Content strategy — creating repeatable processes to govern content marketing and make it accountable to measurable goals — has many components.
Your first steps in putting together a content strategy include determining the goals, developing personas, analyzing content needs, and designating someone to serve in an editorial leadership capacity.
From there, you’ll want to establish a content workflow. This is the point at which content marketing gets tactical.
It’s a nuts-and-bolts process in which you will lay out content calendars, creation, approvals, style guides, templates and tools. Get this part right, and you’ll be ready to run a newsroom!
The Editorial Calendar: The Hub Of Your Content Workflow
At the very core of the content workflow is the editorial calendar. An editorial calendar establishes what content will be created, what format it should take, which channel it is meant for, and when it will be published. A digital editorial calendar also tracks the connections for a given piece of content, including how it will be repurposed and amplified in social media channels.
Editorial calendars track how often content is created (e.g., Twitter – 2x daily; Blog – 3x week; Newsletter – 2x month on Wednesday). They are also critical tools for tracking content ideas.
For example, a company striving to post four times per week on its blog may shoot for one originally authored piece, one commentary on current industry news, one guest post from an outside expert, and one round-up of curated links on interesting topics related to the business. Having specific goals helps to alleviate that “white page” syndrome when you know you have to create something, but you don’t have a clue what that something should be.
Many editorial calendars also incorporate the production process into the mix, which is a great way to ensure content creation is on track. This can include who’s responsible for individual content elements, the due date of a first draft, who conducts the copyedit, and a date (often, with a specific time) for receiving and proofing the final draft, entering it into the CMS system (or newsletter template, or blog platform), and when it will be pushed live, or published.
The editorial calendar should help outline a process for promoting and disseminating your content on various channels. For example, say you’re publishing a white paper or research report. How and when will that information be broken down, repurposed and funneled into other channels such as your blog, a press release, or an update on a social network? What about ad creative?
On that note, your calendar should include reminders to collect appropriate graphic elements and/or multimedia content (such as photos, charts or graphs) to enhance the written word.
The editorial calendar should be governed by a master calendar that takes into account key dates and events. It provides not only an overview of what content will publish by day, week or month, but ties that broader schedule together with specifics such as holidays, trade shows, company announcements, events (such as webinars), or new product launches.
Don’t forget to take international holidays into account if content is targeted to foreign countries or territories. These key dates should also help inform the editorial calendar with ideas for content themed for the Christmas season, perhaps, or a major industry conference at which you’ll be releasing a white paper.
Those holiday reminders in the calendar should be taken seriously, and they should be leavened with common sense. Seasoned editors don’t publish their best material late on a Friday afternoon in summer when the target audience is beach-bound, just as a financial services company should hold back publishing on a bank holiday Monday. That’s just common sense; you want your content to have the maximum possible reach and impact.
More Tools Of The Trade
The editorial calendar is a must-have tool for any content marketing strategy, and one that can be adapted to varying needs. What follows are a list of additional resources for the content “newsroom” that range from nice-to-have to must-have elements of content marketing initiatives, depending on the organization and goals.
• Personas: Archetype characters represent the varying segments of a target audience.
• Keyword List: Based on search engine optimization research, this is the list of words and phrases most critical to your business, products and services when it comes to being found on the web. If you don’t have a search engine optimization expert on staff, any and everyone involved in content creation should receive foundational training in SEO and how to appropriately use keywords (and other SEO principles) in content creation.
• Brand Brief: Most organizations with a marketing department have already created this (usually one page long) description of the corporate brand.
• Style Guide (Writing): A very detailed and comprehensive set of rules and guidelines for written content. Very often, the grammar and usage portion of this guide is based on an existing, standard source such as the AP Stylebook, and adapted for the organization’s content needs. This document should also address tone, voice, and writing style. Very often, it addresses web elements, such as when a link is embedded in text, does it open a new page or redirect the user entirely?
• Style Guide (Design): The visual counterpart to the writing style guide, a design style guide is a comprehensive set of rules and guidelines for visual design. It should outline proper usage (and, when necessary, how to attribute credit for) photos, images, embedding videos, fonts and color schemes. Issues this document should address include, for example, when an image is posted to the blog should it be justified right, left or center? How much white space should surround it, top and bottom? Do all images require captions?
• Editing Guidelines: A checklist to ensure that editors (and in many cases, copy editors) are thorough to ensure high quality content. It’s the editors’ job to uphold all the style guide requirements, of course. Editors are also responsible for fact-checking, ascertaining that submitted content is original, validating hyperlinks, proofing images to ensure they’re properly labeled and tagged and a variety of other critical housekeeping tasks.
• Graphics Repository: A collection of ready-to-use images such as logos, executive portraits and product shots the content team can easily find and deploy. Depending on needs, you may also want to make multimedia material available in the manner, as well.
• Submission Brief: An outline of expectations and concepts (often accompanied by a visual template) for outside or occasional content contributors. You’ll be glad you have this once you’ve explained, in detail, how to submit an article to your blog or your newsletter for the twelfth consecutive time!
• Maintenance Plan: This can be either a calendar or more general scheduling guidelines for removing and/or archiving outdated content, as well as assigning that responsibility to someone on the team.
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