A while back (not really sure how long) I wrote a post about why content marketing is bee’s knees. And it totally is. But after reading it, I had someone say to me “So I just make content?” I felt like I had failed in that post. Because while content marketing is partially about generating relevant content, there is a strategy to you overall approach that needs to be addressed. Basically, though it might not be obvious to someone not in the know, there should always be a method in your madness when creating content.
Let’s hash out a couple things before diving into strategy. I in no way, shape or form encourage you to do #AllTheThings. I do not and will not encourage this, especially if you are just starting out. Pick one or two platforms (a mix of long and short form) and be really great at those, at least at first.
Second, your content needs to be relevant. And not just to you in a connect the dots kind of way. Directly relevant to the people that you are trying to attract. Read this if you’re not sure who those people are. Don’t share brownie recipes on your blog if you are trying to sell design services. It doesn’t relate.
Last, there is no such thing as a saturated market that you can not achieve success in. Even if you have all the same things to say on whatever your topic is, the value of the topic is that it is coming from you. You are the single most unique selling point of your business. Don’t believe me? This post was written a full 12 hours before Being Boss released their post on editorial calendars. Womp womp. But I am not the ladies at Being Boss. And that’s what makes this post special.
Tools You’re Going To Need
Now that we have covered some basics, I’ll hop off my soap box and we can dive into the good stuff. When creating a strategy with your content you need a few things before you can start.
An editorial calendar. This can be whatever will keep you on top of your shit. Paper planner, Google calendars, Asana, Trello, Basecamp, [insert other project management systems here]. But the single most important thing that your editorial calendar should have is a way to keep you on track. This tool is going to be the hardest part of your content creation to set up, but once you’ve got it and it works for you, it is going to work for you. There are so many great resources on the web for creating a content calendar, and I may be creating something here in the near future, but really it is all about the system that works best for you.
When you create an editorial calendar, make sure that is has the following parts.
An actual way to keep track of real dates (calendar options, due dates, whathaveyou.)
A way to keep yourself truly organized (folders on Drive, checklists, etc.)
A place to put all your rad ideas
A place to put your promotion plans
A reward system (this is up to you. Got January content created? Go get your nails done)
A solid plan. As in what are you hoping to accomplish in the time frame you’re planning out content? Are you launching a course? Hosting a webinar? Booking new clients? Your content should reflect these goals. For example, you’re launching a Get Your Biz Together course that uses Asana as the main organization tool. For the two months leading up to your launch, sharing four to six blog posts surrounding the topic of organizing your business with Asana will do two big things. First, it will get people used to you talking about something you are an expert on. Second, it will get people thinking about the tool that you are suggesting. Win-win, right? A solid plan gets you to the point of being able to ask for the sale because your content has proven that you know your stuff when it comes to the topic you’re sharing on.
A heaping load of self love and forgiveness. When just starting out, it is easy to not be in the habit of consistently making content and getting and staying ahead of your publication schedule. In fact it is super easy to blow that upcoming blog post right out of your keister when you’re not used to having to do it. So don’t kick yourself. That is just time wasting. I have a great way to get over this. I use it personally. When I find myself kicking myself, throwing a pity party or anything of the sort, I time it, feel what I’m feeling, then suck it up, buttercup. It give me the chance to feel the way I want to then get on with life instead of wallowing. So set that timer for 5 minutes, have the biggest pity party you can squeeze into that time and then be done and move on.
Strategizing Your Content
You’re one smart cookie, so you know this, but I’m going to state the obvious anyway. A strategy is not flying by the seat of your pants. A strategy is methodical and organized. And I know what you’re thinking. “I’m a creative. I can’t be methodical and organized. I’m a free spirit with a stack of stuff as my filing system and it works for me.” Yes, sugar, I know it does. But if you’re going to do this thing for real, you don’t need to be planning a quarter at a time. You just need to be thinking in terms of a month. So let’s go through the steps of strategizing. Some of this might get a little repetitive, but it’s all worth repeating.
Coordinate everything. Look at those launches. Look at those sales. Look at those topics and make it relate. This is probably the single most impactful thing you can do for you and your audience. Make it all come together in a nice little package.
Take a good, honest look at your platforms. Are they serving you? Are they attracting the right kinds of people? Are they working for you? Are they worth continuing to post on? Are they something you do consistently? If after answering these and any other questions that come to mind, if the answer is “no” to a platform, that is a-ok. That just means that it’s time to shift and adjust.
Decide what you can create around your platforms and coordinating content. Writing a blog post on Asana? Great. Put together a cheat sheet in Canva or get a friend to do it in InDesign and use that content upgrade. When you figure out what kind of content you can create, then you start to think of everything else that goes into it. A mini blog post on Instagram? Sure why not. A content upgrade that will bring value to your audience? Yes. A newsletter sent on a little deeper than your blog post topic? Of course. Pick a flagship and go with it. The rest falls in it’s place.
Consistently bring content to your audience. It doesn’t have to be all the time, but as Emily Thompson over at Being Boss has said again and again, consistency breed legitimacy. Now I’m a hypocrite trying to be as good at this as I can be, but she is absolutely correct. This is where that heaping spoonful of forgiveness comes in. It’s not always going to happen, but giving it a true, valiant effort is what is required.
The Value in Starting Slow
The last thing that you want to happen is to get overwhelmed. Overwhelm is the great killer of creativity. Eat that elephant one bite at a time. The awesome way to do this is to break each piece of content, like a blog post, into smaller steps. You know that you are going to need to write an outline, a shitty first draft, review it, all the damn things that make a blog post happen. So instead of looking at the whole process (my own blog posts go through a 28 item checklist for every one. Yeah.) look at it one part at a time. All you have to get done is that first step. Then the next. And before you know it you’re scheduling a full blown blog post that meets all 28 of your anal retentive requirements. Or maybe that’s just me.
Either way, the one last thing that I want to leave you with on this for now is the value of taking your time when you’re creating content. I’m not talking about making something perfect. What I am talking about is taking the urgency out of the situation. Urgency leads to panic leads to hiding under your desk eating ice cream out of the container. Be kind to yourself and get ahead. And once you’re ahead, stay there.
I hope this post helps get you in the content creating mindset, just in time for the new year.
If an editorial calendar is something that you are interested in me making, give this post a like and sign up for the VIP Lounge below, because that’s where it will go to live. And people on my mailing list are way more likely to know that then people who aren’t. Just sayin’.