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Content Planning: the Key to Creating Great Content

Content planning isn’t as simple as brainstorming topic ideas for your blog, then briefing a content writing service. Sadly. But the good news is that if you do take the time to plan content well, your results are likely to improve significantly.

Let’s look at what’s involved in doing it well.

A content plan is only part of the planning process 

People often confuse a content plan with the planning process, and the planning process with the strategy development.  And the plan with the content calendar! There’s quite a bit of work to be done before (and after) you have a documented content plan, and only once you have the plan are you ready to create the calendar.

The simplest way to look at it is as three key stages:

Content planning phases

 

Strategy comes before content planning

If you’re part of a corporate marketing team, chances are you have a documented content strategy with supporting information that includes buyer personas, a buyer journey outline, and recommendations on the channels and content formats most likely to reach your target audience.

A content strategy points you in the right direction for planning. If you don’t have one, then you’ll need to do some of that work before you begin working on a content plan. It’s vital to understand who you’re trying to reach, and how best to reach them, before you start making decisions around formats and topics.

What to do if you don’t have a content strategy

If you don’t have a complete strategy, then at the very least, you’ll need to consider the following factors if you want to end up with an effective content plan:

  1. Audience

Who are you creating the content for? In many cases, a business has more than one type of buyer. You might sell products or services to several different industries. You might have retail and wholesale clients. Or small business and corporate clients. Whatever the break-up, it’s very unlikely that all your buyer types have the same motivations, considerations, priorities, and questions. You’ll need to consider each one separately in terms of how to reach them (publishing channels), and the type of content that’s likely to resonate.

  1. The buyer journey

For each different type of buyer, consider the path they typically take before engaging your services. A buyer journey for retail products can be quick and simple. I want. I Google. I compare prices and features. I buy. But in many other cases, it’s more complicated and takes longer.

I recommend creating buyer personas if you don’t have them. You might like to read HubSpot’s guide: How to Create Detailed Buyer Personas for Your Business

If you’re a B2B, you might also like to read more about Why Buyer Personas are Critical for Content Marketing Success.

One of the reasons that buyer persona information is so valuable is that in many cases, buyers consume different types of content at different stages of their buyer journey. So if you want to hold their attention until they make a purchasing decision (and beyond), you need to create the content they’ll be looking for at each stage of the journey.

  1. Priorities and business goals

Content should have purpose and align with business goals. Goals might include a plan to increase clients or revenue from a particular sector, or to shift from servicing small business clients to servicing large corporate clients. Understanding the goals will help you determine if all your buyer personas will have the same priority level when it comes to creating content. It might be appropriate to allocate more time and resources to a particular audience segment.

  1. Assessing existing content and identifying gaps

Whether you do a complete content audit, or a quick limited-scope audit, there are two very good reasons to spend some time assessing your existing content. You might only need to look at the past 6-12 months to find out:

  1. Has the content you’ve been creating been targeted at the right personas? Does it align with business goals and priorities? And do you have content for all stages of the buyer journey? Reviewing what’s been published will help you to identify content gaps you need to fill – which is something you’ll want to know when (eventually!) you’re ready to create your content plan.
  2. Is the content appropriate and high in quality? If it isn’t, you might find content that needs to be removed or replaced. You might also identify mediocre pieces that could be revised or extended, or content that can be repurposed into other formats.

If you haven’t conducted a content audit before, I recommend reading How to Audit Content.

Are we there yet? Yes – it’s time for the content plan! 

Armed with your buyer personas, business goals, priorities (and what’s left of your brain cells after the content audit!) it’s time to make some decisions and build your content plan.

What does a content plan look like?

What your plan looks like will depend on how much it needs to cover. However, a table format works well because you can see everything at a glance. It might look something like this (only bigger, and probably not as colourful):

Content Plan example

 

Don’t get too hung up on column names, the number of columns, or exactly how it’s set out – do what works for you, and the complexity level of the content plan you’re creating.

If you’ve done a lot of the strategy work yourself, or a content audit, you might also like to include some introductory comments above or below your table.  Anyone who later needs to update or review the content plan can then understand the goals, priorities, content gaps and other factors that informed your decisions.

Content planning decisions

The content planning stage is where you identify:

  1. What content formats you will create for each persona (e.g. article, white paper, video, case study)
  2. The publishing channel (e.g. blog, industry publication, LinkedIn)
  3. Appropriate content themes. These will be broad themes rather than specific topics (e.g. How-to, DIY, health tips, industry innovation)

The journey stage and goal columns will help you to stay on-purpose and plan a mix of content that takes priorities and any identified content gaps into consideration.

You can also note the channels you’ll use to promote the content.

The available content budget and internal content creation resources are also factors to be considered. But I’d recommend creating the content plan before you do, because the plan does not need to specify the volume of content to be created.

When the content planning has been completed, the next step will be creating a content calendar that aligns with the plan. Choosing specific topics will be easier because the plan will guide your decisions. You will have to consider the available budget and resources at this stage, because it will determine how much content you have the capacity to create.

Need help with content creation? Connect with a content marketing agency. Whether you’re in New Zealand or Australia, Article Writers Aotearoa would be delighted to assist. Drop us a line and we’ll arrange a call to discuss your requirements!

Article Writers Aotearoa & Article Writers Australia | + posts

Leonie Seysan is the Director of Article Writers Aotearoa and Article Writers Australia,, and manages the team of professional writers and editors. She holds a Bachelor of Communications Degree.

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