One of the best things I ever did for myself was buy a planner. But not just any planner.
In my younger days, I used a planner provided by my high school – a light blue and white monstrosity that barely provided spaces big enough to list the names of my classes. I’ve come a long way since then. So I found myself a planner with pretty pink tabs for each month, large lined squares for each day, little spaces to list weekly priorities and even motivational quotes. It had everything a compulsively neat lady like me could ask for. (My inner Leslie Knope was screaming.)
Why is this important, you ask? Finding and using the right planner made all the difference for me – this snazzy little notebook keeps me organized and has been huge in helping me meet my professional and personal goals. I quite literally take it everywhere with me. And as a writer, it was easy to transfer this kind of thoughtful approach to creating content.
Here at Brafton, we use Airtable to map out every aspect of our content plans on a monthly basis. We’ll take a closer look at that later on, but it’s important to understand just how critical blog content planners are and why every organization should use one to support its content marketing strategy.
Why use a blog content planner?
When content marketers and their editorial teams take the time to plan out their blog content, three key things can happen:
- You avoid wasted efforts. We can’t begin to tell you how many companies have embarked on a content marketing journey, only to give up a few weeks and a handful of blog posts in because they believe their work isn’t paying off. Planning out all the important elements means your writers can avoid wasting their time creating content that doesn’t resonate with your target audience and doesn’t further your objectives.
- You ensure content aligns with your goals. In addition to making sure content will interest your readers and map to the needs of your target audience, filling out your planner will also help you align your content strategy with your overarching business goals. This includes connecting and scheduling blog posts according to active marketing campaigns, an approach that really packs a punch.
- You keep everyone on the same page. Your company’s blog content can impact more than you realize – from your readers and website visitors, to the marketing and executive teams and beyond. A content planner keeps all the different aspects and people involved organized, visible and accessible to stakeholders across the company. Bonus – this often translates to a much more streamlined (and less painful!) editing process for your writers.
Anatomy of a content planner
When choosing a content planner, it’s important to find (or customize/create) one that includes these key fields:
- Compelling blog title, which includes the relevant keywords to help the content connect back to your target audience and/or associated marketing campaigns.
- Content type. Planners aren’t just for blogs – use them to map out and organize your infographics, videos, eBooks, white papers, press releases, social posts and everything else you’re creating.
- Publish date. Your content planner is a living document, allowing you to map out draft due dates, estimate publish dates and change timelines when needed.
- Status. This handy little section helps stakeholders see where in the process each blog post is currently. This can include levels like “not started,” “in progress,” “in editing,” etc.
- Media type. As Curata pointed out, now that many businesses leverage an omni-channel strategy, it’s important to specify where each piece of content will live. This can also be helpful for organizing social media and LinkedIn posts.
- Writer’s name, as well as the author’s name, if the post is being ghostwritten or being attributed to someone else.
- Content owner, or the person responsible for facilitating the creation and publication of the piece. This may be the writer, author, editor or content marketing manager.
- Target persona. We discussed mapping content to your target audience, and one of the best ways to do this is through your defined personas. Your planner should include a place to list the specific persona each piece of content will speak to.
- Content brief, or a link to a document that might provide additional details about the piece, including SEO keywords, number of words, topics to discuss and more.
Depending upon your content strategy and the needs of your stakeholders, you may prefer a more detailed or more basic version of what’s described above. The bottom line is that your content planner keeps all the important elements in order and helps you maintain a publication schedule.
Recommended content planning tools
A quick Google search will show that there more than a few content planners available today. We’ve put together this quick list of our favorites to help you choose the best option for your company:
For me, our Brafton Airtable content planner has become like the digital version of my own planner notebook – it’s exceptionally organized and user friendly. We break things down according to each writer, the name of the blog posts each writer is responsible for in the month, and an array of other details like the type of content, status, draft due date and target launch date. We also include spots for links to the content briefs that guide writers, and a place to link to the completed draft. Are we organized, or what??
Airtable offers a free version that includes essential features, as well as reasonably-priced Plus, Pro and Enterprise versions.
Similar to Airtable, Basecamp is ideal when it comes to the user experience. The platform organizes projects in terms of team stakeholders and project name, and provides sections for the schedule, drafts, assignments and more. Users can also ping each other, send messages and view recent activity from stakeholders across the platform.
Basecamp offers a free 30-day trial, and is $99 per month.
This is a helpful planner that features drop-down menu navigation, a user-friendly dashboard, features for listing actionable tasks and creating associated notifications and even an inbox for stakeholders to make comments and communicate on projects.
Asana provides a basic free version, a $9.99-per-month Premium subscription, as well as an Enterprise version.
For highly detailed teams, there’s Wrike. This platform is another that includes drop-down menu functionality, as well as menus for overall project timelines, a table listing actionable tasks and a message board. While this planner includes features and functionality to the point that it’s almost exhaustive, some teams may require this level of in-depth capabilities.
Wrike offers a free version, as well as Professional, Business, Enterprise and Wrike for Marketers.
This planner includes almost spreadsheet-like functionality, with boxes breaking down each day’s content plans and spots for the topic and title, keywords, target personas, calls to action and more.
Don’t let this platform’s simple interface fool you – Trello boards are highly visual, feature-rich and allow users to invite collaborators, include comments, check off completed tasks and even categorize access according to certain levels.
Trello has free, Business Class and Enterprise versions.
Google or Excel sheets
Hey, hey, we know what you’re thinking here – “There’s gotta be better options than just a spreadsheet!” Some teams may want something more advanced, like the planners discussed above. Others may appreciate the customizability and simplicity of a platform they’re already familiar with. And we’re definitely a part of Team If-It-Ain’t-Broke-Don’t-Fix-It.
Curata also provides this list of downloadable content calendar templates.
Other tips for using your blog content planner
Here’s a few other best practices to keep in mind with your content planner:
- Make it a staple within your content creation process: Remember those companies we talked about that charge forward with content marketing without planning? Welp, the same thing can happen if you don’t take the time to actually use your content planner. Make it a priority touchpoint in the content creation process and use it as a key asset for providing all the necessary details to writers, content owners and the marketing team.
- Include a place for potential topics: Your content planner can also provide a parking lot for your content ideas until they’re fully fleshed out and ready for creation. Best of all, every stakeholder can contribute whenever inspiration strikes, and you then have a list of ideas ready to pull from for the next planning period.
Just as my pretty pink day planner has made all the difference for me, we’re confident that your content planner will help you make the most of your content plans.
Everyone has their own planning process. What strategies have worked best for you for planning out your content? Tell us below!