Ever find yourself facing crunch time? Content needs to be published on your blog, but you are struggling to find the perfect subject matter. Set up your content calendar and struggle no more!
We all know the best ideas can come in the shower or just before falling asleep, so starting the brainstorming process far in advance gives you a lot more time to think, jot down ideas, and pencil them into your calendar well ahead of time. This kind of preemptive strategy will keep all of your notes in one place and prevent the wild stabbing in the dark that happens when good ideas are scarce as you face a looming deadline.
1. Getting a Free Content Calendar
The first step might just be the easiest; you will need to go download a free calendar to help organize your content marketing. I recommend this free content editorial calendar template from Vertical Measures, designed to work with Excel to organize your dates and goals for your content marketing.
The simple visual system will give you a year-long view of upcoming events and planned content as you enter them. The bird’s eye view of the year means that content that needs to be published in August can be adjusted and written in July, considering all upcoming company dates and national holidays.
I made a few basic Excel edits right off the bat to the template:
Cell borders and text wrapping – I found that clearer boundaries for the interior cells is easier to read and allowing the text to wrap in the cells keeps longer text from getting cut off horizontally by the next cell. To do this: highlight all cells with your mouse and right-click. Select Format Cells and then the Border tab by clicking the outline of the inner cell borders. Next select the Alignment tab in the Format Cells box and under Text Control check the Wrap text box.
Vertically centering text – With all of the cells selected, choose the vertical text center button on the above editing ribbon menu.
Combining months for quarters and seasons – Simply highlight the cells that should be one (all of the cells under Business Quarters for the months Jan-March, for example) and select the Merge & Center button from the above editing ribbon menu.
2. Note Your Dates
Once you’ve downloaded your content calendar template from Vertical Measures, you will notice some very helpful fields you can start filling in. Some of these (seasons and holidays) will affect your consumers, while others (product launches and events) will be affecting your company. Planning your content around important dates will help you consider what will be most relevant and how you can bolster your marketing metrics goals.
3. List Your Content Marketing Ideas
Create a blank tab on your spreadsheet to begin marking down ideas, rating their competitiveness, and ranking their importance. Here are some ideas to help your content list:
- Write down all ideas – The idea doesn’t have to be top pier to make the list, it may evolve later or work in a pinch.
- Do a Google search on the topic – Are there are lot of articles out there on this specific subject? Rank it as a highly competitive piece. If no one has thought to cover it (or very few have), then rank it as a low competitive piece (usually a good thing for you).
- Talk to your sales people – How often are customers asking about these topics? What are their most commonly asked questions? Rank your topics on how important you believe they will be to your audience.
- Seasonal topics – Consider topics that might fit best into the beginning of a season or with an upcoming holiday and make a note for which months it best fits in.
When you have a spreadsheet list going, you may begin to fill in upcoming content on the Month tab of your Excel template, filling in your best ideas first. Make sure you have a system to mark completed ideas off of your list, keeping track of ideas for the year vs. published articles.
4. Fill in Topics and Get Writing!
Now it’s just a matter of writing articles to match your great ideas! Your brainstorming process is now streamlined and organized, but if you need help with the writing consider hiring a content writer. Provide your content article subject with any instructions or examples and let your writer get to work! The idea has come directly from your professional expertise and understanding of your customers, but the time it takes to write and perfect the piece doesn’t have to!
Alethea M is a corporate blogging guru and freelance writer for WriterAccess. She often uses interesting facts from her article research to impress friends at dinner parties. Her husband is her biggest fan — though this may be because her writing income allows her to share in bill-paying each month.