Are you writing without a plan? Or do you have a blog on your website but you’re not sure what to write about and so you don’t? Either way, you need a content plan. In this article I’m going to take you through what a content plan is, how it can help you, and how you can draw one up in less than 30 minutes.
Questions you need to answer before you start creating content
Here are some key questions you need to answer before you start creating content:
- Who is this for? Know who you want to be reading, watching or hearing what you have created. This will make sure you are creating the right kind of content. If you’re selling business to business, your clients will have different interests and concerns from individual consumers. What lifestyle does your audience have? Are they new to the topic or highly experienced?
- What topics are they interested in? You want to grab people’s attention. Think of your blog like a newspaper or magazine. What would go on the front cover? What do they need to know about today/this week/this month?
- How often are you going to publish? This determines how much material you need and also what you are going to write about. For instance, if you are publishing an article once a month, then focusing on an industry change that took place 20 days ago might not be the best approach. But you could use the time to put together an in-depth report on how it affects your customers. Or you could do a round-up piece of all the developments your readers need to know to keep up to date that month. Don’t forget to factor in the time involved.
- Where are you going to publish? Your company website is not the only option. You could publish on Medium or LinkedIn. Perhaps an industry magazine could give you a column. Or you might have a company newsletter which goes out by email or is printed. Knowing where you are publishing will determine the style of your content.
- What resources do you need? As well as writing an article, you might want video and these days, you need to have images to break up the text. Do you have these in-house? Or do you need to create them?
What do you want to achieve with your content?
Creating content, whether it’s a tweet, an Instagram story, an article, or a podcast, takes time. You want to maximise that investment and ensure it fits with your goals.
You need to know why you are writing and how you will measure the benefit.
For instance, your goal could be to increase brand awareness and you are creating content which lets people get to know you and what you’re about.
You might be creating content which helps people decide to buy from you.
There are many other reasons to write:
- To keep in touch with previous customers
- To launch a new product or service
- To accompany a campaign
- To demonstrate your expertise
When you are deciding what you are going to write about, you need to have this goal in mind.
How to put your content plan together
Your content plan will depend on your goals, who your audience is, and how often you plan to publish.
For instance, I am writing an article every day during November as part of #NaNoWriMo (read my take on National Novel Writing Month on Medium). I need 30 days of content.
I started by writing down the key topics I will be writing about and how I can help my audience.
Then I listed each date in my notebook and put anything I know I will be able to write about next to each one. For example, I’m going to three conferences and speaking at one of them, so I know I will have material from those experiences.
Then I can see where the gaps are.
I read down the list of key topics and put ideas in. Then I went through my notebooks and notes I had written on my phone with ideas for articles that I hadn’t written up and thought about how I can make use of them.
This process took less than 30 minutes.
I now have a clear idea of what I am going to write about each day. It enables me to plan ahead and start researching and making notes so I don’t have to start from scratch every day. I can also see where I am going to need longer to write and also, the days when I might struggle to write.
An example 3-month content plan for a new blog
I’m often asked for templates. As I said earlier, your content plan will depend on your goals, who your audience is, and how often you plan to publish. But here is an example of a content plan for a start-up or new business blog.
If you blog once a week for 3 months, you need 12 articles (assuming 4 weeks in a month).
Remember to focus on who is reading your articles. What do they want to know about? Write about this rather than the benefit to you.
Week 1 – Start with why. What problem are you solving? Who is this for?
Week 2 – Introduce yourself. Tell the story of how you came to launch your business.
Week 3 – Give an overview of what your product or service can do. If you have a number of products/services then focus on one.
Week 4 – Write about something which has happened in the first month. Your blog can chart your journey and people like to see behind the scenes of your business.
Week 5 – Write about how you developed a product or service.
Week 6 – Write about someone, or something, which inspires you.
Week 7 – Write a case study. How do people use your product or service? What was their experience? This can be anonymised.
Week 8 – Profile a member of your team, a supplier, or a business you collaborate with.
Week 9 – Where do you work? Give people a tour. If you work from home, talk about that.
Week 10 – Answer frequently asked questions. What topics keep coming up in conversation?
Week 11 – Give your opinion on a development in your industry. What does it mean for your customers?
Week 12 – Write a review of the last three months. What have you learned? Who have you met who you would like to highlight?
Don’t assume people know things. A key thing to remember is that unless you are writing for experts in your field, most people’s knowledge will be far less than yours. Don’t be afraid to start with the basics. And while you might think about your business non-stop, people outside it will have very little idea about what you are doing.
How to rekindle a blog
If you used to blog and it got lost by the wayside, then you have an advantage. You can look back at your analytics and see which articles were most popular. This gives you a starting place. Think about four articles you could write around your most-read topic.
If you didn’t have analytics set up but you have been in business for a while, then start with the most frequently asked questions. If people keep asking how something works or where you source materials from, etc. then these are good topics to write about. You know there is interest there.
The list above will also work for you too. There will be people reading your blog who don’t know your story. New customers will be interested to learn more about your products or services. Everyone likes behind the scenes content and to get to know the people they are buying from.
Creating a content plan only takes a few minutes but it gives you a clear direction for your writing so you can see where you are going and measure your progress.