As the books close on another year, some marketers and PR pros may be tempted to sit back and relax until January 1st, pleased with the goals they hit in 2015.
However, the content landscape is increasingly competitive and the demand on marketing and PR to drive more revenue is always on the rise.
If you aren’t already planning 2016’s content calendar, you may be disappointed with your progress this time next year.
In the research report Promoting Your Content Marketing, Content Marketing Institute’s Robert Rose shares that 95% of the most effective content marketers have a strategy vs. 55% of the least effective. Furthermore, 54% of the most effective content marketers have documented this strategy.
Read on for a step-by-step guide to planning your content and press release strategy for the year ahead. Then check out our sample editorial calendar at the end of the blog post to get started.
Step 1: Understand the Big Picture
When considering your strategy for the coming year, the #1 rule to remember is that these are not individual campaigns you’re planning. Your communications don’t exist in a vacuum. Every white paper, every tweet, every blog post, every press release – it’s all a piece of your brand’s PR and marketing program.
Take a holistic approach and connect content together. You will be more likely to achieve the cohesion and consistency your audience craves. That means balancing the specific topics, content formats, and content types (i.e. traditional corporate news vs. informational content) you use.
Your previous years’ outreach can clue you into what balance will work best. Take stock of what you did this year: What was a home run? What was moderately successful? What underperformed? And what were the reasons for your content’s success or failure?
When reviewing the efforts that underperformed or were moderately successful, weigh which ones are worth repeating with adjustments and which should be cut.
While it may be disappointing to cut something, doing so opens up opportunities to experiment and try something new.
Step 2: Dig Into Details
After setting up your content framework, your next step is to identify when you will publish and promote specific content. Look at what is happening during each three-month quarter or season, then narrow it by month, week, and day of week.
When planning your quarters and months, go through the holidays, seasonal events, and conferences that impact not just your industry, but also the industries related to your target audience. Uncover other newsworthy topics and trends by using a monitoring tool.
Don’t get overzealous, though. Only schedule out the amount of press releases and content your resources allow – quality over quantity is key.
If you decide not to publish content tied to a particular event, you should still mark that event on your calendar because it may impact the pickup of other news you plan on publishing at that time.
Once you have a selection of events or projects you want to publish content about, ask yourself these questions:
- Where is this content going to be published (owned, earned, social, paid channels)?
- Who is your content’s audience (media, direct customers, investors)?
- What actions do you want your audience to take?
- If you were a member of your content’s audience, how far in advance would you want/need to receive the content to take action?
Each channel’s timing will be influenced by a specific set of factors. Leave enough time for that channel’s audience to take the action you want.
Step 3: Guarantee Success with the Right Research
Because your gut will only get you so far, you need to leverage research and monitoring tools to determine the optimal day to publish and promote content.
Study the media and influencers who can help get your message out to your customers. Build and maintain relationships with them to find out when and how they want to receive content from you. Many publications even make their editorial deadlines available online.
Tools like Google Trends can show you the waxing and waning over time of a particular topic’s news coverage and search queries. Monitoring this can help you avoid promoting related content too late or too early.
Remember that certain events will present content and coverage opportunities over the course of many months. In 2016, for instance, the presidential election and Olympics will be talked about months in advance and demand early promotion by brands who want to jump into the conversation.
Step 4: Avoid Autopilot with Regular Check-ins
Planning out your calendar for the year ahead is only the beginning. Once the year is underway, don’t fall into the trap of operating on autopilot.
Each quarter: Check in and make sure your overall revenue and content goals are being met. If they’re not, adjust priorities for the upcoming months.
Each month: Compile and analyze all of the reporting from the past month. Organize the results across output, outtakes, and outcomes. The analysis you pull each month will drive the decisions you make on the macro level.
Each week: Record what content you published and promoted that week, the communication channels you used, and any early feedback you received.
Each day: Continuously monitor what’s going on across your industry and the world to make sure it doesn’t conflict with the content you plan to publish and promote. It’s important to stay flexible and have a backup plan so that you can reschedule content when needed.
Maintaining an editorial calendar is key to staying on track when content plans have to change. To get you started with 2016’s planning, our senior creative manager Jamie Heckler created a 2016 Editorial Calendar for your brand’s content and press releases.
The SlideShare presentation features additional tips for specific times of the year, as well as important dates and deadlines to keep in mind.
Use the information in our calendar to guide your planning. For best results, couple it with a monitoring tool that provides you with intel on journalists and influencers to target and potential story ideas to publish and pitch on.
Download our guide At What Cost? Justifying a Media Monitoring Service to determine whether your current monitoring tools meet your needs.
Amanda Hicken is PR Newswire’s senior manager of strategic content and managing editor of Beyond PR. Follow her on Twitter @ADHicken for tweets about the media, marketing, Cleveland, and comic books.
3 Comments on Blog Post Title
I am a student at the University of Oregon and recently we had to make an editorial calendar for a social media plan. I really had no idea what an editorial calendar was until I read this article. Next time I write an editorial calendar whether it be for work or school I will use these 4 guidelines to make sure that my editorial calendar is up to par, thank you.
My editorial calendars are usually planned by quarter, though sometimes planning goes out to 6 months. I find it difficult to plan an entire year, while the outbound environment changes so frequently. However, these steps still certainly apply! Excellent read! Will share 🙂
I’m glad you found the tips helpful, Samuel. And I completely agree: When things are in a state of flux, it may be more effective to plan in six-month or quarterly increments.