Your content plan is your roadmap for what content you’re making over a defined period of time. In our case, I planned for the first two quarters of the year at once. I like to plan long term as it gives a clearer sense of what you’re aiming for and the volume of work ahead.
During our rebrand, I wanted to shift our focus from the high-quality search-focused content we were making for our blog into bigger, cornerstone pieces that had a longer shelf-life. So whilst our volume of output would be lower, we would be creating high-value content that would stand the test of time. Sometimes this is referred to as ‘evergreen content’.
In our first two years it was vital for us to create search-friendly content at volume as we were trying to be found by our target audience. I’m happy to say we had great success with this, with a decent amount of our sales leads coming from search. In part, this was bolstered by my team’s effort to target problem-solving terms in certain areas such as social media marketing, content marketing and small business marketing. But for our new content plan I wanted to pivot our focus to help align it with our new messaging of “creating trust for brands with purpose.”
To do this, I created a new tool for planning our content. But before we get to planning it out, I wanted to share some of the steps we took to arrive at our content plan that you can emulate for your own business. They’re all free and most importantly, fun! (or at least, I think so).
Step 1: Brainwriting 6-3-5
Brainwriting was a technique I picked up from a previous, brilliant Search Director I worked with at another agency. Whilst it wasn’t her original idea, it’s a tool I return to again and again with clients and my own team. This methodology enables a team of six people to create three ideas every five minutes.
It’s a great starting point as it produces ideas at volume that you can then whittle down in Step 2. It’s also a super useful tool if you’ve got more introverted members in your team. Often in brainstorming sessions, you’ll have a few voices that dominate as well as people who work best introspectively, then sharing. Brainwriting 3-6-5 enables everyone to be heard and for ideas to be shared equally.
Here’s how to try brainwriting 3-6-5 for your own team –
- Get your hands on our free Brainwriting template
- Give everyone a worksheet each
- Set the problem you’re tackling clearly at the top of the page, for example this might be “downloadable content ideas for our company website to attract small business owners to our services”
- Then, set a timer for five minutes and have everyone fill out their sheet going across the page. The aim is to get three ideas every five minutes from each person in the room
- Do this for six rounds – try to keep conversation to a minimum
- Then have people share their ideas verbally
- Collect everyone’s ideas and keep them safe – you can now move onto Step 2!
A sneak peek at the brainwriting worksheet you can download –
Step 2: Shortlisting
Now, you’ve got a great problem to have; hundreds of ideas to sift through. Often you’ll find people have a minor panic towards the end of brainwriting and start to draw pictures of cats to distract you that they ran out of ideas. Cat pictures are welcome – stick them up around the office. In the meantime, sift through which ideas have ‘legs’ (an idea that has the ability to turn into something bigger than the original idea) and create a longlist. Then, narrow this down again so you’ve got say 10 really solid ideas to play with.
Here’s some guidance to help you shortlist your ideas:
- Do we have the resources to pull this idea off, if not can we get external help and find a budget for it?
- Does this idea feel similar to other things you’ve seen, or does it feel fresh? A new take on an old idea is fine, as long as it isn’t out right stealing
- Does this idea directly link to our business goals? Can we see its purpose clearly?
- Is the idea likely to offend or put off our ideal audience?
Step 3: Populating
Now that you’ve got some solid ideas you’re happy with, you can set about populating a content plan. We adore Whimsical, so we use it as much as possible. The template I’ve provided you with is the same as the one I used to create our content plan. I’ve found creating it in a more visual way makes it more engaging for my team (and me – I don’t want to look at any more spreadsheets than I have to).
To help you figure out which pieces to deliver when, ask yourself the following questions:
- What else are we delivering that month? Will it interrupt our grand plans?
- Are there any holidays planned? If you need key team members around to deliver your vision, make sure you’re not calling them when they’re holidaying in Bali.
- What are all the steps involved in making this piece of content? It’s not just draft one then publish. Often, there are multiple iterations and considerations to take into account. Be kind to your team and give them the breathing room to deliver it.
- If we’ve got a bigger idea to deliver, can we create smaller pieces before it comes out to help promote it and keep our marketing ticking along nicely?
I’ve broken the plan down into monthly deliverables. That way, you can see a macro and a micro view of the content at once. Then, I break down into relevant forms, for example landing pages, blog posts, email campaigns etc. From here I can see we’re hitting all of our relevant channels and that our messaging is steadily coming out each month.
Step 4: Sharing
Now that you’ve populated your beautiful content plan, it’s time to share it with your team to get everyone onboard. I find this step especially rewarding as everyone sees their idea from brainwriting come to fruition. Seeing your stamp on the business gives you a sense of purpose, so it’s important to share your vision with the wider team to get their buy-in. I’d recommend talking people through it in person, explaining why some ideas were kept and others dropped to show you have been considered in your choices.
Step 5: Delivering
Then, it’s time to get your plan moving. We use Freedcamp as our project management tool – it handles every aspect of our business from planning holidays to delivering multi-team projects. To make the content I’ve planned tangible to everyone, I follow the below process –
- Create a board per month – See all of the content you’re creating at once, broken down into each month. I find it gives me a great sense of calm in the world.
- Create a ticket with the content name on it. For example, this blog post’s ticket was called ‘Rebrand Series: How we made our Content Plan’. Your title needs to be understandable to anyone who looks at it – not just you.
- Assign it to a team member – you could be that team member, for example.
- Create a brief – explain your vision for the content inside the ticket so you have something to refer back to in case delivery goes slightly haywire
- Move it through Kanban flow (No Progress, In Progress, Completed) to help everyone understand where it is up to in its lifecycle
In summary, these are the crucial elements you need to create a top-notch Content Plan:
- Involve everyone in the ideas phase; the more brains in the room the wider the variety of ideas that will come out
- Sense check your ideas against your resources; are these ideas feasible?
- Give empathetic feedback; how will creating this content impact our team and other deliverables this month?
- Create a template you can use again and again to make the process quicker each time
Want to get more insights into how we approached our rebrand?
Awesome – take a look at my posts on How we made our Tone of Voice and How we Made our Sitemap. Or, if this all seems like a lot of work, get in touch and we can work with you to create a content plan unique to your business.