The 18 Elements of Successful Content Planning

The 18 Elements of Successful Content Planning

Successful content marketing requires a lot more than just creating content and posting it. While doing this might seem fun and creative, you’ll miss out on a lot of opportunities to get the best results. In fact, you might even fail to achieve a good enough ROI to justify the expense.

Fortunately, it’s easy to make great content and get positive results. With proper content planning, your marketing efforts will result in high-quality, highly effective campaigns that everyone loves. Here are the steps you should take to be successful.

1. Understanding Your Target Audience

Ultimately, content planning cannot begin until you understand your target audience. After all, what appeals to certain demographics might be viewed as distasteful by others. In addition, techniques and other aspects of content can be more or less effective depending on your audience. Therefore, you should always research target audience demographics, psychographics, goals, and pain points.

Using this information, create detailed buyer personas to represent audience segments. For instance, if you have a product line that includes a high-end item and a more affordable one, then you will have a different buyer persona for each. People who purchase goods at different price points may have some common needs. However, the pain points will probably have significant differences. Content that appeals to one group, therefore, may fall flat with another.

Align your content strategy to appeal to target personas. This will often mean that you create different content versions or types to accommodate the various segments of your audience.

2. Setting Your Business Goals

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Chances are that as you work on content marketing, your campaign goals will vary over time. After all, companies and brands mature over time. They can also introduce new products and make other changes. At each point, content marketing can help grow the company, but content needs to reflect that goal. For instance, a campaign may need to increase brand awareness, generate leads, drive sales, or reduce customer churn.

Once you have identified your goals for a particular campaign, make sure your company executives are on board. Getting the green light is not only important for budgets and other business reasons, but it also allows for alignment and collaboration. At the same time, you will ensure that your campaign goals match overall business objectives.

3.  Defining Your Content Marketing Strategy

Another important aspect of content planning is creating an effective strategy. To do this, develop a mission statement, positioning, voice, and tone. Your mission statement sets forth the purpose of your overall strategy because everything else you do must support it. Likewise, positioning defines a line of attack — will you target Millennials or Generation Z, for example?

Next, determine content topics, themes, and messaging. This lets you determine what you are going to talk about, when, and why. Although you’re not setting the exact pieces of content in stone yet, you have a roadmap for proper content development.

Finally, determine which distribution channels you want to use. You should consider the intended audience and which kinds of content you want to make. Usually, you’ll pick multiple channels to reflect different audience segments and content types. Also, content reuse and repurposing can let you publish content across multiple channels with minimal added effort.

4. Developing Content Ideas

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Once you have defined your audience, emphasis, and strategy, the next content planning step is developing ideas. The first thing you should do is brainstorm concepts through team sessions. That should include your marketing team and any stakeholders, such as a client representative, who may need to give some input.

Next, take your best concepts and conduct keyword research to identify potential topics. Here, the goal is to develop topics with competitive keywords. In other words, you don’t want to use the most oversaturated hashtags or keywords exclusively, as it will be much harder for people to discover your content.

At the same time, make sure that your topics are appropriate for your audience. To do that, conduct consumer surveys, either through your in-house team or an outside vendor. Finally, analyze your competitor’s content to identify gaps and opportunities. By following these steps, you should get a solid list of content ideas to let your brand shine.

5. Choosing Types of Content

Although it is tempting to Base Your Content marketing efforts primarily on a single format, you won’t get optimal ROI this way. One reason for this is that people respond differently to various formats. In addition, using different content formats provides more opportunities to reach the same individuals because most of us have accounts on more than one social network. And, of course, we check different social networks at various times of day.

Especially in the beginning, you probably can’t do every format available. So, consider starting with two formats and then expanding to others later. Remember, content repurposing lets you increase the impact of your efforts across multiple platforms.



Once you decide which types of content you want to produce, consider various stages of the buyer journey in your further content planning. This way, you can avoid missing opportunities and maximize your ROI. At the same time, use techniques in your content that appeal to different learning styles.

6. Structuring Your Editorial Calendar

Central to any content planning initiative is the editorial calendar. This is a document where you schedule your content types, topics, and keywords by the week and month. In other words, content calendars are a sort of roadmap or agenda for your content marketing efforts. Using this map, you can stay on topic and provide the best content to reach your audience in ways they will find compelling.

However, you should still leave some room for flexibility. Not only can new topics come up spontaneously, but world events and emergencies can necessitate a change in plans. The recent pandemic and multiple wars are great examples of why you need room to make changes.

Another consideration is what’s going on around your company. In particular, you should consider any company events, initiatives, or PR campaigns. This way, your content will have a unified voice and direction with other parts of your company.

7. Building Your Social Media Content Calendar

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This calendar is a little bit different because it primarily deals with your social media posts. In other words, you wouldn’t include your blog posts or email newsletters here. Furthermore, posts and campaigns are planned for each social media network, rather than painting in broad strokes. As with your general calendar, you should always include a variety of content types, such as it images or videos. You should also online your content plans with the editorial calendar and company happenings.

8. Creating Valuable Content

Let’s be honest — nobody likes spam. And while most of us think of spam as primarily junk email and nuisance telephone calls, low-quality commercial content is not much better. In other words, if we want people to spend time with our content, it should be high-quality and offer value.

There are a few ways to accomplish this task. First, you can focus on educating and helping your audience. Consumer education not only increases audience engagement, but it boosts sales by establishing your company as knowledgeable in its field. As part of your educational mission, you can provide actionable tips and solutions to consumer pain points. Doing this helps make your products top of mind when it’s time to buy.

Another option is to Entertain and inspire through storytelling. Various brands accomplish this mission in different ways. For instance, some companies have a penchant for telling corny jokes or having an offbeat sense of humor. By making people laugh, you can make your brand more memorable. Similarly, a good human interest story can help inspire your audience members to be better people — while also creating positive associations with your company.

9. Optimizing Content for Search Engines

9. Optimizing Content for Search Engines

Even the best content is useless if nobody finds it. Depending on your type of content, and where you post it, there are different kinds of search engines that you need to consider. Additionally, you should optimize your content for Google as appropriate. This way, your content will be more visible across the web where it can make a difference.

The most important part of SEO optimization is keywords. You should use a keyword research tool and other resources to choose the best options. Then, include those keywords naturally throughout your content. Also, you should write Compelling SEO-friendly meta descriptions. Not only will those descriptions help with search engine optimization, but they can also encourage people to click on your content.

Finally, remember that technical aspects of your pages can also influence overall SEO. For example, page load speed helps improve SEO through visitor retention. Likewise, including a site indexed make it easy for Google to read your website.

Further Reading: 7 Best Content Optimization Strategies for 2024

10. Crafting Compelling Content

Making your content compelling so that people will enjoy it and be encouraged to check it out. Right from the get-go, you should always use persuasive and benefit-focused headlines or introductions. To do that, set expectations for your content. Tell people what they can learn, or give an intriguing headline that make people interested in spending the time.

For written content, whether it’s a blog or an article, you will need proper Subheadings. These help your audience scan the article and choose what they want to read — or identify the most important information for them. Often, you can include a list as part of content organization. In both cases, you want adequate treatment of the topic while also keeping the content moving.

Similarly, a multimedia approach has a lot of benefits for your content. Images and graphics add visual interest and detail to just about anything. For instance, I’ve always advocated a quality thumbnail for your YouTube videos, and that you have some form of branding throughout. Similarly, illustrations or relevant photos can make a blog post much more interesting.

11. Promoting and Distributing Content

Part of content planning is deciding how you will promote and distribute your content. Simply posting content and hoping that it gets discovered hasn’t worked well for a long time. And although SEO is vital to success, you cannot rely on it completely. Instead, you should have additional promotional strategies in place.

Depending on your content type, and where it’s or originally posted, you can leverage the power of social media, email, organic search, and paid advertising. Here’s an example. Let’s say that you have a blog post about recent industry trends. To promoted, you might announce the content with a link on your social media pages. Then, you might include the item in your newsletter and create an Adwords campaign, in addition to carefully crafted SEO.

Besides these traditional promotion techniques that do not involve other people, you can also pursue amplification of your content through influencer marketing or guest posting. As an example, you might have an influencer mention your latest company announcement or ask them to review the latest product. Similarly, you can write a guest post on someone else’s blog, or invite them to do the writing on yours. Both of these techniques help expose their audience to your brand — and vice versa.

Further Reading: 13 Content Distribution Strategies That Work in 2024

12. Analyzing and Improving Efforts

Even the best initial content planning can be improved upon after you publish some content. To do this, you’ll need to track your performance data, such as traffic, engagement, and conversion rates. In other words, you need to know how many people are visiting your site, engaging with your content, and taking the steps you want them to. Here, a conversion needn’t be a purchase — sometimes, it’s filling out a lead generation form or even just interacting with content.

From here, you can make some adjustments. For example, you might retire old content that has become stale, especially if you run a blog. Similarly, you may discover that a certain type of content or a particular approach to it does not resonate with your audience. In this case, you can make adjustments with upcoming content that will incorporate this information or revise the content to perform better.

Finally, look for new opportunities. Even with the best planning, your competition is probably leaving some opportunities unmet. And at the same time, you might be missing out on a chance to improve your content or answer a challenge. These opportunities help you improve both your content and your overall marketing.

13. Curating and Repurposing Existing Content

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Not all content planning involves fresh composition. Rather, a well-balanced content marketing program includes content curation and improving what you already have. To identify the best content for repurposing or a refresh, audit your content for evergreen status. Often, you will have content that’s intended to be evergreen, but before you commit the resources to a revision, make sure that the content has lived up to your expectations.

Next, take the best content and adapt it. Sometimes, you’ll change the content into completely different formats, such as making the soundtrack of a video into a podcast or rewriting the podcast into a blog post. Or, you can craft something similar to the original. YouTube Shorts, IGTV, and TikTok all create wonderful opportunities to repurpose long-form videos.

Content curation is another great way to post often and provide relevant content without creating everything from scratch. So, you might take a news story and post the link on X (Twitter) along with some commentary. Or maybe that hilarious TikTok deserves everyone’s attention. Similarly, you can promote content across multiple channels, expanding your brand’s reach with the best content ever.

Further Reading: How to Perform a Complete Content Audit for 2024

14. Integrating User-Generated Content

User-generated content, or UGC, is very effective online because it leverages the voice of individual consumers to promote your brand. To take advantage of this trend, you can crowdsource reviews, testimonials, images, and videos from your customers. This can be done very easily, such as by encouraging content on your profile, or adding a QR code to product packaging.

Similarly, you can curate UGC from other Profiles. People will often talk about the products they use on social media, even if it is not explicitly part of your UGC campaign. And because they frequently use your branded hashtags or @mention, you often don’t need to do anything for your followers to see the content.

Once you receive UGC, encourage people to post more of it. Then, prominently highlight the items so your followers can see it. An easy way to do this is by engaging with the other users’ post. You can also get permission to reuse the content.

Further Reading: What is User Generated Content? The Definitive Guide to Leverage UGC for Marketing



15. Differentiating Your Content

Even with relatively low competition, it’s important that people be able to quickly differentiate your content from the competition. For that reason, part of your content planning should involve defining your brand voice and perspective. In other words, you need to have consistency that makes your branded content distinct from what other companies are producing. You can do this by using colors and logos, but it’s also important to have a distinctive style or convey a consistent message.

Generally speaking, your brand voice and message should appeal to your niche. A high-end, sustainable clothing brand will have a different voice than a company featuring inexpensive fast fashion. This is true even if the companies have a similar sense of style and target demographics. Similarly, two competing brands with comparable price points and a slightly different vibe should put out content that is consistent with their product distinctives.

Over time, your content should help establish your brand as an expert in its niche. By doing this, your company will become top of mind as the target audience needs or wants to purchase something in that category. And you should be consistent with your brand message rather than simply chasing short term trends. While trends are great to interact with, they do not represent your company’s core values, and you should develop content accordingly.

16. Connecting Content to Your Email Marketing

One of the best ways to promote your content is through email marketing. For example, email newsletters are very effective ways to distribute summaries of other content in addition to making company related announcements. Another option is to repurpose content through email. Many video platforms will let you embed a video player into an email, so people can watch without leaving the page.

Similarly, you can nurture leads with targeted content over time. The analytics attached to your social media channels, blog, and website can help you segment user groups and facilitate targeting. Then, you can highlight the right content for each buyer persona. Similarly, you can personalize content recommendations using segmentation. This works well because not all of your content will appeal to your entire audience.

Overall, the goal is to offer the most relevant content to each segment of your audience, so that you can maximize ROI.

17. Integrating Content with Sales

Create targeted content to assist sales prospects and include topics with this goal in mind as part of your content planning. One of the most powerful options in this category is customer education. In other words, videos and written content that help customers learn how to pick between products in your line, how to use each item, or see the possibilities can be a very powerful force for driving sales. And at the same time, customer education can help reduce user frustration and increase satisfaction.

As you plan this specialized content, involve your sales reps in content creation. Because they answer so many questions from potential clients or buyers, they are highly tuned in to what people want. Similarly, they can shed light on what descriptions or explanations are most effective for them. Capitalize on this knowledge as much as you can.

Finally, equip your sales team to share content on their calls and in their meetings. Sometimes, a sales rep will want to include the content directly into their presentation, such as with an embedded YouTube player in a PowerPoint slide. Another option is to direct potential customers to your website where they can read specific articles, and then invite questions. This lets customers learn at their own pace while continuing to nurture the relationship.

18. Measuring Content Performance

Ultimately, content planning is an ongoing process. Not only do you need to add to your content calendar over time, but you’ll want to make adjustments throughout the year. An important part of this update and review is measuring your content performance.

A relatively easy measure of performance is your analytics. Using your content marketing software stack and any free tools available to you, track quantitative metrics like traffic, engagement, and conversions. Look carefully into which pieces of content performs the best and then try to determine why. Similarly, you should identify content that performs poorly and learn from those failures.

Naturally, numbers aren’t the whole story. Consider running surveys and doing interviews with stakeholders. They can give you qualitative feedback that goes far beyond any analytics program. For instance, you might learn that your attempt at a clever joke went over like a lead balloon, or that you failed to make your case for a product during the latest tutorial.

Once you’ve determined the success of your content, both as individual pieces and as a portfolio over time, you’ll need to report findings to your stakeholders. You should have specific KPIs to meet, and analysis of a campaign will show how well you met them. Ideally, you’ll be able to show that your efforts have been highly effective. And if not, you can demonstrate what works well and where you fell short.

As you continue with content planning going forward, understanding both your successes and your shortcomings will help improve your content and ROI for the future.

Further Reading: 7 KPIs To Measure Your Content Marketing Performance

Conclusion

While it is easy and tempting to produce content you like and post it at random, this approach rarely produces good results, especially in a corporate context. Often, the result is a disjointed assortment of social media posts or blogs that fail to represent your brand well or to reach potential customers effectively. On the other hand, careful content planning helps ensure that what you produce is of high quality and represents the brand. Over time, quality content is one of the best ways to reach customers.

Best of all, you’ll save time and achieve optimal ROI.

Hero Photo by UX Indonesia on Unsplash

Content Planning FAQs

How do you write a content plan?

Here are some tips on how to write a content plan:

1. Consider your brand’s core values, target audience, and overall objectives.
2. From there, form a clear picture of what type of content your audience will find relevant and valuable. This can include anything from blog posts to social media updates and should align with your brand’s tone of voice and messaging.
3. As you gather ideas for content, be sure to reference your content calendar to ensure that you publish content consistently and in alignment with your objectives.

What are the 8 steps to planning content?

There are 8 key steps to planning content, which include identifying your target audience, determining your goals, conducting research, creating an editorial calendar, selecting the appropriate format and platform, crafting compelling headlines, planning your distribution, and analyzing your results. By following these steps, you’ll be able to create high-quality content that resonates with your audience and drives business growth. So, if you’re looking to improve your content marketing game, it’s time to get planning!

How do you create a content production plan?

Here are the steps on how to create a content production plan:

1. Start by defining your target audience and understanding their interests and pain points.
2. Then, identify the types of content that resonate with your audience and align with your business objectives.
3. Next, establish a content calendar that outlines when and where you’ll publish your content. Consider factors such as seasonality, events, and holidays when scheduling your posts.
4. Finally, determine how you’ll measure the success of your content production plan.

Why do you need a content plan?

A solid content plan ensures that your brand’s messaging is consistent and targeted, providing greater visibility, engagement, and ultimately, ROI. Without a content plan, it can be easy to become overwhelmed by the amount of content your brand produces, leading to inconsistencies in messaging and the inability to reach your target audience effectively. By creating a content plan, you not only ensure that you are creating meaningful, resonant content, but you also create a roadmap for your brand’s content marketing efforts, allowing you to stay focused and on track with your goals.

What a content plan looks like?

Here are components of what a content plan looks like:

1. Your content goals and objectives
2. Your target audience and the types of content they’re most likely to engage with.
3. Content topics
4. A map out of your content schedule

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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.

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