Content planning: no more searching for the straying sheep

Bouba Sow

Nowadays, communicating on social networks is an art in which content remains the master. Whether it is to attract new traffic, to engage with a web community or to interact with your fans and retain your customers…

Planning is the meat and potatoes of your content strategy

Planning is the backbone of your digital communications strategy. Building an active and faithful web community, and therefore ensuring the organisation’s online visibility and reputation, owes a great deal to editorial planning.

It serves as a roadmap for the weeks and months ahead, to make sure that your content is optimised to meet your organisation’s objectives and capably targeting the appropriate audience. It also ensures that each person involved in the online publishing process is working in concert.

In the case of an international organisation like CTA, many are the audiences to be addressed. Therefore, the voices, tones and key messages that need to be conveyed through online communications are manifold. In addition, CTA is constantly organising or linking up to activities and events in a myriad locations. In short, it is a constant challenge to keep our several audiences interested in our wide array of activities. This requires producing content that is original and compelling, and using all available formats (copy, images, graphics, vines, videos and animations) through all available channels (social media, websites, newsletters etc).

Are audience and key messages defined? Then, it is time for planning

Developing a planning of content can be a long process that transforms ideas and thoughts into concrete and operational elements. Engaging with rigor and method is a cost-effective way to approach this step.

There is consensus among content marketeers that solid plan starts with message architecture. This establishes a specific and shared terminology that guides content development across teams of colleagues and channels. Message architecture catalyses and brings together your organisational messaging (that is, messages that meet your organisation’s goals) with messaging that meets your audience’s goals.

Message architecture should obviously be developed based on your audience’s characteristics, behaviours and informational needs. Always remember your target groups : professional profiles, gender, geographical location, habits … Which message for which precise target ? What is the type of the message (Text? Pictures? Videos) ? Are my publications enough consistent to reach my targets?

Once you have established your audience and messaging, you can start to develop an editorial calendar. Here you will organise the main pieces of content you plan to produce and when they will be published. By adhering to this plan with reasonable rigor, it will be possible to produce all the desired content.

For my blogs, I usually prepare a monthly editorial calendar. To put it in place, I first need to find ideas for content. To do this, I always go through the agenda of CTA activities, its websites and I look in other relevant websites for upcoming events. I also pay attention to international days, especially when they are meaningful for the organisation. Then, I identify existing marketing products related to the content to be published. This takes time, but it is worthwhile in ensuring the content’s high quality.

Among the many available web-based tools for content management, Hootsuite, Social Bro and Sumall are the most commonly used and offer robust platforms not only to monitor the performance of your content but also to manage calendars and workflows. I use Hootsuite because it helps me saving time by scheduling hundreds of messages at once and by allowing me to manage various social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+) from a single dashboard.

A planning that fits like hand in glove

Ensuring that relevant events and topics are covered is much easier when tasks are outlined in a spreadsheet and assigned due dates. With a calendar, I can always have an aimed and broad provision of general and specific content to draw on. Another advantage of planning is that it allows me to always have a clear overview of the different contents that are being published, the channels used and the frequency with which they are published.

My advice is to also keep in mind that your web audience needs to easily find and absorb your content, exchange with you, and share in its various networks. Always be on the lookout for the needs of your audience based on the diversity of their profiles. Listening and being empathic are key for good planning – and for content management broadly speaking.

As mentioned at the beginning of this blog, your content remains the most important determinant of your online communication performance. Therefore, if it is not relevant, readable, findable and shareable, editorial planning will be useless.

Now that you know your audiences, your ideas of content, and that your schedule is set, create the message that will give the desired impact is another challenge. We need to create high quality content. I will delve into this in my next blog.

Copyright © 2016, CTA. Technical Centre for Rural and Agricultural Cooperation

CTA is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.