Creating A Content Calendar: Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That

March 30, 2016   /   by  Diane Callihan

5 Ways to Cheat at Content Planning

I’ve been in marketing for a long time, and the one thing that frustrates me the most about it is how often our work is reactive in nature. Some of this in inevitable, of course, but not all of it.

Marketers all preach planning, and there are a lot of great resources out there that talk about the importance of having a content calendar. But it seems like a lot of businesses:

  • Have created a content calendar, but don’t really adhere to it or keep it up to date.
  • Have created a content calendar, but it’s not comprehensive (for example, it may cover blog topics but not emails, events, social media posts, or other types of content).
  • Haven’t created a content calendar at all.

There are a number of valid reasons for this, but I think the main reason is this: it’s hard to fix a car while you’re driving it.

In other words, it’s pretty hard to sit down and plan all your marketing efforts for the next 6 months or more when you are in the middle of all of your marketing efforts for the current week. Not many bosses will say, “Hey – forget doing any marketing this week and just focus on building a comprehensive plan for the future.”

Also, have you ever downloaded a content calendar template? They can be a bit overwhelming. You have to fill in a big-ass spreadsheet that starts out simple:

  • Publish date
  • Topic
  • Title
  • Content Type
  • Author

But then you have to identify the content’s target audience, the target persona, where the person is at in the sales funnel, what stage the person is at in the buyer’s journey, what pain point your content addresses, the consumer’s middle name and dietary restrictions, and eventually you’re just like, Forget this. I have work to do.

Let me be clear. I am not saying having a detailed content calendar isn’t important. It can be a huge help that ultimately saves you time and also ensures that you are delivering a variety of valuable content to your target market on a regular and consistent basis. It can definitely help you generate more qualified leads.

It’s just kind of a pain.

So, if you have the time to build out a content calendar – absolutely do it. If you have money but not time, consider hiring someone to help you out.

But, if you’re like most marketers and are a little short on both time and money, I’m going to help you cheat a little.

  1. Any planning is better than no planning. Maybe planning a calendar 6 months out or even 3 months out is just too daunting right now. Can you plan a month ahead? A couple weeks? Start small and as you get the hang of it, build out bigger chunks of time.
  2. Simplify your calendar to fit your needs. If your company has a comprehensive marketing strategy and you have your buyer personas identified and can map your content to a person’s location in the sales cycle -- that’s fantastic. But if you aren’t there yet, that’s OK too. Maybe right now, just having a list of topics, content types and dates is enough to get you ahead of the game.
  3. Share your plan. Is there anything sadder than spending the time to create a gorgeous content plan that no one ever gets to see but you? Make sure everyone on your team knows the plan and sees it on a regular basis. Everyone should be on the same page and know what content is planned for this week, next week and the next. This will help you all prioritize and work much more efficiently.
  4. Be flexible. As I said before, things will pop up unexpectedly. Don’t get flustered if you have to push things back a week or move things around. When you are planning your content out, make sure your schedule has a little wiggle room for the unexpected.
  5. Give yourself a global view. You want your content calendar to be your one-stop shop for your content marketing plan, instead of having separate spreadsheets for all your different marketing activities. For example: If your company’s president is speaking at an event in July – put that on your calendar and plan content around it. Consider planning…

    — an email inviting people to the event
    — social media posts about the event
    — a press release on your president being chosen as a speaker
    — a blog post covering his speech topic
    — a video of him giving the speech
    — highlights or photo galleries from the event itself
    — a thank you email for those who attended

That’s 7 pieces of content right there, and you didn’t have to even think up the topic. Seeing it all in one place makes it easier to ensure that you are covering all your bases.

Planning is a good thing, but it should make your life easier, not harder. So do what you can, and don’t feel bad if you aren’t doing it all. And hey, if you need help, we’re here for you.

Diane Callihan

Diane Callihan

With more than 20 years of experience writing for some of the country’s top brands, Diane helped to shape Roger West’s content strategy, lead generation, and PR efforts as Director of Marketing. She currently serves as President of Callihan Content Creation.