Building a Content Calendar

Using social media creates a content monster that needs to be fed. In most organisations a lot of thought and planning goes into the concept, design and development of content. Today’s post is a framework for building that content plan. I am focusing on social media, but the principles of building this plan work for other types of content.

Think about your content in terms of layers.

Content can be broken out into three types; evergreen, events and spontaneous. Each requires a different approach but when used together will increase the impact of your social media presence.

Evergreen Content

Sometimes also called drumbeat content, evergreen content can be planned and developed ahead of publishing.

Use dates that are important in your industry

Think more broadly than company specific dates. For example Philips, manufacturer of X-ray machines, posts on Marie Curie’s birthday.

Build out from campaigns and events

If you’re running a campaign on a specific product build brand content that supports your campaign message. For example, if a bank is running a campaign around savings products then the brand content could include articles on the psychology of saving.

Build a theme

Even if there is no specific date to connect it to you can build content around a theme, for example designate May as “Internet of Things” month and produce content around the trends, technology and developments in this field, of course you can connect this content to your own connected products,

Build a series

Use a specific rhythm to activate one idea. For example there’s a “Meatless Monday” trend in certain healthy circles if you’re a food company you could use this and promote vegetarian menus every Monday. Alternatively use a series of longer articles to go into depth on a specific area of your company’s expertise.

* To make this work

  • Research relevant dates for you and determine which themes/ series you want to build on.
  • Develop quality content, which means spending on design, photography, writing or filming the content you need.
  • Don’t be afraid to re-use this content, either posting highlights onto twitter/facebook, or repurposing it for other platforms.
  • Keep cultural differences in mind, not everyone celebrates the same thing, in the same way, or even on the same date. (Mother’s day is widely celebrated – but not on the same date).

Events

There are already a number dates to use on social media; those company announcements, conferences, events and campaigns that your company attends or produces.

Product launches are known months, or even years in advance, adding brand content to support the launch can increase the impact of the campaign.

Company leaders attend and speak at events throughout the year, decide which of these would be of more general interest, take any “infographic” or suitable images from presentations and re-use them on social media.

* To make this work

  • Add the known events and campaigns to your calendar, include the event/campaign contact person.
  • Work with the event/campaign lead to develop content that supports their plans.
  • Use a simple hashtag for your own event/campaign and encourage a wider audience to publish under it.

Spontaneous

Your company wins an award, there’s the announcement of a merger (or divestment), you’re finally in the ranking you’ve been working towards, you hear of an significant date that matches your company’s portfolio – on the date itself.  Every content team I’ve ever worked with has “last minute” content needs. So while I’m a big fan of planning ahead you also need a little flexibility to take advantage of these opportunities.

* To make this work

  • Prepare likely potential images for your asset library, eg relating to awards ahead of time. The more diverse your asset library is the more likely you are to have a suitable image to hand.
  • Use your social listening tools to monitor awards in your industry, and watch for the announcement of relevant rankings.
  • Maintain good contact with the colleagues who handle last minute announcements. Explain to them that you don’t need to know the content of the announcement which may be confidential, but if you know the timing and the sort of content they’ll need you can work with that. Encourage their input into the asset library to build relevant assets.

Putting the three layers together we can see that the impact of your content, whether measured in exposure or share of voice, increase when the layers are combined.

 

Planning Ahead

All three forms of what does a content calendar need good planning to be successful, but how far ahead to you have to plan?

The honest answer is “it depends”.

For this blog I have a plan that’s about 2 months ahead, with a content deadline of about a week before publication. But that timing needs to change if you’re collaborating on content with a team or you have approval steps needed. Large organisations are more likely to have deadlines further ahead of publication and the plan for content themes is probably running 6-12 months ahead. Making that “Spontaneous” category harder more important in order to stay relevant.

Tools

I use a google calendar, I can look at anywhere, on any device, I can add assets and links as I go. But my blog drafts are written directly into wordpress (not best practice). That works for a one person company and would probably scale up to a small team. For large companies there is an amazing array of sophisticated tools on the market. They enable planning and collaborative development of content, publication, sharing/editing of posts and assets, and reporting on content performance.

None of this is that hard to work out, but maintaining quality content requires a rare combination of creativity and discipline, with a dash of flexibility to take advantage of those out of the blue opportunities.

Image: Desktop via Pixabay

3 Ways to Release the Content in Your Organisation

At a recent meeting of Digital Experts (run by Advatera) the most common challenge raised for social media managers was sourcing content. Most participants knew there was content somewhere in the company but struggled to release it for use on social media. Most reported that they’d asked people to give them content but that hadn’t helped. The reality is that few people will think about your content needs and will need to be led into giving you the content you need.

One common cry from over-stretched social media managers is “I ask for content, but I don’t get any sent to me”. I recognise the frustration, but I can also see things from their colleagues’ perspective; it’s something extra in a busy day. However if you can lead them to give you content you’ll unlock the company stories needed for your social media presence.

Repurpose the ugly stuff

Almost every company produces reports on a grand scale, inside these reports are ugly tables of data. You can use that data to create infographics which have a visual impact that works on social media.

For example, the UNHCR’s data on refugees is transformed into a visual showing the scale of the crises in refugee source nations in the last 24 years. This is shareable, the original report is not.

 

Take another look at your annual report, sustainability reporting and employee satisfaction reports. Very often these are produced with infographics, add a requirement to the briefing that a certain number of “mini-infographics” are produced for sharing on social media. It’s much easier to build this into the production stage than add it afterwards.

Look also for other data in the company, years ago we included “cups of coffee drunk per day” in a series of company data images. Of course that was the image that got the most attention.

To make this work

Add specifications for images for social media in your designer briefing. You’ll need to say the size, file format, any limits on the image and as far as possible identify the data points you think would be worth sharing.

Leadership Quotes

Your executives speak at events, press announcements, Annual General Meetings, staff meetings and write statements for company publications.

Pull quotes from these sources and present them in a branded template with a head shot, add a link to the report or event, and magically you have content to share.

You can also create events for them to speak, it would powerful if your leadership posted their new year’s resolutions for example. You can make a simple template for this

To make this work

Start early, particularly if you’re looking for new quotes, leaders’ calendars are stupidly busy and finding time to ask them for thoughtful input can be challenging.

Employees as Ambassadors

I guarantee your employees are active on social media, there will be people willing to co-create the content and share company’s branded messages on their own social channels. This has the benefit of reaching a different audience from your own company’s channels, and showcasing your employees pride in the brand.

In some countries – including the Netherlands – this is tricky, the Works Councils/Unions are really concerned at any expectation that work life crosses into private life.  Philips found a way to build a brand ambassador community that didn’t pose that risk using an employee community on the internal social network. They addressed potential concerns by;

  • Using an ‘invite-only’ community on the internal social network
  • Members invited once they’ve completed their initial social media training, ensuring social media knowledge of all participants was at a good level
  • Members are invited to contribute to content
  • Sharing content is always voluntary for each campaign
  • The company does not list, share, or monitor personal accounts of employees

The model of working was first tested on world coffee day in 2014. A series of image templates was developed that met house guidelines on brand and left room for a coffee slogan. On the brand ambassador community members were asked for their ‘coffee slogans’, those with the most likes were used to create assets for world coffee day. And all community members were able to share the images on their own social accounts. Here’s one from my former colleague.

To make this work

First build a community of people willing to contribute to content, and promote your brand. Work with your brand experts to develop templates for use across campaigns. For each campaign collect the internal input 2-3 weeks ahead of the campaign date, this might sound last minute by other campaign standards but this step can help build momentum for the publishing phase.

You’ll notice that to make each of these work you need “pre-work”, there are no quick fixes. Years ago in digital it felt like we were the last to know, we’d beg for content and then get it right before it needed to be published because the running assumption was that publishing was no more than pushing a button. I think we’re seeing the same sort of tension for a lot of social media teams. The answer is to have the discussions about what’s needed for social media earlier in the process, join the editorial process earlier and discuss with the content writers what will work on social media.