How to get started with Content Planning

Content planning for your business

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Do you struggle to get your marketing content organised or to stay consistent?

Remembering to post regularly to your social media accounts, or to publish weekly to your blog or email list, can take precious time and mental space away from other important tasks and leave you constantly feeling behind and overwhelmed. It’s awful to look back over your recent marketing efforts and realise you’ve not been as consistent as you’d hoped!

This was also my struggle until I sat down for a few hours and sorted out a proper content plan and publishing calendar. Now it’s easy to organise in advance, ensure a good balance of consistency vs variety, and schedule ahead, so I’m not scrambling for ideas on busy days (or weekends!).

It takes me about half an hour to plan out content for a week, and I can see clear deadlines and topic outlines ready for me to action and schedule all at once or daily.

1. Find and cater for your ideal audience

It’s always sensible to get some perspective before taking action. To begin with, you need to consider where your target market is and what kind of content they’re most likely to consume and engage with:

  • Which platforms? (eg. Your website, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, TikTok)
  • What type of media? (eg. long-form articles, social media posts, reels/story videos, longer videos etc) – this can depend heavily on the platform
  • What sort of format could your content take? (tips, long-form content, testimonials, questions, competitions, infographics, etc.)

Once you have an idea of where your ideal customers are, what they’re interested in, and the best way to deliver information to them, you can focus your efforts on ensuring your plan is both practical and sustainable. It’s no good having a content plan if you struggle to keep up with it or if it’s not serving your business needs!

Target market analysis before content planning
Knowing and understanding your audience well is the first step in knowing what content they want to consume and where you can find them.

Making an impact: What’s the goal?

Depending on your business goals, you might wish potential customers to engage with you and your content in different ways. For example:

  • Exposure (impressions/views) to your brand to build familiarity
  • Social engagement (comments, DMs, follows) to develop relationships and improve visibility
  • Educational (news, tips, tutorials, articles) to enhance understanding of a topic and establish credibility
  • Lead qualification (audits, quizzes) to reduce unsuitable leads
  • Lead generation (lead magnets, contact forms) to increase inbound opportunities
  • Financial transaction (product or service eCommerce purchases)
  • Physical presence (making a reservation, visiting your location)

Only some goals will be suitable for some businesses, so it’s necessary to choose a selection to suit your current needs and revise them regularly. As your business grows, you may find that your strategy needs to evolve, too.

2. Define your content development strategy

Analyse your current content

What content are you currently posting, if any? Is it helping you to meet your goals (see above), or are you wasting valuable time and resources shouting into the digital void? An overview of what content you currently have at your disposal (which could be repurposed or updated, for example) and how it’s previously performed (engagements, page analytics, leads, etc.) can help direct your marketing attention productively.

Research content formats and topics

No matter your industry’s niche, your clients will almost always have similarities in pain points, interests, or demographics. Great content topics are found by balancing your business’s relevance with your clients’ interests.

Remember to take note of your competitors, too – what sort of content are they posting? Does it seem to be working for them? (Hint: if it’s working, they’ll repeat the theme consistently rather than switching their methods on a regular basis). Use this to inspire you – just be sure to independently research your facts and tell your own stories!

Example of a social media post in my Notion content calendar.

Define your content creation process

Now that you know what formats and topics you want to cover, it’s time to think about how to create and publish them. Here are some things to consider:

  • Writing copy or podcast/video scripts
  • Designing graphics or images
  • Recording and editing videos or podcasts
  • Researching statistics or case studies
  • Hiring help or outsourcing

Your chosen approach will depend on your skills, budget, and time availability. You might decide to outsource some tasks or learn new skills yourself, or a combination of both, depending on your existing strengths and challenges.

3. Choose your tools for planning and publishing

Tools for content planning:

There are a few different tools you could use to plan and organise your content:

Some tools are “heavier” than others and require more of a learning curve if you’ve never used them before (Trello is much easier to get started with than ClickUp, for example). It’s important to find a balance between your comfort levels and functionality-enabled productivity – spreadsheets are fine for social media posts, but it takes more work to format text for long-form content such as blog posts.

Feel free to try something new if your current tools aren’t serving you. There’s a lot of fantastic software out there, and although it can be overwhelming trying to find the right combination for your needs, it’s also becoming more intuitive to learn and use than ever before!

Side note: I use Notion for content creation – it’s like having a digital library of pages and notebooks nested within other pages and notebooks*! It also includes a free content calendar template ready to use “out of the box”. It’s easy to learn and free for single users who don’t need team capabilities!

*I might have a bit of a stationery “problem”, honestly.

Tools for posting your content:

When posting your content, you must consider which platforms you use and how you’ll schedule your posts. Some options might include the following:

Alternatively, you can use the native scheduling tools available on the social platforms themselves. If you’re focusing on just one or two of these platforms, no problem-o, these will be fine for you. However, if you use Facebook AND Instagram AND LinkedIn, for example, and you want to post to all three simultaneously, then a scheduling tool can help you sync multiple channels with similar content formats.

Choose the right social media platform for your audience
Posting to multiple platforms might warrant scheduling software to sync similar types of media to be posted across different channels.

Email Marketing Platforms

You will want to send newsletters from something other than your regular email client, though. Sending bulk-recipient emails like this can risk accidentally sharing data outside your organisation without appropriate consent. I’ve seen a local council do this by accidentally CCing when they should have used BCC – very naughty but easy to do! Additionally, your account could be flagged or shut down due to spam notices, and sending content this way doesn’t provide the necessary automated “unsubscribe” feature needed for marketing email lists as per legal requirements.

Most professional email marketing platforms like Mailerlite, Mailchimp, and ConvertKit have a free tier to try them out while your mailing list is still small, so choose one early and play around with their features to see which one suits you best.

4. Create your content calendar and supporting systems

Content idea generation

Once you have a clear idea of your goals, target audience, and content strategy, you can start brainstorming ideas for pieces of content. This could involve:

  • Mind mapping or brainstorming sessions (get your gel pens out!)
  • Scrolling through social media or industry forums for inspiration (you need to be purposeful about this one)
  • Using keyword research tools to see what people are searching for
  • Asking your existing audience what they’re struggling with right now

Whatever your approach – keep a notebook handy! Whether this is paper or digital doesn’t matter, as long as it fits in your pocket and you can put it on your nightstand. As you gain momentum and confidence while creating content, you may find bursts of inspiration all over the place, and you want to be ready to capture everything (even if you end up not using it later).

Sometimes I even WhatsApp myself between my personal and business account in the middle of the night, so I’ll see the notification when I wake up! Do what works for you.

Organise content topics

Once you have a list of ideas, you can start organising them into themes or categories. Doing this helps ensure that your content is both relevant and diverse so that you’re not wandering too far with various topics or repeating yourself too often. I like to colour-code my ideas to easily see at-a-glance if there’s an overwhelming trend that I need to punctuate with more variety.

My own content calendar in Notion

Create a timeline/calendar

If you’re new to content creation, it’s hugely helpful to time yourself (don’t worry, you will get faster with practice!) in the beginning so that you have a realistic idea of long it takes to produce a particular type of content (social media post vs blog post vs video, for example), as it can vary wildly depending on your experience, planning, and current skills.

Having a publishing schedule and a deadline schedule can help keep those last-minute “oh no, I don’t have anything” moments at bay – and last-minute rushed content is rarely as valuable, so your audience will thank you.

Remember to allow time for research, writing, recording (if applicable), editing, creating graphic assets (such as featured images for blogs, thumbnails for videos, and social media images for posts and stories), and, finally, actual publishing (or scheduling for publishing).

Scheduling for consistency

If you’re loading up a content scheduling app with future posts, I recommend keeping at least a week (ideally more) of content on there at any one time because, sometimes, life happens. Playing catch-up with your marketing can be easily avoided by staggering your content with a focus on consistency. You don’t have to post on social media every single day, but if you post regularly and then don’t for a few weeks, you could do far more damage to your engagement and brand awareness than if you were to spread it out by posting every other day and staying consistent.

Make content planning part of your marketing strategy

Creating content for your business can seem like a lot of work, but with a bit of structure, it can be much easier – even fun! Social media is a great way to reach new and existing customers, and regular blog posts and emailing subscribers will help to develop both credibility and relationships with your audience, so having a sustainable method that works for you is key.

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Lexi Black

Lexi Black

Lexi’s goal is to empower freelancers and SME owners to make the most of their digital channels, unleash their inner creativity, and utilise the right tools for them to organise their digital marketing and business practices.

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