Content Planning: How do you do it?

Excuse me if you’re here to read about toddlers, baking and cats. There’s plenty of that about, but sometimes one needs to talk of other things. Not cabbages and kings, though.

In fact, I’ve been thinking quite a bit recently about planning content.

In the last year, as well as creating content I’ve been increasingly planning, editing and scheduling posts from multiple sources. Combined with greater access to tracking tools that enable me to hone our output, this has meant that a more formal structure was needed than we’d used in the past. From January, I implemented my social content planner; it’s already gone through one iteration and will doubtless see further changes. It’s certainly already made me feel an even greater sense of momentum in my work, so it was definitely the right choice to go ahead with this.

I then got into some conversations about this on Thursday at a Charity Comms social media event where I was running a workshop on intermediate-level day-to-day Twitter use – mainly for newcomers to social media with limited time and many departments to appease. This last part obviously raised questions about the role within the organisation that a community manager holds – from digital department existence / status, to the attitudes of senior management towards digital media. Clearly that impacts  both content creation and planning, because other departments need to place value on what happens online in order for the organisations digital channels to be relevant and vibrant.

Following that, on Friday the subject of planning arose with Jack Ashman, and an interesting chat ensued about how complex or sophisticated planning should be, touching on things like the size of the department, number of content-creators and the nature of the platform being planned for – I mean, who hasn’t noticed that their communities on Twitter and Facebook act very differently from each other?

I’ve heard descriptions of every system, from ad hoc mental notes to complex three-month multi-departmental spreadsheets, and every one seemed appropriate to the budget, time resources and scale of the department or organisation. And that combination is great inspiration to get one’s own house in order.

So, really, what I want to ask, in the style of a certain fondant-filled chocolate egg, is: how do you do it? 

Is there, indeed, a perfect way?

Note that I’m not saying we shouldn’t track. In an ideal world, I’d have the time and resources to track more than I do, and I keep tweaking that to try and get more information to analyse. So it’s not that end of the process I’m thinking about really (obviously, the results from that will feed into the way that the content is actually entered into a planner, and that could have some influence on the way a planner is designed, but I suspect not a fundamental impact).

My system, which involves both a digital document and pencil and paper, works for me for now, but I know it’s going to have to keep evolving and being polished – though without me getting so attached to it that I lose the ability to flexible and spontaneous online; I’m a big fan of keeping a natural tone of voice, which is why I plan the content topics and not the posts, unless they’re requested and approved by another department (usually with our input). But in order to keep tweaking and adjusting, I’d love to hear some tips and links that are personally recommended, rather than drawn from hastily created ‘top ten’ posts that social media blogs are tiresomely littered with.

I’ve got to admit, all this planning and tracking talk really speaks to the part of my soul that arranges my DVDs alphabetically – thought separating out all those that can be grouped by director and putting those chronologically.

What? They’re easier to find that way…

Update: Thank you to Sarah Jackson for this post (also eventually came through as a comment below). I’ve already taken a couple of ideas from it for getting our blog tidied up and more regularly posted on!

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3 responses to “Content Planning: How do you do it?

  1. http://www.womankind.org.uk) so I do publications, media, brand etc as well as digital and lack of time is a constant problem. Our content for Twitter and Facebook is posted in an ad hoc way although I have got lists and alerts set up so I’ve got a pool of relevant external content to fish from. We’re too busy to produce all content ourselves but we have gained a good following through gathering and sharing international women’s rights news, particularly from news sites in the global South.

    My current challenge is planning posts for our blog. Luckily my colleagues seem happy to write interesting things for me, but juggling their project visits, current int dev news, our DM schedule and various UN ‘days’ can be a bit of a mission, and I feel we don’t always get to make the most of what we’ve got.

    The way we do our blog content planning at the moment is monthly planning meetings with a web working group including a rep from each team, a shared Outlook calendar with key dates and events in and a spreadsheet tasklist where I note down our ideas for posts and assign a deadline and an author. Then I add the post to the shared calendar and send the author an invite.

    When I have time to maintain it it works well, but when it slips because I’m busy there’s a bit of a bottleneck, so that’s what I’m trying to find a solution for at the moment.

    Would love to hear what others are doing! :-)

  2. This is such a great question – one I think many organisations face.

    I’ve been trying to experiment with something similar recently also… a (possibly-less-that-perfect) solution that’s working for now is to have a loose plan for that covers the months ahead (with regular team brainstorming sessions that help bulk this out). This then becomes more solidifed a week or so before things become live – as release dates are drawn forward or delayed.

    This allows stories and posts to move around to accomodate for the % of our news and blogs that are reactive. It also allows time for the ad hoc, unplanned or last minute requests of others.

    • alexandragoldstein

      Sorry I hadn’t had a chance to reply to this yet!

      I think allowing time for the ‘ad hoc, unplanned or last minute requests of others’ is the key, isn’t it? You can’t lose your flexibility, and you can’t become the stern Gatekeeper of the Internet (both counterproductive and a losing battle), but you do need some sense of momentum and knowing what’s coming up around the bend.

      Thanks very much for commenting – everyone I speak to that seems to be facing the same issues makes me feel like we all must be on the right track!

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