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How To Make The Best Integrated Marketing Communications Campaign…

You’re pushing out new marketing campaigns on a monthly basis.

Sure, it’s bringing results in terms of direct sales and ROI.

Brand wise? There’s not much impact.

Brand awareness is notoriously hard to track. Small things add up over time, and it’s fairly unrealistic to expect that one campaign will cement you in the Hall of Fame for brands in your industry.

However, there is one thing that can nudge you closer to tons of brand recognition: an integrated marketing communications campaign.

In this guide, we’ll share:

  • What integrated marketing communications (IMC) is
  • Why IMC is important
  • A real-world example of an IMC campaign
  • How to draft an IMP plan

[Tweet “How to plan the best integrated content marketing communications campaign in the world with multiple teams.”]

Grab Your Free Integrated Marketing Communications Template Bundle

Before we get started, we’ve created a template bundle to help you implement your new integrated marketing communications plan.

You’ll get:

  1. An integrated marketing communications campaign proposal Word Doc template to help you get every stakeholder on board.
  2. A campaign execution and launch timeline Excel spreadsheet template to help you plan when your resources will complete the content within your project.
  3. A marketing workflow process checklist to help you translate content into efficiently delegable tasks your resources will execute.

Sounds great, right? That’s because it is. Better than that: it’s free.

Download your bundle now before we get into the full breakdown. It’s well worth it, and it will save you tons of time when turning your integrated marketing communications plan into action.

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What is Integrated Marketing Communications?

Integrated marketing communications is the strategy a business uses to make a brand experience and message consistent across several channels.

That might be across:

  • Social media
  • Press releases
  • Sales promotion
  • Direct marketing campaigns
  • TV and billboard ads
  • Radio commercials

The goal? To make your marketing messages consistent and portrayed the same throughout each channel.

The average person sees up to 10,000 marketing messages a day, but just 4% are positively remembered.

With an integrated marketing campaign, you’ll be a unified force to be reckoned with. Repetition is what makes people remember your ads. The more they’re exposed to a consistent brand message, the higher the odds of them remembering you and taking action.

It’s sometimes called an integrated marketing mix, for this reason.

Why Does Integrated Marketing Communications Matter?

Now that we know what an integrated marketing communications strategy is, you might have one question on your mind: “Why do I actually need one?”

There are tons of reasons.

The first: brand awareness and recognition. Increasing brand awareness is the top goal for B2B marketers, with over 86% saying it’s their main goal for the upcoming year.

It even beats educating customers and building credibility.

Your target audience will need to see your brand across several media channels between 5 to 7 times before they even remember your brand — never mind purchase off the back of that recognition.

An integrated marketing communications plan means your brand is consistent. If customers see the same brand messaging across several platforms, it can lead to average revenue increases of 33%.

See? Told you there were reasons to have one.

[Tweet “Your target audience will need to see your brand across several media channels between 5 to 7 times before they even remember your brand.”]

What Do IMC Campaigns Typically Include?

Wondering what an integrated marketing communications campaign needs to include?

Remember, this marketing strategy enforces a consistent message across various channels, platforms, and formats. That means a campaign usually includes:

  • Social media content for Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook
  • Content marketing assets, such as blog posts, case studies, and videos
  • Adverts, including social media ads, billboards, and direct mail ads
  • Visual assets such as logos, social media images, and infographics
  • Public relations content, such as press releases and brand statements

You’ll probably have several marketing teams working together to create an IMC campaign.

Everyone from your social media marketing team to your in-house graphic designers need to be briefed on what your brand message is, so they can create marketing collateral to showcase it in all its glory through their own channels.

What Stops IMC From Being Successful?

Unfortunately, not every integrated marketing communications strategy goes to plan.

Things can get lost in translation — and cause inconsistencies across platforms — when you’re making one of these mistakes:

  1. Silos between teams. A social media team thinks the brand message is different than the press team. Each works in silo without collaboration or communication. What happens? Inconsistencies.
  2. Lack of coordination between staff. Speaking of working across multiple marketing departments, all staff need to be coordinated. If teams are using different graphics, working on different timelines, or have different rules for how they engage with the public, it’ll cause issues.
  3. Weak knowledge of how different teams fit together. Got an advertising agency that has no idea on the part your product team plays in IMC? It’s a recipe for disaster. Everyone needs to know how each department works together to launch a single campaign.

What stops the success of an integrated marketing campaign?

A Real-World Example of an IMC Campaign

Want to see an integrated marketing campaign in action?

Drift is a textbook example.

They’re a B2B revenue acceleration platform, but instead of generic marketing campaigns, they made up the phrase “conversational marketing” and ran an ongoing integrated marketing campaign across various channels.

The start was a master guide about conversational marketing on their website, but that came alongside tweets, videos, and Facebook ads:

Drift Facebook ad

Even a standalone book cemented their position and authority on the topic.

What happened off the back of this integrated marketing campaign?

People started talking about it. The term “conversational marketing” was everywhere, and Drift squeezed the value out of it.

Their master guide has 500+ backlinks from over 300 different websites.

Drift and conversational marketing

Drift also takes the top spot for the keyword “conversational marketing” — a term searched by 500+ people per month. That’s not including any keyword variations, of which there are hundreds.

How to Draft Your Integrated Marketing Communications Plan in 6 Simple Steps

We know what a good integrated marketing communications plan looks like and the downfalls to avoid when creating yours.

Speaking of which, now’s the perfect time to draft your IMC strategy.

Your plan will include three, key parts:

  1. A creative brief outlining why you’re taking on this project, the audience you’re targeting, the verbiage you’ll use to attract those folks, and more foundational elements that will help your team understand the purpose of the campaign.
  2. A content and promotion campaign timeline that outlines the phases of work completed toward the ultimate publish date. This helps you understand when your cross-functional team will complete the work for each piece of content within the campaign.
  3. A human resources plan your campaign needs to be successful. This includes the names of the individuals you’ll need to pull from other teams to get your IMC campaign completed.

Sound daunting? Don’t worry; it’s easier than it sounds.

The benefits of doing this give you a solid starting point for a conversation with your manager to get campaign approval, which you can take to the other teams’ managers and get their approval.

Let’s dig in.

1. Write Your Campaign’s Creative Brief

Regardless of what type of digital marketing activity you’re planning, the first thing to nail down is the why.

Simon Sinek literally wrote a book about it.

Ask yourself:

  • Why are you taking on this campaign right now?
  • Why will it be successful?
  • Why will your audience prefer your campaign on this topic compared to your competition (i.e. how will yours be better)?

Anything you can do to back up those answers with your own data will help you prove why your team should take on this project right now. It’s easy to think things are important when they  really aren’t. Data can’t lie.

The most effective way to do this? By citing how your new campaign idea reflects qualities from the most successful projects you’ve already launched.

You can do this by:

  1. Setting Goals in Google Analytics.
  2. Tracking which pieces deliver the highest number toward those goals with a Google Analytics Custom Report.
  3. Analyzing the qualities within those successful pieces to include content like them in your new campaign.

During this planning stage, you’ll also want to create a project brief. This document outlines key details of your new campaign, including:

  • Your target audience: Keep it simple; this could be, “{Audience title/role} who have issues with {insert challenge}.” If you’re feeling the pressure from office bureaucracy for a little more polished understanding of your target market, use this free template to create your own persona and include it in your campaign plan.
  • Campaign goal: While you based this campaign on ideas you know have already been successful, this goal isn’t necessarily about laying out the “numbers” of what your campaign will generate — though you could include that in your campaign plan, too, if your business needs the data. Instead, write what you aim for your audience to experience. For example, “Attract the right kinds of {audience title/role} who will be interested in {company name’s} {product/service}.”
  • Call to action: One clear call to action per piece gives your audience way fewer distractions. For your integrated campaign, that likely means the same call to action across all pieces. This could be “sign up for your free demo” or “start your 14-day free trial.”

Now that we have the foundations laid, let’s move onto the actual messaging.

The key is to nail the language your audience uses to describe the challenges they face, which your new campaign promises to solve.

[Tweet “The key to messaging is to nail the language your audience uses to describe their challenges.”]

At CoSchedule, we call this framework “talking points” or “speaking points”.

It’s an exercise to help you connect the dots between what you want to market, and what your audience cares about — stopping any campaigns from missing the mark.

There are several ways to uncover your audience’s voice:

  • Audience and/or customer user surveys: Comb through customer surveys to understand the actual words people use to describe their challenges. Use a marketing tool, like Typeform or SurveyMonkey, to do this, asking one simple question: “Why did you hire/choose {company name}?” Open-ended questions give your audience the freedom to describe the why, which gives you the literal words they use — making for excellent marketing copy.
  • Blog post comments: If you publish blog posts, your audience likely leaves comments through your comment system, like Disqus. Those are GOLD for you to respond back and ask why they found the information helpful. Use their words in your marketing copy.
  • Social media interactions: When someone shares your content or mentions you, you have the opportunity to respond. In that response, you can ask, “Why?” Why did they share? What challenge were they facing that your content helped them solve? Make a note of any sentences you see crop-up often.

By this stage, we know who our customers are, the goal of your campaign, and the language your target audience uses.

Now, it’s time to connect the dots.

Again, you’ll use another why-based framework. This time, focusing on why your campaign is important for that particular audience.

Let’s put that into practice. Say your campaign is based on a new service offering that integrates two frequently-used systems or applications. You want to sound like the annoying child that asks “why” after every. single. question.

Ask yourself:

  • Why does my audience care about this new service? Because {insert benefit they get}.
  • Why does my audience care about this {benefit from previous answer}? Because {insert benefit they get}.
  • Why does my audience care about this {benefit from previous answer}? Because {insert benefit they get}.
  • Why does my audience care about this {benefit from previous answer}? Because {insert benefit they get}.
  • Why does my audience care about this {benefit from previous answer}? Because {insert benefit they get}.

… you get the gist.

It’s kind of like a rabbit hole. You ask yourself, “Why?” Then you keep asking yourself, “Why?” to every answer you come up with.

To be honest, the example above with you only answering that question five times probably isn’t enough. You want to get to the emotional root here; the ultimate reason your audience will really care.

That emotion is what makes people see your marketing campaign and take action.

As you go through this process, you’re going to come up with common themes right away: they’ll save time and money.

The problem with stopping there is that every single company in the world makes those generic promises. How is your offering different? How is your offering better? What is the real reason your audience wants to save time or money?

Your goal is to come up with three to five emotional root benefits or reasons why your audience will love your product or service.

If your company produces a unique take on baked cookies, your root benefits might be:

  • Unique flavors
  • Healthy ingredients
  • Environmentally conscious

From there, you’ll draft speaking points in the form of three to five bullet points.

These bullet points should each be about two sentences long and include the language your audience uses as to attract an audience like the folks with whom you’ve already connected.

Finally, look up core and related keywords your audience uses to find content like you will publish. Using the same cookies example, that might be:

  • “Healthy cookies”
  • “Peppermint cookies”
  • “Eco-friendly dessert businesses”

This is a process in and of itself, so we recommend setting some time aside to read our master guide to keyword research. It’ll make this step 10x easier.

That’s it!

By this point, you should have a campaign creative brief that includes the following information:

  1. Overview
  2. Why do this campaign *right now*?
  3. Why will it be successful?
  4. Why will your audience love it?
  5. Your target audience
  6. The goal
  7. Call to action
  8. Speaking points
  9. Keywords

A Creative Brief Example From CoSchedule

Phew. That’s a lot to take in.

Grab your free creative brief template (the one that came in your kit that complements this blog post) to get started.

Then, follow along with this example, if you find it helpful.

Campaign Summary

An eCommerce research project intended to attract small business owners wanting to launch their own online store.

Details

  • Who is this for? Small business owners and “makers” that are currently selling on Etsy, farmer’s markets, etc.
  • What problem does this solve? {Brand} is finding it difficult to convince designers, makers, and small business owners of the benefits to creating their own webshops, rather than selling via Etsy. This report will provide {brand} with original data to use throughout the year and will highlight the benefits of setting up an eCommerce site.
  • What is the goal? The primary goal is to increase interest in using {brand} as the go-to eCommerce platform. This will help position {brand} as the best solution for setting up an eCommerce website. We will create a comprehensive research report that aims to convert 5,000 new paid users by the end of 2021.
  • How will we measure it? This report will be measured based on the number of new accounts generated from gated downloads.

Hypothesis

If we shed light on the increased rate of success by simply having an eCommerce site, makers will be more likely to use our platform.

Process

  1. Write survey questions
  2. Distribute survey
  3. Analyze data
  4. Write content for the report
  5. Design PDF
  6. Prepare promotion strategy
  7. Measure

Teams Involved

  • PR, Graphic Design, Social Media, Analytics, Content Marketing, Email Marketing, and SEO

Timeline

End of Q2 2021

Budget

$25,000

2. Plan Your Content, Promotion, and Resources

Remember how we mentioned that an integrated marketing communications team needs to work together across different departments?

At this point, you’ll plan how you use each department.

Simply start by looking at a list of all of the different types of content you could possibly include in your campaign. There are over 100 to choose from.

You can check out the complete list of content ideas. Literally copy them from that blog post and paste them into the “Content + Promotion Checklist” tab (column A) in your integrated marketing communications template spreadsheet.

Content promo tab

Now that you know all of the content you’ll create as part of the campaign, you likely have a pretty good grasp on whose help you’ll need to execute each piece.

Think of names and resources (both internal and external) of the folks who need to be involved.

Think of the executioners — the doers — on the Graphic Design, PR, Advertising, Digital Media, Social Media, Content, SEO, Product Marketing, and your team. Everyone with even a slight marketing aspect to their role should be considered.

Write those names in column B in the “Content + Promotion Checklist” tab in your template.

At this point, you’re just getting acquainted with who you’ll need help from to make your project successful. This gives you a framework to have a conversation with each of their managers to get their permission to borrow time from their talent.

Generally speaking, the more often a specific name pops up, the more involved they’ll need to be in the project.

Later, after you have the conversation with each team member’s manager, you’ll figure out how much time that person will need to contribute to make the project a success.

It’s a little early in the process to start with the math here, but knowing who you’ll need, and how much of an impact they’ll have on the project, is a good starting point.

[Tweet “Knowing who you’ll need, and how much of an impact they’ll have on the project, is a good starting point.”]

3. Create Your Campaign Workflows and Launch Timeline

The process to create each piece of content usually looks something like this:

  1. Write/Record
  2. Design
  3. Edit
  4. Proof/Approve
  5. Launch
  6. Promote

It goes without saying that every phase needs to be completed before launch — including prepping all of the promotional elements.

By this point, you know who needs to be involved in the content creation process, and it’s probably pretty obvious to you who you need in each phase for each piece of content: a writer for blog posts, a video editor for videos, and so on.

Generically speaking, map out when each phase of creation will be completed for each piece of content within your integrated marketing campaign.

You’ll use the “Campaign Timeline Map” tab in your integrated marketing communications template spreadsheet to plan all of this.

Example of a campaign timeline map

Some bonus tips to make this stage easier:

  1. Start with one piece at a time. Write the content idea in column A.
  2. Think of weeks and time in a generic sense right now. In the first week of taking on this specific piece, what phases will be completed? Start with column B (i.e. week 1) for all pieces for the moment.
  3. Match the team member name with a color, so you can easily see how much is on someone’s plate in a given week at a glance. This is optional, but it seriously makes things easier because you’ll never delegate too much to a single person to complete in a single week. Chances are, that would cause delays in the entire campaign execution process.
  4. Move the starting weeks of content creation to stagger the workload. You want this plan to be as realistically doable as possible. Simply copy every phase of content creation starting in column B (i.e. week 1) to the last column with execution in it and move it all back at least one week. You’ll stagger all of the content this way.
  1. Note: Execute the most important content first. That way, if things hit a delay or snag of some kind, you have the option of cutting less important things to still hit the main project deadline.

A Campaign Timeline Map Example

Wondering what this timeline looks like with data filled in?

Let’s take a look at an example campaign timeline, so you can see what this looks like in practice:

integrated marketing communications campaign timeline map example

You’ll note this looks different than your spreadsheet template.

We’ve made a few extra tweaks to make it even easier.

Each week is split into two columns, so you can see:

  1. Who needs to complete their work at the beginning of the week?
  2. Who needs to wrap up things at the end?

We’d also recommend using multiple rows for a single piece of content. This may be necessary as you work through two phases of content development at the same time for a single piece of content.

For example, you may be able to write emails while another team member schedules social media messages. Neither of these tasks relies upon one another to be completed first or second, so having different team members execute these at the same time will help you move through the campaign creation process faster.

Let’s face it, that’s what we all dream of doing.

Finally, think of your template as a framework — a starting point. Customize it as you see fit. Think it’d be useful to add an extra column? Go for it. Make this template your own.

4. Get Approval From the Talent’s Management

Now, for the hardest part of the entire integrated marketing communications campaign process.

You’ve already gotten approval from the marketing manager (yourself). Next, you need approval from other department managers to push forward with the campaign.

Getting higher-ups on board and on your side from the get-go makes collaboration easier among your co-supervisors and cross-functional teams as you begin executing. You’ll get their permission to lend time from their departments.

The good news? You’ve already done the hard work!

Now, it’s just time to show each of the cross-functional team members’ managers what you plan to do and set some expectations of what you’ll need from the talent.

Easy.

Start by scheduling a one-on-one meeting with each teams’ supervisor.

If one of these folks is a bureaucratic pest, their depressingly contagious opinions won’t infect the supervisors who’ll be cool with your IMC proposal. One-on-ones give you the opportunity to deflect that behavior on a person-by-person basis.

Set up 30-minute one-on-ones with the:

  • Graphic Design Lead
  • Head of PR
  • Advertising Manager
  • Multimedia Supervisor
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Manager
  • Social Media Manager
  • Head of Product Marketing

Yes, I know that’s three hours of meetings. I can hear you yawning on the other side of the screen, but it’s the best way to get everyone onboard.

[Tweet “Schedule 30-minute, one-on-one meetings with team supervisors to get everyone onboard with your campaign.”]

Follow this short agenda to stay on-track during these meetings:

  1. 5 minutes: Show your creative brief. This is high-level stuff. Begin by saying, “To start, I simply want to fill you in on why we’re taking on this project.” Then literally walk them through the creative brief.
  2. 5 minutes: Show the content and promotion checklist. After they have an understanding of why you’re tackling this campaign now, they will likely want to know what you need help creating. Showing off the checklist immediately after the campaign overview gives your co-supervisors a quick overview of every piece of content you plan to publish as part of the project.
  3. 5 minutes: Gather content and promotion feedback. Chances are, your co-supervisors have feedback the moment they see all of the content you plan to create for the campaign. Give them the opportunity to provide it. Do not push back at this point, but play the role of a listener. You’re asking to use their resources to execute these projects; therefore, they likely have domain expertise on certain pieces you can learn from.
  4. 5 minutes: Show your campaign timeline map. Since the timeline map breaks down when you expect specific team members to complete phases of content development, it makes sense to show this to your co-supervisors after they see the general content and promotion checklist. This is ultimately the biggest part of the meeting; it demonstrates how often you’ll need to tap into your co-supervisors’ resources.
  5. 10 minutes: Gather feedback on the campaign timeline map. Your co-supervisors likely have experience with specific content workflows, the amount of time it takes to complete each task, and so on. Gather that information now, so you can break each piece of content into easily delegable, task-based workflows you’ll use to kick off the campaign. You’ll learn more on that in a bit.

How to have a successful meeting

Your goal is to leave the meeting with two things:

  1. An actionable to-do list of optimizations you’ll make to the campaign’s creative brief, content and promotion checklist, and timeline map based on each supervisors’ feedback.
  2. Your yes: Confirmation that if you proceed forward with the planned optimizations, you will get the resources you need from each supervisor to complete the IMC campaign. At the end of your meeting, ask, “If I incorporate the feedback you suggested, will you support this campaign and provide the resources we need to make it successful?”

Get your “yes,” then end the meeting. Simple as that. No time-wasting here.

5. Break Each Piece Into Delegable, Task-Based Workflows

Each piece of content within your integrated marketing communications campaign needs a workflow.

In basic terms: you’ll break each piece of content into clear tasks you’ll assign to individuals.

Here’s a quick overview of how to break down a single piece into delegable tasks. You’ll follow this process one time per every piece in your campaign:

  1. List every step that needs to be completed before you’d consider the piece complete. Don’t limit yourself at first; write down everything — including writing, designing, promoting, approvals, and anything else you typically do to execute a piece like this.
  2. Cross out the steps you don’t need to do. Nobody likes extra work. Delete the tasks that:
    • Belong in other workflows.
    • Have always been done simply because you’ve always done them that way, but don’t necessarily make the content any more successful.
    • Are outdated.
    • Exist purely to serve office bureaucracy.
  3. Combine similar steps together into single tasks. For example, if you listed something like “Write the content” and “Write the headline” as separate steps, you can now combine them into a single task to assign to a single person: “Write the content”. At this point, write what the definition of this task’s completion is and set your expectations. For example, “This task involves writing the body copy, headlines, and {insert expectation}.” These things must be complete before checking the task as complete because this is now the definition of “done”.
  4. Determine who will complete each task. Reference your content and promotion checklist to see the list of names involved in the project. Assign those folks specific tasks with definitions of what “done” means.
  5. Figure out how long it will take to complete each task. Your meetings with the talents’ supervisors gave you the opportunity to discuss workflow and time involved in content production. Use that information here to provide enough time to complete each task. Alternatively, you could informally ask your talent for their input on how long they’d estimate it would take them to complete each task to make your due dates as realistic as possible, or look in your time tracking software for historical data. Tons of options.
  6. Plan the due dates for each task  starting with the last task in the workflow: How many days before publication should it be due? From there, you can map backward from the last task in the list to the first to know when you will start working on the piece. You can also use your campaign’s timeline map to help you understand when to assign tasks, since you’ve already mapped the phases of content production for each piece, generally speaking.
  7. Delegate each task to a specific team member with a clear due date. There are three things to get right:
  1. Notify each team member of every task they own the moment you assign them.
  2. Remind each team member before the task is due, so they have the opportunity to complete it on time, if they haven’t already started.
  3. Give them a method to collaborate and communicate with others executing the project (NOT via email, where things get lost).

CoSchedule’s task templates feature is built specifically to help you do this extremely efficiently.

Here’s how:

Once you’ve put all your tasks into the project. Simply turn it into a task template.

CoSchedule task template

It’s ready for you to re-use for every future project. No more time wasted planning due dates and delegating tasks. It does all the work for you.

Implementing task templates

6. Execute and Keep Everything On Track

Boom! You’ve got your integrated marketing communication ducks in a row. The only thing left is to execute your plans and turn your campaign into reality.

To do this, we recommend using the Marketing Campaigns in CoSchedule.

With it, you’ll be able to:

  1. Plot out every publish date for every piece.
  2. Create workflows for every piece.
  3. Automatically notify each team member of every task they need to complete.
  4. Automatically remind each team member they have tasks to complete before they miss their due dates.
  5. Collaborate on each piece of content within your campaign without overwhelming email strings or lost Slack threads. No extra communication tools needed — unless you really wanted them.
  6. Give every stakeholder one place to see everything.

Talk about making things easier.

It’s Time to Push Forward With Your IMC Campaign

There’s no doubt that an integrated marketing communications program can work wonders for brand awareness and recognition.

The more you talk about your brand message in various formats and through different marketing channels, the more people will recognize you.

These steps are designed to help you draft your next IMC campaign. Start with the brief, plan your content, and involve the people you need to make it a multichannel success.

You’ll soon start to see the value of a cross-channel brand campaign.

This post was originally published on May 28, 2019. It was updated and republished on January 14, 2021.

The post How To Make The Best Integrated Marketing Communications Campaign In The World With Multiple Teams appeared first on CoSchedule Blog.

Content

The Best 2021 Content Calendar Template to Get Organized…

Here at CoSchedule, we follow the philosophy of planning your work, then working your plan.

And for content creators, there’s no better organizational hub than a well-planned content calendar.

When your entire strategy is planned out on one calendar, it’s easier to keep organized, focus on deadlines, and be more productive.

Now that we’re deep into the 2021 marketing planning season, you’re thinking about your strategy for the new year.

In fact, we’d be willing to bet at least one of these describes your current situation:

  • You’re starting to plan out your content marketing strategy for the new year. Working ahead is working smart.
  • You’ve made the resolution to get more organized. You’ll thank yourself for that decision later.
  • Or, maybe you’re flying by the seat of your pants, wishing you had a tool that could corral your content. If so, you’ve come to the right place.

In any scenario, a content calendar should be a key piece of your organizational strategy.

There’s a reason major publishers use editorial calendars to plan content throughout the year. Content marketers should follow their lead.

In this post, we’ll show you how to build one and keep it full all through 2021.

[Tweet “The Best 2021 Content Calendar Template to Get Organized All Year”]

Download Your 2021 Content Calendar Template + Bonus Resources

Build your entire content calendar and schedule everything at the best times with these templates and guides:

  • 2021 Content Calendar Template to map out your content all year long.
  • Email Calendar Template to plan and organize every send.
  • Social Media Editorial Calendar Template if social media marketing is your sole focus.

Snag your templates now, and then read on to learn how to use ’em.

[content_upgrade_shortcode]

What is a Content Calendar?

There are a lot of different types of marketing calendars out there.

You might see them called a “blog calendar,” or a “social media calendar,” or an “editorial calendar.”

Their basic purpose is the same no matter what they’re called, though.

For the purposes of this post, here is the definition we’ll work with:

A content calendar can be anything used to plan, schedule, and organize content and other marketing projects.

Here are three common types of content calendar:

  • Printed calendars. This is the old-school hardcopy solution.
  • Spreadsheets. Excel and Google Sheets can be cost-effective tools for building marketing calendars.
  • Apps. This includes premium tools, like CoSchedule.

Three different types of content calendars

Can You Show Me an Example of a Content Calendar?

If you’re still hesitant or confused about what your content calendar is supposed to look like or what it accomplishes, here’s a great example:

Content calendar example

This is what your content calendar template will start to look like before you add color coding and further ideas/tasks/projects.

CoSchedule's color-coded content calendar

You’ll notice several things about this content calendar, which was created through CoSchedule:

  • Color-coding. Every type of content and project can have a consistent color. Blog posts, email newsletters, webinars, social media campaigns, and podcast episodes each have a corresponding color to make it easy to tell different kinds of content apart from each other.
  • Marketing Campaigns. The color bands at the bottom indicate Marketing Campaigns. This is a feature in CoSchedule that allows you to place multiple related parts of a project or campaign into one folder. Clicking one of these will create a filtered view showing only the items associated with that project.
  • Filters. These can be used to filter content on the calendar by type, team member, tag, color label, and more.
  • Content. These calendars are inclusive to a variety of content.
  • Visualization. There are many visual aspects to content calendars, so the whole team can easily view upcoming deadlines, and who is working on what.

Keep in mind that you can view social media messages, too. Here’s what the calendar looks like when you choose to view them:

CoSchedule calendar with social media posts visible

Even if you’re just using a spreadsheet for your calendar instead of an upgrade, like CoSchedule, you can still replicate some of this functionality. If these calendar features appeal to you, maybe it’s time to move up from a spreadsheet content calendar to a CoSchedule content calendar, so all of these benefits are available to you.

Why Should I Use a Content Calendar?

The easiest answer is because “winging it” doesn’t work. If you don’t have a plan, you’ll end up wasting time you could be spending being productive.

That much is nearly guaranteed — if you don’t keep organized, you’ll be less likely to succeed.

Using a calendar makes it easier to plan out what you’ll be doing in the future; this could mean a week, a month, or however far ahead you’d like to plan ahead. You could even plan your content marketing efforts for an entire year, like we’ll show you in this post.

Just think about this: when you plan ahead for your future content, the likelihood of your content being significantly better is astronomical. This is because you have more time to research, draft, and add finishing touches to your final product.

Once you get your calendar built out, you’ll be able to:

  • Hit deadlines more easily and hold yourself accountable for getting stuff done. Being able to visualize these deadlines on your content calendar makes this a walk in the park.
  • See everything you’re working on in one place. Blog posts, social messages, events, email newsletters, podcasts, videos — whatever you’re busy creating.
  • Think strategically about the content you’ll create. For example, instead of scrambling at the last minute to create content around a major holiday, you can plan for it ahead of time.

Your team will also be able to quickly see what everyone else is working on and when — making collaboration simple.

For an example of what a calendar can do for your content, take a look at what ON24 was able to accomplish in a short period of time once they started using CoSchedule:

CoSchedule blog output for one month

That’s a significant increase in publishing volume. They were also able to:

  • Provide their team with full visibility into all content and social media projects. Eliminating ambiguity improves content collaboration.
  • Hit deadlines more consistently. That means less stress, more efficiency, and better work.
  • Increased blog traffic by 98% over a 2-year period, and specifically increased organic traffic by 1,412%. Those are incredible numbers, and numbers don’t lie.

Michael Mayday's review of CoSchedule

How to Use Your Content Calendar Effectively

Now, let’s get into the nuts and bolts of content calendar planning.

To begin planning your editorial calendar, start with at least two week’s worth of content.

If you want to leverage your calendar to its fullest though, you’ll plan out as far ahead as you reasonably can. That means allocating space for holidays, seasonal events, and other calendar items you know are going to eventually crop up.

Selecting Your Content Channel

Before we get too much further, figure out which content channels and types you’re currently creating, and plan on creating this year.

This could include:

  • A blog or regularly updated website content. This is likely the bread and butter behind your content marketing strategy.
  • Social media. Determine which networks you’ll use to promote your content.
  • Email. According to Campaign Monitor, it’s 40 times more effective than social media for customer acquisition.
  • Podcasts. Don’t know how to start one? We’ll show you.
  • VideoVideo marketing is growing in importance, and you can use your calendar to plan every shoot.
  • Print magazines, brochures, or newsletters. The print world is changing, but it’s not going away anytime soon.
  • Anything else you’re working onIf it’s a marketing project, you can organize it on a calendar.

Make a list, so you can lay it all out.

Social media calendar template

Creating Content Themes

Since we’re talking about year-long planning here, it makes sense to discuss seasonal content. If you know you’ll have particular holidays, sales events, or other times of year requiring special promotion, plan that out on your calendar.

Start by breaking down these kinds of events into categories. These could include:

  • Holidays: Are there any holidays that are relevant to your business?
  • Peak buying seasons for customers: Are certain times of year better for your business than others?
  • Times of year that have particular importance in your industry: This could include events that have an impact on your business.
  • National Days: National days are a great way to mix up your usual content.

Next, consider creating monthly themes for your content.

You know how magazines sometimes focus issues around one central topic? You can do that for your content and other marketing initiatives too.

A theme could be any broad topic you’ll create multiple pieces of content about during a given month.

You don’t need to strictly limit yourself to your themes, of course.

However, using themes can make it easier to brainstorm content ideas (since you’ll have a target to think around) and help your audience know what to expect from you month to month. They can also help you build authority around particular topics, helping you become known as a go-to source for that particular information.

Brainstorm Content Ideas

Before you can fill your calendar, you’ll need ideas to plan around. You’ll need a lot of ideas, and you’ll need them fast, too.

That’s where our simple brainstorming process comes in.

Here’s how it works in three parts:

  • Spend ten minutes writing down every idea that pops into your head. Don’t worry if they’re good or not just yet. What’s important is getting your ideas down on paper.
  • Spend another ten minutes scoring those ideas on a three-point scale. 3’s are great ideas, 2’s need more refinement, and 1’s are duds. You’ll likely end up with more 1’s and 2’s than 3’s, but that’s okay.
  • Spend ten more minutes choosing which of your 3’s you’ll create or implement. These are the best of your best ideas.

Add a day and time on your calendar to run through this process once a month, and you’ll always have enough ideas to keep your content marketing machine moving forward.

Brainstorming ideas for your content calendar

Setting Your Publishing Schedule

When it comes to finding the right and wrong time to post anything, a lot of research is usually involved. Fortunately, we have conducted that research for you. Every platform functions differently, and no day of the week is the same in terms of when people check their inbox.

Scheduling Blog Posts

The blog posts you create mean nothing unless people actually see them.

In order to prevent your best blog post from flopping because it got buried at the bottom of the barrel before anyone could see it, reference these optimal publishing days and times.

Optimal publishing days

This graphic shows that Tuesdays are the best days for publishing your blog posts because this is when they typically get the most social shares.

Optimal publishing times

As for timing, the average results for the most pageviews and social shares come between the hours of 9–10am. Try out this timing and see how it works for you!

Scheduling Email

It’s important to keep timing and frequency of sending emails in mind, too.

Optimal email publishing times

The last thing you want to do is annoy your prospects with too many emails in their inbox. You also don’t want to be sending them emails when they’re most busy because then they’ll completely miss your reach.

Don’t forget to include an option for your lists to opt out of emails, in case the subscription isn’t working for them.

Scheduling Social Media

In order to get a better understanding of your promotions, list out the different platforms in which you plan to post your content, then figure out how often you want to publish on each platform.

How often to post on social media

Adding Ideas to Your Calendar

After you have a solid idea of what your content is about and when you’ll be publishing it, you need to add those ideas to your content calendar.

Adding ideas to your content calendar

Don’t be afraid to move them around if it isn’t working out. That’s the great thing about having your own content calendar: you can do whatever you need with it in order to make your ideas fit in with the rest of your calendar.

Implement a Consistent Color-Coding Scheme

A color-coding scheme can help quickly identify content on your calendar.

You can color-code your calendar any way you’d like. However, a successful scheme should incorporate the following elements:

  • It should be agreed upon by everyone who will be using the calendar. Everyone should know which colors refer to which types of content.
  • It should be consistent. If you decide Twitter messages are always highlighted in green and your graphic designer’s tasks are always in blue, it’s important to keep that straight. Otherwise, you can run into confusion and missed deadlines.
  • It should be simple. Try to use only as many different colors as you need.

[Tweet “Here’s everything you need in a content calendar.”]

Here are a few different ideas for laying out color-coding schemes:

  • By campaign. If you’re creating campaigns that span multiple channels, then color-coding each piece of that campaign can make it easier to see when each piece will be publishing.
  • By theme. Similar to color-coding by campaign, if you’re creating content across channels around a theme, it can be helpful to see each piece that belongs to that theme at a quick glance.
  • By team member. If certain team members have content or tasks they’re responsible for; this can help them see everything they need to get done, and when.
  • By channel. If you’d prefer, you can also color-code content based on channel (ex: all Facebook posts in blue, all YouTube videos in red, all blog posts in orange, etc.).

If none of these ideas work, you can always come up with one of your own, too. Here’s what your calendar might look like once you’ve added some content to your color scheme:

Additional color coding on the calendar

 

Do This With CoSchedule: CoSchedule has built-in color coding functionality, called Custom Color Labels, to keep your scheme consistent.

Developing a Process for Managing Your Calendar

Example of the Team Management Dashboard in CoSchedule

If you’re working on a team, it’s helpful to have one person be in charge of project managing the calendar. Of course, you can have team members add their own stuff, and make them responsible for hitting their deadlines. However, having one person keeping an eye on everything can be helpful.

Your calendar owner should be responsible for determining:

  • Who will manage the calendar
  • Who will have access to the calendar
  • Which projects go on the calendar
  • How often the calendar will be updated
  • It would be helpful to your whole team if you scheduled monthly or quarterly content planning meetings, so everyone stays in the loop about your calendar.

Calendar owners should also be giving team members a nudge if their projects are nearing a deadline and ensuring the timing and planning of content and marketing initiatives makes sense.

Your calendar should be your single version of truth. If it’s on your calendar, it should be an actual project that you’re really going to create, and it should be tied to.

Finally, owners need to throw a red flag if something looks off. If something doesn’t look right, it’s this person’s job to call it out. This person can be anyone on your team who is suited for this task.

[Tweet “Who should be in charge of managing your content calendar?”]

Make 2021 Your Marketing Team’s Most Organized Year Yet With CoSchedule

Ready to try CoSchedule? Start with your free 14-day trial.

You’ll get to test all our features yourself to see if it’s the right content calendar platform for you.

Regardless of which tool you choose though, we hope this is the year you get more organized and produce better work than ever.

Now go out there and do better marketing with your new content calendar.

This post was originally published on December 11, 2019. It was updated and republished on December 2, 2020.

The post The Best 2021 Content Calendar Template to Get Organized All Year appeared first on CoSchedule Blog.

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