Do you find yourself always scrambling to create content?
You want to be consistent with content creation and publishing, but you just can’t seem to get ahead?
That’s where a content plan comes into play.
Now, you may be thinking, “Plan? I don’t have time to create content, much less plan ahead.”
Hear me out.
Content planning is an investment. If you spend a little bit of time planning your content, you’ll be able to publish more consistently. And you’ll reap the benefits.
In fact, the folks over at CoSchedule say that people who
publish consistent content get as much as 30% more traffic for every post they publish.
What exactly is a content plan?
A content plan is not a content strategy. Content planning comes after you’ve created your strategy. It’s part of your overall marketing plan.
In your content plan, you’ll decide what content you are going to create and when.
You’ll want to make sure that the content you plan supports the goals established in your content strategy.
Here are a few questions to consider:
- Is the topic useful to my ideal customer?
- Does the content type make sense for my target audience?
- Are there any seasons or events that I need to consider?
- And how can I repurpose this content to get the most mileage out of it?
Monthly content planning process
Now you may be thinking, “Okay, how do I create a content plan?” So let’s get into it.
In this post, I’m specifically talking about creating a monthly content plan.
While I’m a fan of 90-day plans for your business overall, I don’t like to plan content that far in advance. Too many things change, and it ends up being a wasted effort.
I think monthly content planning is the sweet spot. It allows you to stay focused on your business objectives and also take advantage of batching similar tasks. But it isn’t so far in advance that you end up throwing the plan out the window if things change.
I typically create a detailed monthly content plan during the 2nd half of the prior month. That way, I’m only planning content for six weeks out at the most.
Step 1: Choose a focus
The first step in creating your monthly content plan is to choose a focus.
This might be a theme or a product focus.
It’s a lot easier to plan a month’s worth of content if it’s all related to the same theme. You only have to think about that one theme.
It also means that all your monthly content will work together (and hopefully be geared toward your target audience).
If your focus is a product, then all your content will work toward promoting that product. If your focus isn’t a product, then the theme will help you create a content cluster, which is good for SEO.
For example, my theme for this month is Content Planning (hence this article). I also have several other blog posts planned that go along with this theme.
Step 2: Review your calendars
The next step in creating a content plan is to review your monthly calendar(s). Make note of the relevant dates for key events, product launches, and affiliate promotions.
If your monthly theme is related to a product launch, then note the launch dates. That way, you can work backward from those dates to create content that promotes your launch.
The same thing goes for affiliate promotions.
I also look at my business and personal calendars to see if there are key events that I need to keep in mind as I’m planning my content.
For example, I’m running a free challenge later this month. I’ll need to plan some content to promote that.
Also, include key personal events that could impact your ability to produce content. For example, if you will be traveling, then you might want to create content ahead of time and schedule it to publish automatically. Or you might choose to take a week off. 😊
Step 3: Create a high-level content map
Now that you have the relevant dates for key events, product launches, and affiliate promotions, start mapping out your content for each week.
Keep this simple and very high-level. You want to be able to see the big picture. You don’t want to get stuck in the weeds by thinking about the day of the week or social media platform.
Focus on your money-making activities (i.e., product launches and affiliate promotions) and the core content that will support them.
Map out your events & promotions
Plug in the dates for the key events, product launches, and affiliate promotions you identified earlier. Include lead-generation content as well (webinars, free challenges, content upgrades, etc.)
I start by plugging my product launch into the appropriate week. Then I add the opt-in that I’m promoting.
Map out your core content
Now it’s time to think about your core content.
Core content is the main free content that you produce regularly. Depending on your content strategy, core content might be blog posts, YouTube videos, podcast episodes, weekly livestreams, etc.
There are many ways that you can generate ideas for core content.
Review your idea bank
I keep an extensive idea bank that I turn to for content ideas. If you have an idea bank, then open it up and search for topics related to your monthly theme.
When I was planning this month, I searched my idea bank for “content planning” and “content plans.” I found 25 topics that fit into this theme. Then I simply picked the ones I wanted to use this month.
Create a mindmap
If you don’t have an idea bank yet, then brainstorm topics.
One of my favorite brainstorming techniques is to create a mindmap.
Write your monthly theme in the middle of a piece of paper, on a whiteboard, or in mind-mapping software.
Then start branching out and see where the ideas take you.
Do a search on your theme
Lastly, if you are stuck for ideas, do a search using your monthly theme as the search query.
I like to use Pinterest for this type of search because their search algorithm is a little “fuzzier” than Google, meaning that it will return broader topics.
Plus, since Pinterest is a visual platform, it’s easy to scroll through the search results looking for interesting topics and angles.
When I searched on “content plan,” I came up with these ideas:
- How to schedule a month’s worth of content for your small business
- How to use Asana to create a content calendar
- X Steps for a Simple and Effective Content Calendar
- Why You Should Create Content in Batches
- How to Save Time and Create Content Faster with Content Buckets
Regardless of which method you use for brainstorming, you should be able to come up with at least four or five ideas for core content related to your monthly theme.
Then, you can simply plug each piece of content into your map for the week that you want to produce each one.
Reality check #1
Before you move on to the next step, give yourself a reality check.
Look over your content map. Is it realistic? Will you really have the time to create the content you just mapped out?
If not, what can you cut out?
Step 4: Create your detailed weekly plans
In Step 4, you start building out your detailed weekly content calendar. This is where the rubber meets the road. And it’s what will make the real difference in your producing effective, consistent content.
According to Content Marketing Institute:
4 out of 5 top performers use an editorial calendar.
In this step, you’ll plot out which content will be published on which day of the week.
Start with the dates that you’ll publish your core content
For example, my Facebook Liveshow is on Tuesdays, so I copy and paste the topics from my content map into the Tuesday block in my editorial calendar.
Then add your micro-content
Then I start adding in micro-content like emails and social media content. Some people like to keep a separate social media content calendar, but I prefer to have it all in one content calendar. That way, I can make sure that all my content works together.
Again, I start with the product launch. Email is the most important form of content for my launches, so I plug in the email dates first.
Then, I enter any other time-sensitive content (like challenges and webinars). I include the dates of the events and then the content needed to promote those events.
Don’t forget to include micro-content to promote your core content each week. You’ll likely want to send emails and post on social media announcing your new blog post (or YouTube video or podcast).
Lastly, you can fill out your social media content schedule as needed.
This is a good place to repurpose your core content by publishing excerpts in a different content format. Maybe you pull out quotes or post short-form videos (like Reels).
Reality check #2
Now that you’ve planned out the details, it’s time for your second reality check.
Look over your editorial calendar. Can you keep up with the schedule you’ve created?
If not, what can you cut out?
Remember, you don’t have to fill in content for every single day. Create a schedule that you can keep up with.
Bonus step: prepare to execute the plan
At this point, your monthly plan is complete. If you’ve used a theme, then you have a cohesive plan where all the content works together. It’s organized and tied to your business goals.
Now, you just have to execute, right?
Create tasks for each piece of core content
Go to whatever task management app you use (Asana is my fave) and create a task for each core content piece. Add in your due dates so that you know when this content should be completed.
Use a standard workflow template
Make it easy on yourself by creating a standard workflow template for your core content (example: blog post workflow, YouTube video workflow, etc.)
Then you can simply copy that template for each piece of core content you have planned. Include all the steps for creating and promoting the content. Then, you won’t have to think of those steps every single time.
5 tips to maximize your content planning process
Here are a few tips to help you stay organized and remain productive so that you maximize your monthly content planning.
One: Create an idea bank
I talked above about how I keep an extensive idea bank.
Idea bank is just a fancy way of saying that I have a system for keeping up with content ideas.
I use a spreadsheet because it’s easy to organize, sort, and search through the ideas.
Ideas can come from anywhere, but they are easy to forget if you don’t have a place to capture them.
If spreadsheets aren’t your jam, then there are plenty of options for keeping up with blog post ideas and other content ideas. Evernote, OneNote, Asana, Trello, and Google Docs are all tools that would work great for keeping an idea bank.
Two: Capture all your brainstorming notes
Anytime you do a brainstorming exercise, you are likely to generate more ideas than you can use. Go ahead and add all those ideas to your Idea Bank. Just because they aren’t right for this month or this project doesn’t mean you can’t use them later.
If you created a mindmap, then you can also take a screenshot or a photo and save it with your other notes (like in Evernote).
Three: Refine your ideas using a keyword research tool
You can take your broad ideas and refine them using a keyword research tool.
There are several free Chrome extensions that you can use for keyword research. Surfer SEO and Keywords Everywhere are two that I use.
When you do a Google search on your broad topic idea, the keyword tool will help you refine that idea into a long-tail keyword that you can use as a more focused topic.
Four: Review your content plan weekly
You’ve gone to all the trouble of creating a monthly content plan. You don’t want that time to have been wasted.
Review your plan weekly to make sure that everything is on track. Make adjustments to the plan as needed.
Five: Plan to show up consistently
I’m going to reiterate the quote from the top of this post:
People who “publish consistent content get as much as 30% more traffic for every post they publish.”
Repeat this planning process every month so that you show up consistently.
Consistency is key to growing your business with content marketing.
Want to remember this? Save Build Your Monthly Content Planning Process to your favorite Pinterest Board.