A Content Calendar is a critical planning tool to help you build a roadmap in your content marketing strategy and execution plan.
If you’re a business owner or digital marketer, you likely know all about the immense power of valuable and meaningful content. It helps build brand awareness, credibility, and authority. It also helps boost organic website traffic and convert website visitors into loyal customers. The best part is the great content continues to drive traffic and generate revenue even years after it’s been published.
Nevertheless, not everyone who publishes great content achieves exceptional success. Many beginners often make the mistake of randomly churning content without any research and foresight. They often don’t have a well-defined content plan that outlines when and what they should publish. Consequently, they fail to hit the right chord with their target audience.
If you want your content marketing efforts to succeed, you need a rock-solid content strategy. Additionally, you must develop a lucid content calendar that outlines your publishing schedule. What confuses most novice marketers is whether they should start with a content strategy or a content calendar. Let’s find out.
What is a Content Calendar?
A content calendar summarizes the timeline for publishing various content assets across different distribution channels. In other words, it defines the publishing and distribution schedule for various content assets you wish to create. It also assigns specific responsibilities to different members of your content team. Additionally, it outlines how you’re going to repurpose content across different channels.
There isn’t a universal format for creating a content calendar. However, it should include the topic, author/creator, format, and distribution channel for each asset. Here’s an example:
Image via Buffer
The biggest benefit of a calendar is that it helps you monitor the content production process. It outlines the topics you’ll be working on, when you’ll be publishing content assets, and where you’ll distribute it. This, in turn, lets you create a backlog of top-notch content and maintain a consistent publishing frequency.
However, content marketing isn’t just about listing a bunch of topics and assigning a publishing date to each. For instance, if a topic doesn’t resonate with your audience, your content won’t garner plenty of traction. Likewise, if you publish content on Twitter while your audience prefers to use Instagram, it won’t yield the expected outcome.
You need a deep understanding of your marketing objectives and target audience before designing your publishing calendar. This is where a content strategy steps into the picture.
What is a Content Strategy?
A content strategy defines what content you’ll create and how you’ll promote it to accomplish your marketing objectives. It helps you identify the topics, content formats, and distribution channels to connect with your target audience and achieve your goals. In other words, it steers your content plan and calendar in the right direction and ensures that they align with your end goals.
A content strategy lets you monitor how various content assets are performing. This, in turn, helps you calculate the ROI of your content marketing plan and determine whether it is successful. Additionally, it is instrumental in the judicious allocation of resources and capital. It also helps you create conversion-focused content for each stage of the sales funnel.
Typically, developing a content strategy involves the following steps:
- Content audit
- Goal setting
- Audience research
- Budget allocation
- Keyword research
- Topic identification
- Content calendar creation
- Content production
- Monitoring & measurement
If you want to create content that addresses the needs and pain points of your potential customers, you need a comprehensive content strategy. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 69% of the most successful B2B content marketers have a well-documented content marketing strategy.
Image via Content Marketing Institute
Content Calendar & Content Strategy: Understanding the Connection
It’s important to understand that a content calendar and content strategy can’t exist in isolation. You need a well-researched content strategy to ensure that your content calendar is on the right track. Likewise, a comprehensive content calendar is instrumental in implementing your content strategy and turning it into reality.
While the content strategy is the backbone of your marketing campaign, the calendar is its lifeblood. If you build a robust content strategy but fail to create a concrete calendar, you can’t maintain consistency. On the other hand, if you build a content calendar from scratch without a clear strategy, your content won’t get traction.
What Comes First?
The right approach is to build your content strategy first. Define your goals and KPIs, identify your target audience, and select the most relevant keywords. Make sure you have a deep understanding of your audience’s ambitions, struggles, spending habits, etc. Next, create a list of topics that’ll resonate with your audience and identify their preferred communication channels.
Thereafter, you can start outlining the content calendar. Determine the optimal publishing frequency and distribution schedule. Once you start publishing content, make sure you monitor its performance and adjust your calendar accordingly.