find you?

Drawing out buyer personas and identifying the key traits of your audience is an essential element in effective planning that cannot be overlooked.

2. Conduct a situation analysis

While it is great to know what you want to achieve, it is important that you have a clear understanding of your current situation which will help you work out how you can move forward with your plan.

Look at the platforms or accounts you use to get insights into the topics you have covered in the past and calculate your engagement levels or feedback from your audience.

If you are using social media platforms, you can conduct an audit to give you an understanding of your followers are and if they fit into your target audience. This will help you define your strengths and weaknesses and identify future opportunities. Your findings will inform your strategy and create a baseline that you use to measure your progress.

3. Listen and understand consumption behaviours

If you have completed your situation analysis, you may have some understanding about your audience and their interest, but at this stage, you will need to dig much deeper. This will make you aware of consumption behaviours which will shape your planning process.

Think about the content they are looking for and what questions they’re asking that haven’t been answered. How do they like to receive or engage with content and in what format? Is it video, factsheet, infographic, images, webinars or podcasts?

Building a strong relationship with your followers will help your company stand out and cut through the noise, so listening to your audience’s needs and wants should be embedded into your content planning process.

4. Identify key platforms

The digital era may have resulted in a proliferation of blogging and social networks, but that does not mean that you need to be on every single one of them.

You need to be targeted and selective. Your audience insights will help you discover on which platforms your audience are most active and engaged, making it easier to decide where to distribute your content; if your target market uses Instagram, there is no point spending time curating a profile on LinkedIn. Selecting your sharing platforms wisely will help you manage your resources.

5. Measure your progress

The only way to make sure you are on your way to achieving your goal is to track and measure your progress. By looking at what is working and what isn’t, you will be able to tweak your content marketing plan for a better outcome. However, before finalising your plan, you need to decide what you will measure and set key metrics. Whether it’s measuring click throughs, social shares or sales conversions, you need to understand what is important for your business goals.

After you have completed these five key steps, it is vital to create a solid content plan with an editorial calendar to help drive your content marketing programme. While having a clear plan will encourage you to be consistent, you must be flexible in your approach. Listen to your audience and pay attention to how your content is being received. This will enable you to be agile and adapt to ensure you are on track to realise your content marketing goals.