The art and science of content planning

Why create content? Do you ever stop to think about what the time and resource is for?

In the B2B technology sector, we believe content aimed at the right audiences can increase brand awareness and reputation, as well as play a critical role in helping generate leads for sales teams. It can be used and repurposed to demonstrate your brand’s leadership, skills and knowledge in a particular area. It’s also a way to show your customers and prospects that you understand their professional challenges – we call this ‘Content with Intent’ – and are committed to helping not only overcome them, but also helping them to reach their broader business objectives.

How to make your content work hard

Generating content is only one step in a much larger process. The campaign and the content within it needs direction, creativity, investment and a measurement plan. And more than that, each piece of content needs longevity and the ability to be used in different ways.  For example, it’s great to have fresh content on your website but how can you make that blog work harder for you? How does it tie into other campaigns? What about social media? What about a whitepaper or research project?

I’d like to share this five-step strategy to help you get the most out of planning your content, using a piece of proprietary research as an example at each stage:

1.   Define your ambitions
Each piece of content, be it an email, webinar, social media post, eBook, blog, video or article needs a purpose. Whether it’s to demonstrate knowledge, drive downloads or boost webinar registrations, this needs to fit into the broader campaign objective(s), which we, at Whiteoaks, define and deliver in a fixed, results-based way. The goals of the campaign ultimately influence your choice of assets, messaging, keywords, and the mix of channels you use.

If we take the example of a research project and working with an independent survey company, as we do, this will allow you to better understand an industry issue and speak to a sample of your target audience. This adds credibility to your narrative and helps position your business as a thought leader, allowing you to apply insight to the raw data.

2.   Perform a content audit
In the process of developing your campaign you need to take the time to find out what content you already have and decide what you need to generate. Again, think about longevity; compelling marketing content can be repurposed for different campaigns, for different audiences and different channels. So thinking long term about how you can get the most out of your assets is key and will provide better ROI.

Building on the research example, while you could just create a report, press release and infographic from the results, but your content audit would first show you what you already have, and whether blogs, articles, podcasts or social media tiles could be used to augment the results.

3.   Get it out there
You’ve got your objective, audience defined and content drafted, now you need to get your message out there. Whether it’s a thought leadership or social media campaign, a media relations programme, or a combination, as we’d often recommend in an integrated marketing campaign, you need to plan it, publish it in various channels with UTM links, and keep a close eye on how it’s doing. It’s also important you keep track of where it is — in terms of where it’s hosted, like a dedicated landing page, and where it’s located internally so that sales teams can make use of the insight for nurturing prospects and so other colleagues are informed.

For instance, your research report could be gated content hosted on your website, while an infographic could be ungated and sections from it promoted as GIFs on social media to drive people to the report.

4.   Measure it
Measurement is crucial for determining ROI. It also helps you understand what approaches, assets and calls to action are performing best so you can adjust the current campaign. You might change something that’s not working or do more of something that’s working well — and this gives you a foundation on which to build future campaigns.

For a project like a research report, your KPIs could be focused around report downloads or if you host a webinar to discuss the results you could measure registrations for the event. Other typical metrics include unique website visits, time spent on a specific web page, subscriber / follower growth, downloads (for gated content, for example), shares, likes or retweets (for social media), sign-ups and attendee numbers (for webinars), and click throughs from emails. Measuring effectiveness will be easier using marketing automation software, Google Analytics, IP tracking and other tools.

5.   Look to tomorrow
Developing a content calendar is a must. This is critical to the planning process, as well as in the content creation stage, as you’ll understand exactly what assets are needed for which campaigns, with associated deadlines. A research report and its associated assets is a good example of populating the calendar with themed content that drives a campaign across a few months and gives you milestones to work around.

Creating a calendar also gives you an overview so that you can easily see where any gaps lie, if there is content that can be repurposed, and makes the whole process more structured. Finally, this makes your content assets work harder over the longer term, which is exactly what you want.

Susan Richter, Head of Content