By now, we all know the important role that content plays in your marketing strategy. Ads are becoming less effective, so brands need to create original, meaningful and engaging content in order to achieve cut-through.

Yet time and time again we see companies that have a sincere desire to create content, but a poor (or non-existent) strategy for executing. Content creation becomes just another thing to check off the list among the endless number of other tasks we need to get through.

Companies end up producing content that is self-serving and doesn’t provide any value to their audience. They plough money into generic distribution and wonder why they’re not seeing any results.

The solution is to start thinking like a publisher.

For all the difficulties that the traditional publishing industry is experiencing, there are some key lessons for brands in terms of strategic content planning that they can implement to create better content and make it work harder for them.

Beat your ideas until they break

Traditional editorial meetings can be brutal. You bring your ideas to the table and everyone stress-tests them to see if they have value, and if they don’t, they are thrown away. Never leave your content ideation up to one person. Even if it’s their job to come up with all the ideas, you need input from others to see if they have merit. What is the purpose of the piece? What value does it provide? What do we want people to think after consuming it?

What action do we want them to take? And most importantly, will anybody care? If you can’t adequately answer all of those questions, that idea doesn’t deserve a space on your calendar.

Your content calendar is not optional

The same way your teachers told you not to leave your assignments until the last minute, good content needs time to become great. By all means, bang out a first draft of every article you need to create this month, but do it with enough time to let it sit for a few days. Then you can go back to each piece and review it with fresh eyes. You’ll be amazed how much room for improvement you can identify once you’ve had some distance. Then make sure you have others review it and provide feedback too, and preferably some people outside the marketing department. Now is not the time to be precious, take their feedback on board.

Content is a fast-paced game with a long-term view

The day-to- day pace in a publishing house is fast, and most newsrooms and editorial teams are making changes right up until deadline. The key is that they have the mental space to make those rapid adjustments because everything is planned out in advance. Your content calendar should stretch out at least six months in advance, and while you don’t need every detail mapped out, you should have an idea of what the big events are that happen each month, what that could mean for your product or service and how you are going to talk about it.

Do your content ideas lend themselves to serialisation, a great way to extend engagement over a longer time period? If you take a long-term view, you are more likely to come up with richer ideas that fit into an over-arching brand story and purpose.

You live and die by the numbers

Monthly circulation reports were met with the same mixture of excitement and terror that accompanies major sports finals. If you lost, you risk being benched. It is crucial that you take the time each month to analyse whether or not your content is effective and delivering results, otherwise you are wasting precious time, money and resources. If not, don’t be afraid to try something new to see if that delivers the results you need. It’s better than continuing down a path that isn’t working.

And if all of this seems like too much for your already over-stretched team? Then it’s time to call in the bright sparks and ensure it gets done right.

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