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How to build a content marketing calendar

13th May 2016
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You’re sitting at your laptop wondering what you’re going to put in your next newsletter, on your social feeds or write for your next blog post.

It always takes such a long time. Yet, you know deep-down it doesn’t have to.

As a content marketer, sometimes it's hard to see the wood for the trees. Yet, focusing your efforts can save you so much time in the long run. In just five easy steps I believe you can pull together plans for a year’s worth of content and never run out of things to write about. Here's my route to content marketing catharsis:

1. Get your tools and clear the decks

Creating your content calendar will save you time in the long run. So, block out a few hours (it took me three from start to finish.) 

Now grab your tools; you’ll need:

  • A large surface (I used a wall in my kitchen)
  • Your laptop (but don’t get distracted, it’s for research purposes only!)
  • Post-its (or sticky notes) in at least three different colours
  • A Sharpie or similar

Now you’ve got all your tools, you’re ready to get planning and the fun can start.

2. What’s coming up?

Here’s the thing. There is a lot you can write about if you know what’s coming up, not only in your business, but generally too. I’ll come on to how you can get this information. But, the first thing you need to do is write each month on a Post-it and stick them on the wall.

Using the same coloured Post-its, you’re now ready to get down days in each month you should be aware of. I found two tools really helpful to do this: this worksheet and this website. I found two tools really helpful to do this: this worksheet and this website.   

Of course, you can get started without these two tools. Just start writing – a day on one Post-it – and put it under the corresponding month. Also add the day of the month, so you can remember that too. Make sure you add your slow and busy periods. Here’s what mine looked like (I just started my business, hence the reason I started from April):

Content planning

3. Theme it

Now you’re ready to move on to another Post-It colour. It’s time to attach a theme to each month. This will help you find and group content to focus on what you want your business emphasis to be each month. 

To help you find the themes, think about what would be useful for your readers. How can you write content that benefits their business? Making the themes relevant to what you want to write about, and to what your readers want to read about makes for successful content.

You won’t get each monthly theme right first time. But that’s okay – the reason you’re using Post-its is to help you move things around and change what doesn’t work, before you finalise it all. 

Some of my monthly themes are (feel free to steal them):

  • Why summer is great for your business (slow period)
  • Going for gold in your business (the Olympics start)
  • Failing to plan is planning to fail (planning for next year)

4. What will you write about?

So, now you have your monthly themes, it’s time to figure out what you’ll write about. 

Yes, you have to write. It’s great for your website, it gets you seen in search results on Google and it shows you’re an expert. Have I convinced you? Good. Here’s how you’re going to get your topics…

First decide how often you’ll write a blog post. I’m going to write two a month. If you feel you want to write more or less frequently that’s fine. Just don’t make it less than one per month!

Now, grab the third colour of Post-its. These will be your blog post topics. How you decide on the topics is up to you. I had already started keeping a list of topics I wanted to write about. So, I went through this list first and looked at what fitted with the themes I’d chosen. Once I’d exhausted that list, I let my imagination do the work. You can also look at things like frequent questions you get asked or featuring your best customers. It’s really up to you.

Finally, I ended up with my content calendar, and here’s what it looked like:

Content planning

I have notable days each month (blue), I have a theme for each month (green), and I have two blog post topics for each month (pink). Whilst I may not use those exact titles for the posts (I’ll probably decide on the title once I’ve written the post), I know exactly what I’m going to write about each month.

5. Pull it all together

The final thing you need to do it get it down on paper. You can’t keep the Post-Its on your wall. Well, you could, but it isn’t very practical!

I took my time about how I wanted to do this. My method may not work for you, but if it does, it’s yours. Here’s what it looks like.

I’m going to write weekly newsletters, so you can see how I’ve plotted out the month. I have notable dates (great for sharing on social media), the subjects of my two blog posts and what my newsletter content will be on a weekly basis. 

And, hey presto, you have your content calendar for a whole year, with content for your blog, social media feeds and your newsletter.

I hope you have as much fun planning your content calendar as I did.  If you’d like to read more of my marketing tips, simply sign up here.

Minal Patel is marketing consultant for Marketing by MinalThis article originally appeared on MyCustomer sister site BusinessZone

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