I’m a planner. I have been since I was little. My school planners were immaculate. Dates and pages were tagged in color-coordinated tabs and tasks were highlighted accordingly. Those planners were a thing of beauty. But not everyone likes to plan in advance. And that’s fine, but starting a new year, do you have a game plan for blog posts, social media contests and email newsletters? Are you starting to feel a little overwhelmed. Take a deep breath, because now is the perfect time to get ahead with a content calendar.

What is a content calendar and why do you need one?

Your content calendar will keep you organized all year long. Sounds too good to be true, right? It’s not. You can easily create one within a few hours. But I want to be upfront and honest with you. Whether you write your ideas down on paper or in an Excel document (I recommend the Excel option) you need to block out at least 2 hours of time to devote to planning. You’ll need to sit down and really focus on what content you want to promote for the coming year. Now, depending on your industry, this will either be really easy, or somewhat difficult. Food and fashion are always changing so there is a plethora of topics to talk about all year long. If your business is more seasonal, you’re going to have to get creative to come up with blog posts or social media campaigns during those slower months.

Where do you start?

Much like starting your new, healthy lifestyle for the new year, the jumping off point is always the hardest. An easy way to get started is to open a new excel document and type out the months of the year across the document. Then break down which areas of your content marketing need the most organizing. Your blog, email newsletters and social media networks are some basic areas to cover. However, don’t limit yourself to just those few categories. The second and most helpful thing to do is look back at the last year. What did you write about each month? What contests did you run and when did you run them? Were they successful? Should you run them again? Look at what you posted on Facebook and LinkedIn. Did you host any company events or seminars? Do you want to plan more for 2015? These are all things to take into account when filling in your content calendar. Planning this far in advance also allows you some time to play around with dates for social media contests or projects you want to start in the new year. Use your content calendar as a means to get ahead and stay ahead.

How do you come up with new ideas?

First comes starting your content calendar and figuring out what you need. Then comes the tricky part, figuring out what you’re going to write about. To really get the full use out of a content calendar you’re going to need to think of topics you want your blog posts or email newsletters to center around. The amount of work will vary depending on how often you blog or send out emails, but it’s still a tedious task. The best way to get started is to look and see what you’ve already done. For some businesses you’re always going to have to cover some of the same topics each year, it just comes with the territory. But you can always refresh content or add a new angle. Do you keep promoting the same products throughout the year? Look at the products or services you’re featuring and expand. What haven’t you talked about in a while? Don’t be afraid to go broad with your topics either. Sometimes going too niche limits the amount of ideas for new content. Going broader, while still giving your customers informative content, will help keep things fresh.

You completed your content calendar, now what?

So finally the painstaking process of organizing and coordinating your content for the next year is over, you’re more than welcome to help yourself to an alcoholic beverage (if you’re legal). But you also need to get to writing! Your content calendar only works if you do. Was that too cheesy? I’m doing my best to motivate you, ok? I can’t promise that your content calendar will make writing more enjoyable, but it will make it about 100 times easier now that you already know what you’re going to be doing.


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