At a time when the colder, darker days of winter are urging us to slow down, curl up somewhere warm, and enjoy our well-deserved holiday breaks, the weight of looming tasks when we return makes it even harder to justify taking time to relax and recharge.
As a gift to my tribe of weary content marketing warriors, I’ve compiled time-saving tips, productivity checklists, and useful templates from articles published in the last couple of years. I hope they’ll power your resolutions to get more done in the world of 2021, help you manage your work efficiently, and start your new year energized and well prepared to conquer your content goals.
Thrive in a post-2020 world
Not everything changed in 2020, but a lot did. That’s why it’s helpful to revisit your content marketing’s big picture as well as the most noticeable elements. In 15 Resources to Help You Check Your Content Marketing Now, CMI’s Kim Moutsos pulled together some ideas that will help you face 2021 with fresher, smarter eyes and ears. The resources help with everything from content marketing strategy to content creation to your personal brand and many things in between.
Create a strategy in 1, 2, 3
Pressed for time? Who isn’t? Don’t let that be an excuse to forgo a documented content marketing strategy. In Create a Content Marketing Strategy in 3 Steps, I share the details that should go into your why, who, and how. If you’re starting a content marketing program, adapting to a new business model, or adding marketing priorities or customer challenges, this article is for you.
Ready to put that strategy into action? Proceed to creating a strategic editorial calendar. In How to Create a Strategic Editorial Calendar, Kelsey Raymond walks you through seven steps to lay the foundation that will give your content a better chance at success.
Turn strategy development into a group activity
Rather than thinking of strategy development as a solo effort and later opening it up for debate and deconstruction throughout the enterprise, why not try making it a collaborative affair from the start?
In How to Run a Strategy-Focused Workshop, Marketing Insider Group’s Michael Brenner points out that a workshop environment empowers everyone involved in your organization’s content to weigh in and feel more invested in the strategic content decisions executed down the road.
It also can provide added flexibility should you have to change course in times of crisis or opportunity. Michael walks through each step of building an actionable strategy – from setting business goals and planning your brand’s unique approach to crafting the tactical blueprints governing your content creation (like the one shown in the image below), distribution, and measurement decisions.
Illustrate your intentions to secure executive support
Developing your strategy is an important first step; but the key is communicating with the decision makers using terms that business leaders understand and relate to.
In Make Your Content Marketing Strategy Useful – Do It in Visuals, Venngage’s Nadya Khoja suggests taking a visual approach to the conversation.
She shares this example of a team communication strategy graphic. It gives stakeholders a clear road map without a lengthy presentation.
Form a content council
If your marketing departments tend to operate as independent teams, consider an idea that helped Corteva Agriscience – the content council. In Charter a Content Council to Knock Down Silos, Corteva’s Andi Robinson details what it is and how they did it so you can too. Interestingly, members on their content council come from corporate communications and marketing, representing all geographic regions where the company operates.
The Corteva content council addresses content and content marketing as two distinct tracks while ensuring all is united under the same charter.
Do what works; stop what doesn’t
In a cost-conscious world, content marketers must deliver results.
Delivering results likely will be of greater importance in 2021. This article, How to Adopt a Growth Mindset for Your Content Marketing, helps you develop a process to build on what’s working and stop what’s not. Emilia Chagas outlines in detail – starting with this downloadable spreadsheet for content brainstorming – how to make your content truly count.
Make friends with failure
While you may not salvage every content piece that struck out, CMI’s Kim Moutsos offers six suggestions in So Your Content Failed. Now What? Among them, how to spice things up with help from new headlines and ledes, optimized calls to action, and a renewed focus on the sweet spot between your areas of authority and your audience’s pain points.
Set the stage for easier editorial management
A well-detailed creative brief can help you minimize content conundrums with external contributors (and even your internal content creators). It also can help you maintain a consistent voice and value proposition across all your brand’s content offerings.
In How to Create a Good Brief for Better Content Marketing, Daniel Hatch outlines the most pertinent details in a creative brief, including:Title: What will this project be called? Deadline: When is the final content due? Messaging criteria: What is the angle/message/purpose for this content? What audience should it engage, and what information will it expect to receive from your brand? Technical specs: Is there a target word count? What format should they write for? What are your requirements for including images, references, or other ancillary assets? Submission process: How and where should the content be filed? Who should they contact if they have questions? Resources: Are there style guides they can reference? Are there templates they should use? Will they need access to password-protected asset libraries, company file-sharing directories, or other proprietary systems to deliver on your expectations?
The template below is based on the assignment brief for CMI’s digital magazine (CCO) contributors. Working with a structured format like this enables me to outline the story we want them to tell, the approach we recommend taking, and the voice and style that will make their work a good fit for the audience. I add custom fields when an article has unique requirements.
Get more from what you’re doing
Content marketing teams were a big topic in the past year, perhaps because many are trying to sustain their operations or even do more without hiring additional team members.
We don’t expect that to change in 2021, so here are a few how-to articles and tools to help you and your team:How to Boost Your Content Marketing Team’s Efficiency How to Get Big Results From Small Content Marketing Teams Tools to Help Your Content Marketing Team Be Successful 7 Ways to Unite Your Content Team in a Remote Work World [Tools]
Outsource to expand your coverage capabilities
If you can’t expand your team or fill in gaps with full-time hires, you’ll want to check out Your Get-It-Done Guide to Content Outsourcing. I share a checklist to identify and vet candidates who have the requisite skills and experience you need.
Remember to give if you want your content to achieve
Your content likely won’t further your marketing goals unless it offers something your audience needs and wants. In Must-Have Checklist to Creating Valuable Content, Ahava Leibtag outlines the benchmarks that distinguish content experiences that consumers crave from pitchy prose that only serves the brand’s interests.
Pair content with the right distribution channel
No matter how skillfully, artfully, and strategically you’ve crafted your content, it won’t drive your marketing goals unless you’ve given the same careful consideration to how you share it with your audience.
In How to Match Your Content to the Best Distribution Channel, Aaron Agius gives a brief tutorial on the goals to be achieved based on the most popular distribution platforms. He also suggests the most relevant content formats on each platform.
Let all see the analytics
Did you know self-service business intelligence – making data available for all departments – has become a thing? Over 60% of executives say it creates a significant competitive advantage by accelerating learning and responsiveness, as Ann Smarty noted in How to Create a Performance Dashboard for Your Content Team [Tools].
Imagine if your team knew how well their content delivered the results most important to your marketing and business goals. Ann teaches step by step how to develop a dashboard that will help your team do just that.
Build a sound plan to measure for meaning
Speaking of goals, you won’t know if you’re hitting them unless you track and measure your content’s performance. In How to Measure Your Content Marketing Effectiveness, CMI’s Cathy McPhillips created this helpful chart:
You can also base your measurement plan on tracking the key performance indicators (KPIs) for each type of content (e.g., email newsletters, blog/website articles, social media posts, videos). The chart below outlines some of the most informative data points:
For a more comprehensive performance view, establish a formal measurement dashboard. In How to Score Your Content Assets for Long-Term Success, Lindy Roux offers a scoring system for micro and macro goals across platforms to facilitate apples-to-apples qualitative comparisons.
You’ll find several tools and tips for building that dashboard in Nail Your Content Performance With This Measurement Starter Kit as well as templates, like this one for tracking social media conversations.
Audit and optimize your content for search
Some performance evaluations are more complicated to gauge than others – SEO chief among them. Because search rankings are contingent on a myriad of algorithmic factors – including non-transparent ones – tightening up your content’s search techniques often requires an SEO audit.
In How to Do a Helpful SEO Audit in a Few Hours, Keith Hodges covers the on-page, off-site, and technical factors to evaluate.
Since on-page SEO is the most controllable factor, it’s critical to understand how well components like your landing page URL, metadata, headlines, and internal links stack up. Follow Keith’s process for a quick on-page SEO audit, starting with filling in the table below:
What will you do with all the extra time on your hands?
I hope these tips, tricks, and templates will make your content marketing tasks easier, more effective, and more satisfying. But don’t forget to reinvest a little of your newly reclaimed time by reading about all the techniques and industry perspectives we’ll be sharing in 2021 – and by letting us know in the comments what other topics you’d like to see us cover.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute