When Kevin Costner razed his cornfield to build a baseball diamond, he didn’t have much of a plan. He had no plan, really. All he had was a voice he’d heard, saying “If you build it, he will come.” So he built it, and sure enough…well, I won’t spoil the film if you haven’t seen Field of Dreams, but suffice it to say, people came.
Costner risked everything to follow this voice. He could have been using that land to grow corn and support his family, but instead he diverted his most valuable asset to build his mystery voice’s baseball diamond. His wife wasn’t happy, his family wasn’t happy, and nobody thought he was doing the right thing.
Every day, I see brands diverting money and time into content, and then just throwing it out into the wind with a wish and a prayer. Diverting valuable assets into “content marketing” without any real idea of how it works or what it will accomplish. The big difference? Kevin Costner’s hallucinations turned out to be the real deal. Delusional brands, on the other hand, are rarely rewarded for diverting assets with no plan beyond blind faith.
Sadly, as content marketers we don’t have ghostly voices telling us what to do. We can build, but there’s no guarantee anybody is going to show up.
If you’ve made the decision to start publishing content, or if you’re just thinking about whether you should, don’t just plow down all your corn and start laying sod. You need a Content Marketing Plan.
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Here’s what needs to go in your content plan:
This is about your brand, right? So don’t just start writing and forget about your brand’s overall goals, your “why”, your big idea. Content marketing should support the business goals of your brand. It should support your bottom line.
Think about why you’re writing a content marketing plan. What are the challenges you’re trying to solve with content? What is your dream outcome if everything goes as planned? Write them down. This is the beginning of your content marketing plan.
This section should include thoughtful statements on the following:
- Why do we need content? What do we hope to accomplish?
- What gap does our content fill? What pains are we solving for our readers?
- Does our audience justify a content marketing plan?
- What is the business model for this plan? How does it work, who is involved, and what exactly do we have to do?
- Why is creating and publishing content more important or more valuable than other things we could be spending time on?
- What are the risks?
- What’s in our way?
When you write content, you’re writing to people. Not channels, not targets—people. Building content personas will help you find patterns in needs and behaviors that will allow you to create content that’s resonant and genuinely helpful to those real people.
You can read all about personas in our article here.
You know this is our favorite topic. We’ve written (and will continue to write) about this subject again and again. Your brand story consists of four things:
- What your brand says about itself
- What your brand does in the world
- What others believe and say about your brand
- How others interact with your brand
Social Media Strategy
Your brand is on social media. But do you have a strategy? So many brands approach social haphazardly. That intern is probably good, these young kids are on social media all the time. So and so over in marketing can just tack it onto their job. Or maybe you can hop on Elance and find somebody who’ll handle your Facebook and Twitter for a few hundred a month.
No. Just no. Social is not optional, and it’s not an afterthought. It’s an essential, integrated part of your overall content plan. The title of “social media manager” is rapidly becoming extinct, as social is no longer seen as “separate” from the rest of the business plan. Everybody is responsible. Everybody is involved. We’ve written about this in more detail here.
Regardless of the channel, your goal is always the same. Refer back to step 1 and remember your “why”, your big idea. Remember your brand’s story. It’s always the same, and every channel you utilize should reflect that story and those values.
Things to think about as you plan your content and social media channels:
- What is the purpose of each channel? The overriding purpose of social media is always to drive awareness, but think also about each individual channel and why you feel your brand should be there.
- Who is your social media team? Again, we’re moving away from a single social media manager and more towards integrating social into every aspect of the brand.
- Who will be authorized to tweet under the brand’s official handle, and who else is on Twitter representing your brand under their own handles?
- Who will be authorized to post on the brand’s Facebook page as the company? Who else will engage on Facebook in a manner that represents the brand?
- Consider these questions for each and every channel.
- What business metrics will you measure? Visits, traffic, number of people driven into the sales funnel, number of conversions…these are all possibilities. Tie the things you measure back to your original goals and purpose for each channel. Measure whether you’re reaching those goals and serving that purpose.
The blog is the cornerstone of every content marketing plan. Your target audiences aren’t just going to show up to see what you decided to write about today. They don’t care about you. They care about their own problems, and it’s your job to give them solutions, insights, and stories that move them. Your social media channels are nothing without content, and that content lives on your blog.
A well-organized editorial calendar takes into consideration all other pieces of your content marketing plan to schedule day-to-day operations. And if you’ve written this plan and put serious thought into each item, you’re well-equipped to create an editorial calendar full of topics that will resonate with your audience personas, drive traffic through every promotion channel, and amplify your brand story far and wide.
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With your well-considered, research-based content marketing plan in hand, you’re ready to go out and build your own field of dreams. Kevin Costner not included.