Why should I use a publishing calendar for content marketing?

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Previously I discussed one of the reasons why small business owners find marketing difficult is that sitting down and “doing marketing” is difficult when there’s pressure on you to actually deliver to customers. One of the tactics that we can use to help is to use a publishing calendar.

A publishing calendar is — as it’s most basic — a list of things you want to write, and when you want them to be published.

This seems obvious, but there as a number of non-obvious ways a publishing calendar helps.

From a measurement perspective, if your intention is to publish one piece per week, and you look back at the calendar and notice the last time you published was four weeks ago, that’s a clear measurement that that particular objective is failing.

If we consider collaboration, if you have multiple people involved in production (for example, an external freelancer writing your content and/or you and others internally approving content), a publishing calendar is essential for managing that process flow. I’d go so far as to say, if you do have multiple people involved in production, don’t do anything without a shared calendar.

For syndication, a publishing calendar can tell you not only when to put original pieces on your blog, but you can also use the calendar to keep track of when those pieces need to go out for syndication. (I typically recommend one week after.)

One powerful idea around content marketing is that to get better keyword coverage on SEO, you should write one more involved and longer “touchstone” piece, and then create other pieces that key into that piece. A publishing calendar can really help visualise and plan that larger effort.

Perhaps the most important way a publishing calendar helps is in ensuring that your content is evenly spread over your entire offering, and the relative positions of the prospect in the buying cycle.

The buying cycle is one of the most important things to understand when it comes to both social media marketing and content marketing. If you think about the customer’s journey, they start at a position where they don’t even know they need something, then they start to become aware that they do need a thing (but they’re not sure what), then they start to work out what they need (“ideation”), then they start addressing the market to find out who can provide it, and finally they choose and buy. This then becomes a loop as what they buy today in months/years to come stops meeting their need and they kick off round again.

Any piece of marketing, if you go out and give a message to 100 people, only a small percentage of them will be at the “addressing the marketing to find out who can provide it” stage. Anything earlier or later than that, and the message is “mistimed”. We all know that all marketing has very low response rates. A big part of that reason is that 90% of the people we talk to won’t be in that “addressing” slot at all; you then have to add onto that the fact what you’re saying to them may not resonate.

The point of content marketing (and variants in social selling, authority marketing, relationship marketing — whatever you want to call those variants), is that we can form a relationship with the prospect whilst they are in the other stages.

It’s essential then that the content marketing programme has to hit overall at every stage in that process. A publishing calendar can help to do this by forcing a cadence in-line with those stages. To put it another way, it can stop you spending months only talking to one set of people at one stage, rather than making sure you are talking to everyone in equal measure.

You may also find that you have to address different topics, and that these have to be spread out across the programme as well. If you sell something particularly complex, which actually we do here at Elixia Marketing, this will be the case. For example, we have to talk about content marketing, but we also have to talk about social media engagement, SEO, and so on — our content marketing programme has to hit all the buying stages in all of the topics.

When it boils down to it, you can’t effectively do content marketing without a calendar. This can be pretty simple — an Excel spreadsheet is all you need, and there are tools on the market that can add extra bells and whistles. But without one, you can’t properly plan or measure.

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