3 essential content planning tools that every marketing strategist needs

26 January 2016
Kate Kenyon
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My social timelines are often riddled with motivational memes about planning. Plan your success! A goal without a plan is just wishful thinking. This sort of thing….

Planning meme

And I haven’t met anyone involved in content who disagrees with these ideas – the days of ‘gut feel marketing’ are happily behind us now – and yet, I find that the tools you need to make and execute a good plan aren’t as available as they should be. That’s why, at Cognifide, we make it our business to create them.

Planning for planning

Making a plan for yourself is easy. But content marketing is a team sport, and if you don’t have good operating frameworks for campaign assessment, prioritization, production, sign off, measurement and reporting, then making good content becomes a real slog. Even if you survive the process, without the right content planning tools, you may never be quite sure if your content is working.

Here are some tools that we’ve used with clients to help them plan; particularly if there’s more than one department involved in producing content.

1. The solver of arguments: a business content priorities matrix

arguments

This is a spreadsheet that maps out a business’s strategy for the year ahead, and then benchmarks future content campaigns against it to see if they are genuinely worth doing.

There’s often an assumption within a business that all campaign content has equal value - but that doesn’t stack up with their results. This tool helps decide if a content campaign will deliver against the company’s overall objectives, if it should be a priority (and get a share of the budget) or if it’ll have to wait.

The key to using this matrix is to have central agreement on business priorities – in the downloadable example below, the priorities are for a fictional not-for-profit that needs to grow its donations while still appealing to existing supporters.

Content marketers could benefit from using this matrix to help evaluate ideas and keep to an agreed strategy.

2. The maker of choices: a financial planning matrix

Piggy bank

Once marketing teams have a clear, agreed view of which projects to prioritise, the reality of delivering them kicks in. If funds are limited, this matrix helps to further refine the project list down to what’s both desirable and achieveable. It aids those awkward negotiations with clients or within internal teams where budgets are allocated. But I’ve also seen it foster creativity and support between teams – when you have a shared vision of what you want to achieve, people are suddenly more willing to look for ways of pooling resources.

3. The deliverer of goods: a collaborative content production matrix

multiplatform delivery

This last tool is probably the most familiar to all of us – at its heart, it’s an editorial planner – but I’ve updated it to reflect modern content production practices.

If you want to do clever things like personalisation, optimisation, multi-platform delivery or content repurposing, then you need to plan how you’re going to structure the content that you produce. The creative isn’t enough – if you intend your content to flow across devices and platforms, you need to plan for that to happen by thinking about your content structure up front.

Likewise, including an intention for your content (what is it supposed to make a user think/feel/do?) makes it clear that the finish line is not publication, but impact. If content campaigns don’t have the desired outcome, knowing when that happens means you don’t make the same mistake again.

success

Successful content campaigns require a lot more planning up front than they did in previous years. Not just the execution, but the structure, the delivery, the management of content in-life, and the measurement of success.

Rigorous planning means you can track and repeat your successes, and avoid repeated failures.

These tools help that planning process take place, but they’re only as good as the teams using them. Always interrogate campaign ideas even if your gut says it’s a good idea, always have a measureable idea of success, always review your results and use them to improve your planning assessments.

The more you use the tools, the more useful they will become. Download Cognifide’s essential content planning tools here.

To find out more about how to use them effectively, drop me a line, content planning is my passion – Kate.Kenyon@cognifide.com.