Content Planning: Four First Steps

We all want to draw our readers in with good content. But the thought of sitting down to write another article that just adds to the noise isn’t exactly motivating. How can you be sure people will read/watch/listen to the content you produce?

This article will explain a reliable approach to producing content that your audience cares about. It will take a little work, but it’s a simple process that will give you confidence to continue producing content and know that it’s relevant.

Why take these steps?

Besides making sure your content matters to your audience, you’ll get a framework which will prompt and help motivate you to produce content. It will also help everyone in your organization get on the same page about your business’ priorities.

The steps

Before jumping in, a quick note: These steps assume you have some idea of your business’ content marketing goals. In other words, you should have an understanding of what will be different in your business as a result of your efforts. (If you haven’t done that part yet, check out this article under the heading, “What should my content marketing strategy include?“)

Step One: Find Three Content Channels

Think about your competition and find three of their content channels. Things like:

  • Social media accounts
  • Email newsletters
  • Blogs
  • YouTube channels

It’s worth noting your competition’s follower and subscriber counts for these channels. The more you have reason to believe these channels are successful, the better.

Step Two: List Categories

List all of the different types of content that you see and group them into categories (perhaps in a spreadsheet). Here are some examples categories:

  • Awards / recognitions
  • Behind-the-scenes look at projects
  • Company case studies
  • Company news
  • Industry trends
  • Inspiration / “Fun” topics

Step Three: Get Client Input

Setup 10–15 minute phone calls with your clients and ask them “behavioral” questions like the ones below. Tell them you’re working on a new blog (for example) and want to make it as helpful for them as possible. The goal is to determine what types of content they would actually click on.

  • What’s the last thing you Googled related to your work?
  • What keeps you up at night with regard to your job/business?
  • If you would, tell me about the last time you got excited about your work. What was it about? What inspired you?

These interviews may give you new categories, and will shed light on how interesting the categories from the previous step will be to your particular audience.

Step Four: Decide On Categories

Put a list together of about 3–4 categories to focus on based on the research you’ve done in the previous steps. From your entire list, ask yourself which 3–4 categories of content would bring the most value to your client. As you produce content, try to keep variation between the categories, and consider choosing different categories from month to month.

The outcome

Content marketing is a long-term game. But, if you stick with this process, your audience will know they can expect valuable content from you consistently. For further reading, check out Dmitry Dragilev’s article on the importance of quality over quantity.

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