A simple step by step guide to building your best content calendar yet
Creating a content calendar has always been hard for me. I sit down to put the names of blog posts and social posts on a calendar and it never feels right.
The following approach simplifies how you can create a content calendar into two parts:
- Building your backlog of content ideas
- Creating the calendar
This technique works as well for a solo operator as it does a team of 10 or more.
Build your backlog of content ideas
You and your team should never have to guess what to write about. This technique will take the guess work out of what anyone should write next.
Once you know who you’re writing for, where they hang out, what kind of content to create, and what your audience wants to know, this is fun.
With pen and paper, write down every idea that addresses one of the things your audience wants to know. Don’t outline blog posts or videos – that's later.
Write a list of topics and high-level ideas your audience wants to know about. Take 10 minutes to do this. Go!
Consolidate and combine
After 10 minutes of furious writing and brain dumping, stop and collect all the ideas. Your hand should hurt.
Now it’s time to see how they compare, where they overlap, and where they can be combined or paired to make compelling content.
Take as much time as you need for this. This is important. You're turning these ideas into topics your audience wants. Each idea should address a problem or help a reader achieve a goal.
Write this out by hand or use Miro.com to work with a remote team.
Rewrite topics into headlines and build a new list of the ideas you’ll write about.
Don’t throw away the original list. Keep it so you can refer back to it whenever you need to come up with more topic ideas.
Outline your new topics
For each topic, create an outline by asking “How would I teach someone to do this?”
List the steps your reader needs to take to accomplish something or overcome a hurdle. If every piece you write educates and helps your audience make progress, your content will be a wonderful resource for a long time. Focus on giving your readers a path to success with each piece of content.
This list of steps becomes the outline for a new piece of content.
can I create a graphic to demonstrate this?
Your topics and subtopics are your content backlog
Congratulations! You created a content backlog.
If you use a project management tool like Trello, create a new card for each topic and subtopic. If you use a spreadsheet, add each topic and outline point to a new row in the sheet.
If you work with a team, you can assign each topic to a teammate or you can leave the list unassigned so whenever someone sits down to write they only have to look a the top of the list and know what they’re writing about.
This is the simplest way I’ve found to have a backlog ready for when I write.
Creating your content calendar
There are a few things to consider depending on the size of your team and your business ecosystem. For now, let's keep it simple.
How often do you want to publish?
Once a week? Twice a month? Whatever it is, start from the top of your content idea list add your topic ideas to your calendar. Done.
A few things to consider for Saas content teams:
- Release schedules: you’ll have to write and produce new content for releases. If you know when releases will happen, add them to your calendar. If release dates tend to move a bit (which they do, right?!) you can be flexible with your content schedule or stack release content on top of already scheduled content. I prefer to stack content.
- Events and seasonal stuff: Add big events and seasonal activities to your calendar. There’s always something to write about around big events, whether that’s promotional material or contests or “See you there” posts. And for seasonal stuff, don’t be afraid to use holidays as an excuse to have a bit of fun. Make a Christmas or Halloween video. Get people to fall in love with your product for Valentine’s Day.
Share your calendar with everyone involved
I like to keep the product, sales, support, channel, and dev teams in the loop on the content calendar, so I publish the calendar in a team space where anyone can have a look. Do they look? Probably not, but at least I gave'em a chance ;)
NB: I talk about “writing” despite suggesting in this post that you use video as your pillar content. Everything starts with writing, even video. Video work comes after you write and in the next post I’ll cover how to get started recording meaningful videos without a studio.