How to create a content marketing strategy in five simple steps

Maintaining a steady stream of news and content is often priority number one for those of us working in communications roles. Most organisations have lots of content and most communications professionals have LOTS of ideas for more great content… but how do we make it work most effectively?

We could try to publish a new blog every day of the week to tell our story… but is that really possible with the resource we have? And is that much content really necessary?

Step 1 – Identify

What can we and do we want to talk about? Who are we talking to?

Think about the sector you’re operating in, which experts you have working in your organisation and what your customers’ interests are.

Step 2 – Decide

Make a judgement call on how much content you need/want and take stock of existing assets.

How many blog posts, social media posts, press releases and larger pieces of content (e.g. case studies, videos, whitepapers) do we want each week/month? How many do we already have and how many do we need to create?

Step 3 – Plan and review

Create a content calendar.

Content calendars prevent writers block, inspire and protect against content gaps. So long as you don’t over schedule, content calendars help maintain space for topical, ad hoc and breaking news stories.

Distribute the content you already have evenly across the year, ensure the right content is scheduled for the right time (relevance is key) and see where there are gaps. You can do this on an annual, monthly and/or even weekly basis, depending on the level of detail you want and your organisational needs.

Step 4 – Bolster and future-proof

Research national celebration days, holidays, announcement dates and so on to fill potential gaps ahead of time.

Today, for example, “National Lollipopper Day” is trending on Twitter with the rather lovely hashtag #Lollipoppers. If you work in the Education sector, this is an easy win as it lends itself so well to visual content (photos of happy kids with their ‘Lollipoppers’) and has a strong human interest angle.lollipoppers

There are loads of lists of national celebration days available online that will give you a great starting point then all it takes is a keen eye for relevance, a creative spin (so you’re not putting out the same content as everyone else) and plenty of forward-planning.

There are also lots of content calendar templates available online – or it’s very easy to build your own using Excel.

Step 5 – Review and improve

Finally, don’t forget to look back at your audience’s response to your content to see what really resonates and what doesn’t quite work.

Make measurement a priority. Collect data (automate where possible) and review regularly. Talk to and learn from industry peers. Be adaptable. Don’t be afraid of change.  And don’t forget to feed back to your contributors (saying “thank you” goes a long way).

Is taking a career break ever a good idea?

Am I brave enough to leave a good, stable job? How will it affect my career in the long term? Will future employers think I’m a flight risk?

These are all questions I agonised over before taking the plunge and embarking on a nine month career break earlier this year.

It was eight years into my career and things were going well. I had simply never taken any time out – having gone straight from school to Sixth Form to University to work – and I knew that if I didn’t do it soon, my dreams of travelling the world would never amount to more than that.

One thing that made the decision a huge amount easier was the guarantee of my husband’s pay and position to return to. A sabbatical is a wonderful thing if you can get one. Unfortunately that wasn’t an option for me but if it had been a case of leaving both jobs entirely and having no guaranteed way to pay our mortgage when we returned, I’m not sure we would have leaped quite so confidently.

But how have things been for me since we got back from our big adventure? Now that I am ready for a new professional challenge and stability, how have recruiters and potential employers reacted to the career break that will now forever feature on my CV?

I have to admit I’ve been pleasantly surprised. No-one has vocalised any concerns about it when we have been talking through my experience. Admittedly most people are very curious about what made me want to do it but the most common response is unbridled interest. “Where did you go? What was the best place you visited?” It’s an excellent conversation starter and I’m sure it makes you more memorable.

So my advice would be that if it’s something you’re considering but are too afraid of it harming your career to take the leap, think long and hard before dismissing your dreams. For me it turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made. I knew I didn’t want to live a ‘what if…’ life but I couldn’t have imagined how much strength, resourcefulness and pure joy the experience would bring me.

You never know, it might even open some very interesting new doors that you’d never noticed before.