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Everyone wants an online presence, a great website, a popular YouTube channel and millions of likes on Facebook. But there are a few factors to consider first... “Content marketing” continues to be a buzzword in the industry, and whenever you start to think about PR, marketing or even just having a website, the question “what is your content strategy” will come up. Creating content that focuses on selling your business or service is not easy, especially when your own skills set and focus is completely different. This article is not intended to teach you the basics of strategic marketing, but rather to give you a crash course on the topic and provide you with practical advice on how to put together a basic content calendar – a valuable tool if you don’t use a communications specialist to do this for you. DEFINE YOUR BASIC CONTENT STRATEGY One of the most important considerations before building your content plan and calendar is your content strategy and outcomes. What do you want to achieve? Who do you want to reach? If you must plot your different audiences on a pie chart, who will get the largest chunk of content? Do you want to…
  • Build brand awareness?
  • Foster consumer loyalty?
  • Establish yourself as an industry thought leader?
  • Drive sales?
Remember, content is almost never about the hard sell. Instead, it embraces the subtle art of the soft sell and provides value-added content that your audience actually wants to read. The type of content you generate depends on your brand and your brand’s voice, but the key ingredients of great content always tend to come down to:
  • Inspiring
  • Entertaining
  • Educating
If you want to use these in your own content plan, start off by creating a map of the kind of messages that will fall under each category. When it comes to your strategy, you must also decide how much content will be owned content (i.e. generated by yourself), curated content (existing content that you search for and share, with the appropriate credits in place), “help” content (e.g. consumer tutorials), etc. WHAT MUST YOUR CONTENT STRATEGY DOCUMENT LOOK LIKE? You have all this information… now, what do you do with it? Your content strategy can take any shape. It can be a 50-page detailed document or a simple presentation that defines your plan and outcomes. No matter what it looks like, it is important that you have one in place to ensure that you stay on track. Considering the above key outcomes, your document should include the following
  • Your brand personality, style and guidelines
  • Content audit (see “Create Content Calendar”)
  • Competitor analysis
  • SWOT analysis if your website and plans for the future
  • Stock take of your marketing collateral to ensure that your messaging has a golden thread, whether via email, on your invoices, packaging, etc.
  • Best practices and SEO guidelines based on your brand
  • Basic content calendar
CREATE YOUR CALENDAR If you haven’t created a content calendar before, it can seem like a daunting and complicated task. But it only takes a few hours of focus and a systematic approach to create one from scratch. Once you have your template in place, your planning shouldn’t take more than an hour a week. But first you need to gather some basic information. Audience:
  • Have a look at your different audience categories (e.g. industry vs consumers vs members) and decide which portion of your content calendar you want to dedicate to each.
Stock Take: Have a look at your existing marketing arsenal for tools you could use, either to start off with or continuously, e.g.:
  • Video
  • Image library
  • Old content pieces that can be updated.
  • Existing collateral like white papers that can be turned into blog posts or opinion pieces
  • Make a list of the additional communication tools / topics you could utilise (see the Content Pieces list in this article).
Content:
  • Plot important dates like industry or association events, functions, conferences, etc, as well as any important dates pertaining to your business.
  • Establish which space your peers, colleagues and consumers play in. Remember that they may be different.
  • Think about the topics you want to write about for each target group, e.g.:
    • How To’s, FAQs, Consumer Guides, Member Features and Infographics for consumers
    • White papers and opinion pieces for industry
    • Content curation, as well as business templates and toolkits for members
Many businesses have a complicated content calendar system that attempt to marry their ideas and their actual rollout schedule. It doesn’t have to be that complicated though. In fact, simpler is better! Google Drive (using their Sheets function, which integrates seamlessly with Excel) is a great place to host a central calendar where you and your colleagues / communications specialist can collaborate online. The key ingredients of a good content calendar plotted into columns:
  • Days of the week or a specific time period.
  • Important dates to your business, e.g. conferences, financial year end, tax season, times when you run certain specials, and more.
  • Your different content pillars or audience, e.g. business-to-business, consumer, members, industry, partners, etc.
  • Content detail or message
  • The platforms you will schedule on
  • A notes section indicating any specific outcomes you want to achieve
Not sure where to start? You can download a free content calendar template on our resources page. SCHEDULE, POST, PROMOTE & TRACK Once you have set up your calendar with a mix of short-term and long-term goals, you can start to schedule your content inside your content calendar. This gives you an idea of when you need to post certain pieces, on which platforms and which visual or video support pieces need to accompany it. And once everyone is in agreement and you are confident that you have the content you need, you can start your roll-out. This is where tracking becomes important. Facebook’s Insights are great to track your page performance, while Twitter has great in-house analytics too.  Instagram used to have fantastic analytics in the form of Iconosquare, but their reporting now comes at a price. Even if you don’t have the budget for the kind of high-level and financial reporting provided by tracking companies like Brandseye, you can still use the basic tools provided by each platform to track your posts. If you use Facebook, your next step will be to decide if you want to promote any of your posts. This is a strategic decision and solely based on the kind of audience you want to attract (e.g. grow your Eastern Cape online community with X, Y and/or Z interests) or outcome you want to achieve (e.g. have consumers download your app). Budget also plays an important role, but the good news is that a little can go a long way on Facebook. This article was originally written for Automobil Magazine.
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