For many writers, content marketing teams and companies, content planning has always been a challenge that you love to hate. I have been a freelance writer and then the head of a content team for a long time. In the past, my content planner would have been a small notebook with each leaf representing a day in the calendar year.
I would write all my notes and projects in the notebook but it was quite small and sometimes would not fit all the sentences I needed to put down for the research work. However, it worked and made me feel very organised as a person.
Fast forward to me as the head of a content marketing team and I just couldn’t keep it together. Luckily, project management tools like Asana and Basecamp popped up and helped me keep track of projects as laid-out tasks.
Even so, we still had endless email threads to follow up on work, scouring folders to find documents so that we can upload them besides their tasks on the project management tools, and still having to jump from one application to another to revise content and re-upload for a review.
It just felt like a lot of co-ordination work that slowed down my team’s content production. My team and I still needed a tool that can take away all the unwanted processes and focus on the production of content for the company and our clients.
What we needed was not a project management tool that was a makeshift content planner. We needed a proper content planner and production workflow tool designed for content makers and marketers.
Why You Need a Content Planner
1. Streamline your content production workflow
This is a big problem. Imagine this; a content plan is written and sent out to everyone’s emails for input. Everyone in the content team sends in a reply in the email with their input. The content manager then has to follow the thread for everyone’s input and probably send feedback again.
Once a full content plan is realized, the content creation is distributed to the team. Each person writes and sends in their work via a project management tool or email. The editor has to check several email threads to figure out what is going on. Before the whole content is published a lot of time has been spent trying to get everything in order, all documents in one folder, or several comments made on a document that cannot be traced.
This is the day to day life of several content marketing teams. It doesn’t sound to me like a team that is well placed to succeed. So how does a content planner tool help? Here is how:
Instead of jumping between several emails threads, Slack, a project management tool, and various platforms, a content planner ensures that everything is happening under one roof. It eliminates all the communication bottlenecks and provides a place where the content marketing team can fully collaborate to produce content faster.
For instance, when users want to come up with a content plan, every team member sends in a proposed idea. All ideas can be seen in the drafts bucket. The editor or team manager can approve acceptable ideas and decline to approve others. Once ideas are approved they move to a scheduling stage where they can then be scheduled and assigned to a team member to work on them.
When articles are written inside the tool, the editors can make comments or improve on them before they are approved for publishing.
It all happens in one tool, ensuring streamlined collaboration and production workflow.
2. Objective planning for content
One of the biggest gains of having a content planner is that you get to plan out your content structurally with a definite direction and objectives. Several content marketers fail at content marketing because they start without a plan. Within no time, they lose sight of their goals.
A wise person once said, “if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail”.
A content planner ensures that you objectively plan for content. It guarantees that your content team is not producing content just for the sake of it without objectives and goals in mind.
This will save you as an agency, startup, or established company a lot of wasted efforts and time.
3. Keep your team aligned
Content marketing doesn’t succeed without team alignment. You want to have your content team aligned with every aspect of the campaign. With a content planning tool, every aspect of your content strategy is there for everyone to see.
You do not need to communicate again and again about it, or do endless meetings in the office trying to explain to your team what the objectives, goals, and process of your content marketing campaign involves.
Your company’s content can impact your readers more than you realize. However, with a content planner, you do not have to worry that anyone in the team might jeopardize the entire process.
For instance, let us say some content needs to be ready by the time you launch a feature. When you have a content planner you can see what everyone is working on and make certain that they are all gunning for the launch.
You can also have schedule delivery times for the content to ensure that it aligns with the marketing campaign for the launch. It just gives you and your team more strength to push out a new launch on all fronts.
The 4 Phases of Content Planning
1. Content Ideation
This is where your content team comes up with content ideas. You can brainstorm on these ideas before approving them to a plan. The content ideation phase may involve spinning off content from articles you have read, or informed by a more data-centric approach like keyword research.
The reason you need this phase in your company is to keep track of all the ideas that come in from your team and investigate further on their viability before choosing to dismiss or approve them.
2. Content Scheduling to an Editorial Calendar
Once your team has looked into some content ideas and approved accepted ones, you then need to schedule a time for when they should have been achieved.
“A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true.” ~ Greg Reid
Planning requires specifying the time. A plan without a definite date and time of accomplshment is just air. It is impossible to keep your team accountable without having timelines.
So this phase is where you set those timelines and also assign the content creation to a team member to achieve it. Essentially, once all your ideas have been given a date, you have made your editorial calendar. However, the editorial calendar is a continuous process that evolves with the needs of your marketing campaigns.
3. Content Production
Once the content is scheduled, the production begins. This will involve the responsible team member researching and finding the necessary details, then writing the piece. It is also the phase where all the visuals are decided on.
If your company has a checklist at this point, it would be crucial for your success. A checklist might include things like ensuring a certain number of visuals are included, a meme, checking for grammar on a grammar tool, ensuring the threshold number of words is achieved, and that the content has been checked by an editor, etc.
For a better workflow, a checklist should be recurring and standard for all blog articles. Another checklist should be created for newsletters, ebooks, or press releases among others.
4. Content Publishing
Once the content passes the production phase, it is approved for publishing. With a content planner like Contio (yes, that is us), you can publish directly to various CMS like WordPress and Medium without needing to jump to those platforms to edit and publish once again.
11 Content Planner Productivity Features To Look Out For
We have built Contio to provide a breath of fresh air for all content marketers and teams out there that struggle to refine their production workflow. This hinders their content marketing success. With the following features available on Contio, you can surely smell success for your content strategy:
1. Content-Type – Article, eBook, newsletter, white papers, press releases
You can plan for various content types from articles to newsletters, ebooks, and press releases. For more complex writing like press kits, newsletters, eBooks, and press releases we will be launching a template section where we collect the best of these content types so that you don’t need to search too far out to get inspired.
2. Ideation / Kanban / Article Titles
This feature provides you with an ideas bucket where you and your team can suggest content ideas, approve, schedule and assign to a team member to make it happen by a specific date.
3. Editorial calendar build-out – with content briefs
You can view your editorial calendar and even share it out with teams who are not on the platform so that they stay acquainted with it. The editorial calendar shows your content plan laid out in 5 view-sets that include a day, week, month, quarter, and year’s editorial calendar.
This means that if you would like to see what content is due in a week you can change the view-set to the particular week. The same goes for day, week, quarter and year too.
4. Production dashboard
In this dashboard, Contio gives you an editing tool where team members assigned to produce various content can create it. It also allows the manager or editor to contribute in proper collaboration fashion.
An editor can also choose to leave their comments on the side of the content piece for the writer to implement. The production dashboard also includes a recurring checklist that guides the writers on the standards of the content type in creation.
5. Media / Pictures
Upload and add images to your content from within Contio’s editing tool. A graphic designer assigned to the task can add images too. We are looking forward to integrating this feature with platforms like Unsplash to ensure that users can search the free platforms for images and add them to their content.
6. Team Roles
You can add several team members in your account and assign them various roles like chief editor, editor, writer, graphic designer, and manager. These team roles also come with their permissions.
For instance, writers cannot approve their content for publishing, only the chief editor, editor, or manager has that permission. This ensures that content is duly checked and proofread to ensure standards and goals are met.
7. Editing notes / Comments
The teams can leave editing notes or comments besides the content in the production phase. This allows for streamlined input and feedback from the team before the content is fully approved for publishing.
8. Saved Revisions
If a revision is made on a piece of content, this feature helps show the revisions and original version so that the team can track the changes that happened on the work.
The user might also want to revert to the recent old version which is also allowed.
9. Collaboration – writer, editor, designer, manager
We work as a team and therefore understand the importance of collaboration especially for agencies and established companies.
We built the collaboration features that enable users with various roles to contribute to an article to ensure it is ready and meets the publishing standard.
We don’t believe that users need to jump from one tool to another just to get content published. This is why we have started with integrating WordPress and Medium which are the most popular blogging platforms.
Especially for agencies who run multiple WordPress or Medium blogs, this is crucial.
Once you sign up, set up various WordPress and Medium accounts on Contio. After that you can publish directly from our tool. The articles will be published on those blogs.
This eliminates publishing bottlenecks making the workflow much faster.
We intend to continue building out this feature in the coming weeks, so stay tuned. However, our vision is that using our analytics section, you can tell how much content you pushed out within a stipulated period.
You can also monitor the success of your content production against your content strategy with KPIs and other measuring metrics that we are still figuring out.
In terms of team assessment, you will be able to see how your team is performing, whether they are meeting timelines or missing them and why. You will also get to see what the bottlenecks are, or which phase slows your team down and why.
Individual team users will be presented with personal data to show how they are performing and what needs to improve to get better.
The foundation of this analytics feature is to help your team improve, help your content marketing efforts get better, avoid missing timelines, and realise the issues that need to be worked on to get your team performing at its best level.
How to Get Contio
We are working on our platform and we want it to be the best content planner and production workflow tool in the world. If you would like us to invite you to early access, kindly leave your email below and we will send you an invite when we launch.