You’ve probably heard of content calendars before, and you have a sense that they’re a good thing to have around. But before we get into the merits of building and maintaining one, let’s take a step back and look at what they are.
What Is a Content Calendar?
A content calendar is a detailed, scheduled outline of the content you plan to create and when you plan to publish it. Depending on the resources available and the nature of your company, you may decide to create one on a monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis. It should clearly specify topics, product or asset tie-ins, calls to action, and other things you hope to accomplish with your content.
What a Content Calendar Is Not
A content calendar is not a list of topics you have saved on your desktop or a collection of post-its adorning your monitor. It’s not the conversation you had over beers with a co-worker the other night. On the other hand, it is also not exhaustive: outline what each piece of content should be about and what you hope it will do, but give your creators the freedom to create.
Why You Need One (and Why Your Agency Should Do It for You)
Reason #1: ‘Tis the Season
You know that shock you get when you walk into your preferred retailer/grocery store/drug store sometime during the first week of November? You used to be able to beeline it to the toilet paper or milk, but now you have an obstacle course of Christmas wonderland to contend with. Businesses do this for a reason—imagine how much money they would lose if they waited until December 23rd to promote their stocking stuffers.
Having a content calendar gives you the same opportunities. For example, you know exactly when to start publishing blogs and doing remarketing coupon campaigns on your holiday pet products to drive foot traffic to your stores. You know that sometime between March 15th and April 5th, you need to start writing ad copy for the Cinco de Mayo party products your client sells. Customers need several touchpoints to convert, and you have to account for shipping time—if you wait too long, you’re going to sell squat.
And content calendars don’t have to be limited to holidays. With the right plan, you can sync off- and online marketing efforts for that college bowl game you sponsor well in advance of the kick-off. You can create and publish content around seasonal trends in your industry, company events and promotions, news of the day and current goings-on (think Twitter and the legendary Super Bowl Oreo tweet), etc.
Reason #2: It’s the Gift That Keeps on Giving
Creating your first content calendar takes a lot of effort. But once it’s done, you have a full vault to draw from in the future. So, next holiday season you can repurpose a blog that performed well by turning it into an infographic. You can go through the previous list of summer wedding ideas, seeing which ones are still popular and which have morphed into new trends. Your creative team (or your agency!) can easily start spinning new themes and approaches off the old ones, making planning even easier and saving everyone a collective headache.
Much like the Jelly of the Month Club, a content calendar is the gift that keeps on giving the whole year. (That was a holiday movie reference—props if you know it.)
Reason #3: It Doesn’t Let You Forget
Savvy consumers know that holiday shopping is not to be trifled with. Because your friends and family are counting on you, you make a list, and you check it twice to make sure you didn’t forget anyone. Maybe you know exactly what you want to get each person on your list, or maybe you’ll know it when you see it. The point is—you have a plan. People who go into holiday shopping without a plan are the ones whose friends and family have learned not to expect very much from. Don’t be that person.
So one way to think of a content calendar is to imagine that your products and events are your siblings or close friends: Having a plan means you won’t forget to promote any of them when the time comes.
Or, if holiday shopping really isn’t your thing, think of it like your commitment to getting in shape: Just as crossing off days on your exercise calendar forces you to hit the gym, a content calendar holds you accountable for consistent production. Except with a content calendar, you get to inhale all the Funyuns and Taco Bell you want and not feel guilty!
Want to talk about content calendars and holiday shopping? We can help you conquer both—give us a call or email us your wish list!
Christmas gifts image courtesy Sigismund von Dobschutz via Wikimedia Commons