The other week I had a post on the Content Marketing Institute about how to develop an editorial calendar for content marketing. I was trading some tweets about this, and Beth Harte (via Serengeti Communications) asked me: “How can people stick to an editorial calendar when other work pops up?”
Ah yes, the realism of taking marketing theory and turning it into practice (execution is the tricky part!). As Beth aptly said, “writing isn’t scalable.”
It’s a fantastic question. There isn’t an easy answer to this question, but here’s how I think through the process.
Decide if the content is needed
Before you add something to your editorial calendar, ask yourself if this content will help you get closer to your business or marketing goals. For instance, I’ve talked with clients who are excited to write an eBook or a white paper. But, when I ask them how they are going to use this or what the call to action will be, they have no idea. Or, you hear people talk about starting a blog all of the time, but they don’t really have a specific plan for how it will help their business (not to mention how they’ll measure its success).
If a particular type of content isn’t going to play a key role in helping you get closer to your business goals (such as helping customers move through the buying process), chances are, you don’t need it.
Estimate the time requirement
Once you decide that certain content is needed, be realistic about the time and resources that will be required. I bet most of us have fallen into this trap of underestimating how long something will take (I know I have). For instance, I was talking to a client who was interested in starting a blog, and he estimated 20 minutes per post – no big deal!
Of course, for those of us who have blogged, we realize that the time commitment is far more – and it can quickly become overwhelming (and a burden) if we haven’t planned appropriately. Not only do you need to write a draft, but you also need to come up with ideas, edit it, get set it loaded, promote, answer comments, and, (occasionally) deal with technical difficulty.
I love this post from Mark Schaefer on his blogging process (and he’s someone who has this down to a science!) – it’s a thoughtful and time-consuming process when done well.
In short, be realistic. If you are new to a content project, think about how much time you think something will take and then double it (or even triple it). Then, think about how often you’ll need to repeat that process (Every day? Every week? Every month?). This will give you a good idea of how long something will take per month or quarter.
Say no to non-essential content
One of the best ways to make time in your schedule is to think about the activities that you are doing that are no longer needed.
I heard Mitch Joel speak at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum in May, and one his comments that stuck with me was this (and I’m paraphrasing): If you could start all over again with your marketing strategy, what would you do (and, implied in this – would you not do)? Take a hard look at what you have committed to doing, and see if there are activities that aren’t producing value.
(I know – this can be quite tough to do, especially if you are part of an organization who likes to do things as they have always been done, but it really is a worthwhile exercise.)
Once you have an idea of everything on your plate, you need to figure out how to get it done. I suggest prioritizing your content projects with your management. Of course, new projects and ideas will pop up, but if you can refer back to this list, and continually re-prioritize what you need to do. This isn’t a silver bullet, but having this kind of agreement across the team should help keep you on track.
One caveat to this: If you commit to doing something like an eNewsletter or a blog that requires frequent content, consider the content project as a whole instead of each specific post or issue (i.e. if you have a monthly eNewsletter, it’s not a good idea to say that it’s a priority to write the issue one month but not the next.) If you can’t commit to making this a priority long-term, my suggestion is to wait until you can.
It can feel overwhelming to think about all of the content you need to create. As I have referenced on Savvy B2B before, I love this content marketing plan from Russell Sparkman that provides suggestions on what you can do daily, weekly, bi-weekly, etc.
Use internal resources
Of course, you probably have many subject matter experts in-house who can provide assistance with content. As Daniel Burstein, editor of the Marketing Experiments blog explained, experts often take what they know for granted and don’t necessarily think this is something that is worth sharing.
Here are a few suggestions to capture this knowledge:
- Have a list of topics that you want your content to address, and circulate it with your experts. Again, focus on topics that will help you get closer to your business objective. You will likely have a lot of knowledge in-house that you can use.
- Interview your experts instead of asking them to write. This should save them substantial time - and make them more willing to help.
- Think about how you can use the content from the interview in multiple ways (it often comes back to repurposing content, doesn’t it?).
Of course, don’t overlook the possibility of outsourcing your content.. Yesterday, Joe Pulizzi had a great post that offers a number of reasons why companies can benefit from outsourcing content development. My favorite:
“Many will point out that outsourcing costs more than in-sourcing. When I used to sell custom publishing for Penton Media, we used to go into meetings with charts showing that, ultimately, clients would be spending the same or less if they really looked at all the resources they were employing. Do the math yourself.”
(And, for additional fodder for justification for outsourcing, check out Joe’s post about how multitasking makes you stupid.)
At the end of the day, once you decide that content is indeed needed, you simply need to commit to it – commit to publishing on a consistent basis and commit to doing it well (you never know how a customer will come across you – and you want every first impression to be as positive as possible).
If you are finding that you have problems following through or getting content created in a timely manner, go through this list again and ask yourself where the issue is: Are you working on too many non-essential projects? Is everything needed but you need to justify getting help?
I’d love your thoughts: what other ideas do you have keep up with the demands of content creation?
- Is Less Content Better? 5 Steps to Simplify B2B Content Marketing
- Are You Giving Your B2B Prospects Too Much Information?
- Creating "The Content Grid": Eloqua and JESS3 Share Insights into the Why and How
About the author: Michele is the Executive Editor of the Content Marketing Institute where where she works with a fabulous group of contributors who know a lot about content marketing. She's also a B2B content marketing consultant who has a passion for helping companies use content to connect with their ideal buyers. You can follow her onTwitter @michelelinn or read more of her posts on Savvy B2B.