If you’re a company or agency looking to promote your name or the name of your clients, creating a content strategy should be an important part of your marketing plan. It sounds easy, right? A blog post here and there, maybe a case study for sales material, maybe a video if you have the equipment. While all of these are great ideas, most of the time this content dies before they’re even created.
People are busy, you’re busy, I’m busy – and if it’s not your job to produce content on a daily basis, you’re probably not thinking about topics for your next downloadable whitepaper. Trying to fit content creation into your already busy schedule is a challenge, and to throw another wrinkle into the mix, getting everyone in your office to help out can be like dragging a toddler, kicking and screaming, to school in the morning.
As a Content Specialist, it’s my job to manage the production and distribution of the material we produce for outside use. As such, I’ve learned how to create a content strategy with different stages to guarantee quality content and a timely release.
In my blog today, I’m going to outline a basic content strategy and walk you through the five stages that every piece of content should go through in its life cycle: creation, progress updates, editing, distribution, and review. I’ve also included a template of a monthly content calendar that you can download if you’d like to follow along.
Content Creation Stage
As we discuss the creation of content, it’s important to keep in mind the definition of content. By the online standards today, content can exist in many different shapes and styles. Everything from a weekly video to a company newsletter can be considered valuable content when created with a purpose.
The first step in the creation stage is to decide which type of content you’d like to produce. I’m not going to dive too deep into this right now, but the important thing to remember here is that different types of content will fit your business’s voice and tone better than others. Also, certain pieces of content will take longer to create than others.
Every piece of content that you produce should have one goal. This is very important; whether it’s as simple as a producing a daily Snapchat story or writing an eBook, nail down what that particular piece of content is trying to accomplish. This will make your time creating the piece faster and more worthwhile.
Second, give yourself or who’s ever creating the content appropriate time. Give the person enough time to research, outline, and produce a quality piece of content that your clients/customers will enjoy. A content strategy should be created with the element of time as an important factor.
Progress Update Stage
The life of an editor is tough. Often you’re hated by writers from breathing down their necks and pointing out their mistakes, but the role is vital to the creation of quality content. If you download the content calendar template, you’ll see that there is a date set as a progress update before the posting date. This deadline is important in the life cycle of a piece of content for different reasons.
First, progress updates keep everyone on track to finish on time. Obviously, this is important when a manager or editor has a schedule they have to keep to. Second, these updates are a chance to redirect the content if you feel it’s going off track. There should be enough time between this date and the flight date to make the necessary changes.
The next stage in a content strategy should be the editing stage. Don’t get confused between this stage and the progress update stage. The main difference between these two stages this that when the content reaches the editing stage, it should be completed; you might call it a “first draft.” This can also sometimes be called the “approval stage.”
Whether you’re writing for a client or your own company, you’ll most likely have to get your content approved by someone else. This stage in the content strategy is necessary to ensure that what’s being distributed is exactly what everyone wants. This also gives the content a chance to be reviewed by more than just one person. It’s easy to overlook mistakes; having multiple people look at the content will give it a better chance to be mistake free.
The final thought on this stage is about time. Just like the time it took to create the content, allow a good amount of time to edit the piece as well. Remember, this is a time to look for mistakes, but also give it back to the creator so they can make the necessary changes. This process might go on multiple times until the final copy is approved.
Just like deciding what type of content you want to create, where you want to publish it is an important decision as well. This also ties back into the voice and image of your brand. Try asking yourself these questions if you’re wondering where to distribute your content.
What’s the goal of the content?
If the goal of the content is to drive traffic to your website, you’ll want to publish it on external mediums like social media or through emails to get people to visit your site.
Where is your audience?
Similar to defining the goal, try to place your content in front of the people willing to engage with it. If you have a spike in site traffic on a particular day of the week, think about publishing your content on that day.
Distribution is an essential part of a content strategy that should be determined in the beginning. Think about this when beginning the creation process. It’s also important to be able to track the success of your content, so make sure that wherever you’re distributing your content that its performance is measurable in some way.
This final stage is the hardest stage for a piece of content to go through. Many times businesses will want numbers or an ROI for content. However, depending on its purpose, sometimes the results of content production can’t be measured. I recommend that instead of thinking of a return on the content, try looking at the engagement the piece receives (i.e. how many post clicks, email opens, views). The reviewing stage should provide insights into future content.
If you see positive engagement with blog articles, but no one’s downloading a whitepaper, think about producing more blog articles and try distributing them in more places to gain a following.
To tie everything together, the reviewing stage should flow directly back into the creation phase. Use this time to discuss ideas for future content based on the performance of the content you’re reviewing.
These five stages of a content strategy are guidelines to help you stay organized and on track in the production of your content. Having a system in place will help prevent gaps between publishing dates. Staying consistent is a major factor in gaining a loyal following.
Creating content takes time and energy but don’t let that stop you from delivering quality material to your clients or customers. Use content with a purpose and start spreading the word about your brand. Remember to download our content calendar template if you want to see how these five stages work together in one document.[activecampaign]