Planning the perfect content marketing calendar

The foundation for putting your strategy into action.

July 13, 2015

When it comes to content, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach. However over the years of planning, creating, publishing and consuming content of all types, I’ve arrived at a few guiding principles that I think are helpful. The most important of which is to always create and use a calendar. Without this, it’s difficult to maintain the quality, originality and frequency – and it’s also difficult to consistently align your content with the topics your audience (& company) cares about. Get your calendar right, and you’ll not only be able to produce content more efficiently; you’ll also be able to deliver it when it matters and make sure it engages the people who will most influence your success.

Drawn from mine and the team’s experience at LinkedIn, as well as the strategies the most successful content brands adopt on our platform, here are 7 steps crafting a great content marketing calendar:

1. Set the right frequency

It’s hugely helpful to publish on a regular basis if you’re using owned channels such as a blog, Company Page, LinkedIn Pulse posts or YouTube channel. You want your audience to form a habit around regularly checking your content and – when you look at the strategies of the most influential brands on LinkedIn – it’s noticeable they publish at least once daily, on average. However it’s important to be honest with yourself about your capacity to maintain the right quality at this cadence.  A daily drumbeat loses its shine if the content has little value. The alternative is to publish less frequently, but still with a regular rhythm.

2. Embed the right mix

Once you’ve decided on the frequency of your content, you can focus on the form.  Varying the type of content you produce can also help retain interest, by appealing to different sensibilities at different times. Mixing the length of posts, format (polemic vs. list) and narrative with infographics & eBooks can also help with frequency. On this blog, we aim to publish different types of content on different days of the week: releasing in-depth research on one day; more light-hearted content on another; with guest posts and recommendations of useful resources on others. No one’s perfect and, like everyone, this works better some weeks than others. No sweat, the principle still stands and helps bring everyone back to centre.

3. Plan the different ways your content can deliver value

Planning out the different types of content that you will produce helps you focus on the question of how those content types deliver value to your target audiences. Will they inform decision-making? Help develop new skills? Support career development? Entertain? The more granular that you can get about the needs of different audiences, the better; and it’s worth bearing in mind people are likely to be interested in different content at different times of the year: at annual planning and review; approaching quarter-end, or when a major sporting event (and branding opportunity) is dominating the back pages, for example.

4. Plug in your key content opportunities

Start with the easy wins: the touchpoints in your calendar when you know you’ll have something to say that adds value for your audience: a piece of research that will be ready for release; a new product announcement or case study that you’ve been preparing. Slotting these content assets into your calendar can challenge you to choose the approach that is most likely to engage your target audiences – and it can also help to turn a single announcement into several related content opportunities.

5. Stretch your calendar forward

The aim of your calendar should be to enable you to plan content as far ahead as possible. Challenge yourself to fill in a schedule a month in advance with key content opportunities identified further ahead, throughout the year. This will provide you with the time to embed more value into the content you publish.

6. Cultivate a range of authors

Don’t just vary the types of content in your calendar; vary the people within your organisation that author it. Research consistently shows audiences want to hear from subject matter experts as well as the CEO or company spokesperson. Planning your content in advance provides time to decide on the most appropriate author for a particular piece, and to provide them with the support they need in writing it.

7. Use the time to invest in ‘Big Rock’ items

Use the planning time that a calendar provides you with to organise value-adding content in advance. Planning time allows you to invest budget and resources in producing genuinely original, agenda-setting “Big Rock” items on a monthly or quarterly basis, which can then be recycled in imaginative ways to ensure you generate maximum reach and exposure.