How I plan and manage my content creation
An important part of content marketing is a steady flow of new material. It can be daunting trying to produce something interesting regularly, particularly if you’ve got a thousand-and-one other demands.
While content might be my business, keeping up with my own marketing can be a struggle. To stay on top I have a simple framework to plan and manage this work. I’ve used it for more years than I can remember, and have introduced it to clients who’ve faced similar issues.
This framework is based on three tools:
- an editorial calendar that shows what I’m creating over the year (even if I don’t yet know the specific topics)
- Apple Notes for my ideas, work in progress and so on
- Apple Reminders to keep track of what !’m working on, or what publishes when.
..and two processes:
- a weekly planning cycle
- activities to schedule and promote my content
This article is going to explore this framework. It should give you some ideas for how to manage your own content production.
The Editorial Calendar
My overarching planning tool is an “Editorial Calendar”. This is a one-year calendar that shows the content I’ll produce and the events that might influence it. Mine’s in an Apple Numbers spreadsheet, you could use Excel, a shared calendar or one of the many apps available. I’ve even seen it stuck on a wall with colored dots all over.
What’s in mine?
I add the events that influence my markets and business. Major trade shows, start of seasons and so on get noted here as a reminder I ought to plan relevant content to take full advantage of where customers might be focused. There are also events that could affect my ability to deliver, such as the 7 day long holiday called “Golden Week“, which I also need to plan around.
Colored blocks show the themes for my content. By this I mean whether I plan on creating something about design or photography or management. I aim to have a regular schedule of publishing certain themes as specific times in the month. This gives my content a rhythm or “heartbeat”.
Text describes the topic for content. I know this about 4-6 weeks in advance (more on that in a moment) and where it gets published.
My content is centered on my website. I use social media either to react to events, or to support what I’ve posted here. To keep everything manageable, I don’t tend to plan specific social media content here. I’ll explore how it fits in to my content plan in a minute.
My weekly planning session
It sounds grand, but really I just sit down for 10 minutes on a Monday, run through my list of ideas and decide which ones get turned into content for the site.
My ideas are kept in Apple Notes. They can be anything from a single line prompt to a sketch to a half-written article. If I decide to work on something I move it into my “in-progress” folder as I’ll use the same note to add sources, comments and so on.
With new content planned, I update my yearly planner with the topic so I have a view of what’s getting done and when. This can be useful if something unexpected happens and I need to move things around.
I also add an item to Apple Reminders. Any tasks, follow-ups and other things I have to remember are added here.
Reminders has three lists for my content:
- in progress for items I’m working on
- to schedule for things I’ve finished but not yet added to WordPress or set up on social media
- scheduled where items I have scheduled, or which need to be posted manually, are logged
I use due dates sparingly as I find they can be an unnecessary distraction. Unless something is explicitly time sensitive (like feedback from an interview subject, or the scheduled date of a post), I’ll pick it up in my daily planning cycle.
In general I plan six weeks ahead. Content publishing in the next two weeks is usually either complete or just needs a polish. I’ll actively work on anything due in 3-4 weeks, and keep an eye on content for 5-6 weeks from now.
The words are done and dusted, the images ready and it’s time to schedule my latest masterpiece on WordPress.
- The schedule date comes straight off the plan.
- I’ll update Apple Reminders, moving the item into the scheduled list and adding the go-live date
- the note in Apple Notes is moved to the To Post folder
If the content is going to be posted manually to social media, I’ll add the post into the notes field on the reminder. It’s easier to copy/paste it from there than have to dig it out of another app.
I get a notification from Reminders on the day the content goes live, and it’s time to swing into action:
- if it’s a scheduled post, I’ll check it’s posted OK. There have been occasions on LinkedIn when content hasn’t gone live when expected, so it’s worth a check.
- if it’s content I have to post manually (which can be better on social media for reach), I’ll post it
- when it’s all done, I delete the reminder
As I said, I am not a huge user of social media, but I do use it to “seed” search engines and prompt a share here or there.
My preference is to share in “real-time” rather than schedule in advance. Two reasons for this:
- my stats suggest scheduled content doesn’t get the same engagement on LinkedIn as posting live; and
- the OpenGraph card can’t be detected until the content is live. This is the code that shows graphics, title and a brief summary on Twitter, Facebook and so on.
That said, when I was using Twitter, I had some success with a scheduled share pattern of:
- tweet live
- schedule for the next day with a 10-14 hour time difference
- schedule for 2 weeks
- schedule for 4 weeks
If you are a big social media user, you can decide whether to include your posts as part of a content package, or map out individual posts in your planner. There’s no right-or-wrong approach.
Urgent request? Don’t panic!
Because this is robust and clear, it’s easy to absorb the shock of an urgent request or a major piece of work.
It’s also easier to have planning conversations. When I’ve used this approach with clients, we can schedule work around planned releases to reduce costs (no off-plan commission to pay for), or build a narrative over the weeks leading up to and following a major announcement.
My management framework in a nutshell
This is how I manage my content:
- a yearly planner that shows me what’s happened, or is happening
- a weekly planning session to set out what I’m doing over the next 6 weeks
- lists in Apple Reminders to manage my work, and Apple Notes for my ideas
- reminder due dates to show what gets published when
- a decent set of processes for creating and promoting content.
Although this might sound cumbersome, there’s a low admin overhead. My planning is done in less than a cup of coffee and more often than not it’s formalizing things I’ve already decided.