Pre-Requisites of Content Planning
What are the pre-requisites of content planning? It’s a question I’m all too often asked – what needs to be gathered or prepared before starting content planning. My recommendation is to gather any information that will help you understand your company and your audiences. This is considered your pre-requisites of content planning, and should be done before any content strategies or tactics are even considered.
Understand yourself (or your company) well
Knowing your company well doesn’t mean that you have to know everyone in the company or have been with the company for a long time. Those are nice pluses. Rather, it’s about understanding your company values, brand DNA or brand personas, products and services. Pre-requisites of content planning include:
- Business objectives and goals: A company has annual business objectives and goals. If you work for a mid-size or a small company, it’s easy to figure that out. If your company is a big enterprise with several business groups and hundreds of products, you still need to know the overall company’s business objectives and goals, but focus on business objectives and sales goals of the business group you support.
Ultimately, your content plan needs to support the company’s strategic direction and contribute to the company’s success.
- Brand and style guide: Brand and style guides don’t just provide logo, color palette, textures and typeface requirements.
In some cases, it includes clues which depicts the essence of a brand by incorporating brand vision, brand personality, uniqueness of brand and its products.
All these cues will shape your copy and design of your content.
- Product messaging and value proposition: Most companies may not have a formal document about their product’s unique value propositions. The most effective way to figure it out is to contact the product marketing or product design teams.
Even if you get the information, it’s usually very product-centric. You will still need to tweak it so that it’s “audience-friendly” or “in Plain-English” as well as adjust it for various formats of content or different social media channels.
Another option is to sift through product marketing documents, existing marketing collaterals and websites to get a sense of the products’ value propositions.
- Product roadmap: Another piece of information is the timeline of product launches and holiday promotions. In general, these events are tied with business and sales goals. Content will be created to support various communications channels.
Understanding the timeline in advance will help you craft your content plan, even if the dates are subject to change.
Having a list of launches and approximate dates will guide content planning.
- Company’s owned, paid and earned channels: Content creators or subject matter experts have the tendency of creating content and letting the content take its own course. I believe that, if you create content, you are responsible for reaching out to necessary team members to promote that content. To do that, you need to understand appropriate communications channels that your company utilizes.
–Owned media: events (launch events, partnership events, sponsorships etc.), websites, microsites, communities, blog, company’s print magazine, webinars, social media channels, e-mail marketing, membership/loyalty programs.
–Paid media: TV, print, sponsorships, paid social media, ads, paid keywords, direct postal marketing, paid influencers, any paid promotional efforts
–Earned media: free media impressions such as sharing, viewing, liking and retweeting generated your followers.
Taking an inventory of your company’s promotion channels will help you determine the formats of content and the channels that you can utilize for your content promotion efforts.
Understanding yourself well is a good starting point for letting the world know about your products and services. However, our target audiences really don’t want to hear about “us”. They want to hear about themselves. They want to know what we can do for them.
Understand your audiences well
There are a lot of social, online listening and survey tools to help you understand your customers, but nothing beats listening and talking to them directly.
All the good, bad and ugly qualitative and quantitative data will help you paint a picture of who your ideal customers is, what they value, and how your solution fits into their daily lives.
That’s called buyer’s persona. Once you can clearly articulate your customers’ demographics, attributes, pain points, challenges and desires, you can map product benefits to their needs.
A persona makes your audience real for your internal teams and external agency partners. It drives messaging development and guides content creation.
Content marketing is about providing value and helpful information to your customers. The only way to do that is to understand who you are, what you can offer, who your customers are and what they need.
Content planning is about building a bridge between your company and your customers. It starts with understanding yourself and your customers well.