We like to hit the road running at the beginning of every year. We’re rested up and ready to take on the opportunities that will present themselves as new challenges each day. “Back-to-school”, “Valentine’s Day”, “Easter holidays”, and before you know it, every campaign goes from an 8-step plan to “just get something out!”. Nobody likes to work under that excess pressure, and the results can often show just that. When we eventually take the time to sit back and look at what causes these hurry-ups, we see that its usually a case of lack of effective planning.
Content calendars are one of the easiest, most cost-effective ways to stay ahead of the game and keep your operation running smoothly and with enough time to deal with that server crash or that sudden change of personnel. If you’re wondering what exactly a content calendar is, think of it as a monthly diary purely for your shared content. It is planned at the beginning of each month and broken down day-by-day that is used for setting deadlines, planning teaser campaigns and the content that goes into each campaign happening that month. It helps you stay on top of all the pieces that make the perfect puzzle.
A study published by the Content Marketing Institute found that only 30% of B2B companies have “a written process for content marketing execution”, but also found that those who do make use of these tools are a whopping 60% more effective in their marketing. Some of the world’s biggest businesses make use of some form or other of content calendars. One of the most famous early adopters of this system was Toyota, in the 1940s, to help them stay on top of their manufacturing processes – a system called Kanban.
Content calendars are a fantastic way to keep your content on-brand, on time, to tell a story and take people on a journey through each month that continues throughout the year. They give you a system that allows for the freedom to focus on unleashing your creativity, to focus on your content and the greater story your brand is trying to sell instead of stressing daily about the logistics. You’ve got a plan, you’ve given yourself and your team enough time, everything’s going to fall into place.
So, what’s the best way to go about creating a content calendar? Well, that depends on your needs and what works best for you. It can be as simple as printing a blank calendar on an A4 page and filling it in by hand. Maybe you prefer using whiteboards. Perhaps your company uses an elaborate collaborative calendar system. If it’s just you and your small business then maybe a free calendar app will do the trick. The key is to use whatever means you need that will make it essential and effective for your system.
Here’s a simple 3-step example of how to use a content calendar effectively:
- Decide on the frequency of your campaigns and plot them out on the upcoming month’s calendar
- Determine what elements are required to piece together each campaign.
These can include:
- Social links
- Calls to action
- Set deadlines leading up to each campaign for all elements required.
It is important that the time designated is flexible enough to allow for adjustments and amendments and to set deadlines that are well within what your workflow is capable of while making sure everyone knows what is expected. It doesn’t need to be followed strictly, some things may need to be brought forward or pushed back – what this tool does is allow you the ability to have a brief overview of every project and keep things on track. It may take some trial and error. But in the end, content calendars can help massively in streamlining your marketing so that you can get back to focusing on telling the stories that help show people what makes your product so great.
And that’s the gist of content calendars! If you feel you’ve struggled to stay on brand in 2021, or maybe your campaigns never seemed to make it out into the world wholly functional or just never had that same spark every time, or just not getting the right message across, perhaps you should give one of these a try.