If you read our last blog about what we learned in 2020, you saw that Rona affected how we write, what we think of our brand values, and how we present ourselves online.(And in person, whenever we can safely see people again.)
One major thing the pandemic taught us? How we plan and approach our content work with clients. And that was a big lesson, because working with clients on content is, well, what we do.
Let’s unpack what we’ve learned about content planning, and also share some takeaways that you can use for your own content planning in the New Year.
A thought on deadlines
We on the Uncanny Content team pride ourselves on sticking to deadlines. Responsibility is one of our aforementioned brand values. We haaaaate missing deadlines, because when we give you our word, we mean it.
In our eyes, missing deadlines — or worse, pretending they’re unimportant or don’t exist — is as bad as lying. Or breaking a promise. Or stabbing someone in the back. (Too dramatic??)
What’s this dedication to deadlines mean? We like to get ahead on content. When you get ahead on content, you leave room for last-minute edits or unexpected changes. You avoid stressing and rushing to complete content. You make your deadlines.
This is something that we think is missing from most people’s content plans: there’s no accountability on when something will get written, reviewed, scheduled, and posted. Tasking all of this out well in advance allows you to meet deadlines — even if you’re a 1-person show and you’re doing all of that yourself.
The problem with working ahead
So, how far ahead should you be planning, exactly? Well… 2020 changed our recommendations a bit. Pre-pandemic, we were working on content and turning it in to our clients two, sometimes three months ahead of their deadlines. For anxious overachievers like us, it felt great to tick those items off our to-do list early!
Thanks to 2020, though, we learned that getting such a big head start is not always helpful to us or our clients — especially when we have to be attentive to and respectful of changes in the market and audience needs.
All that content we finished in advance? Because of the pandemic, we had to go back and edit information that had changed or were no longer inappropriate to say
It wasn’t just the pandemic, either. Breaking news events can and should affect what you post online. The Black Lives Matter movement, protests around the country, the presidential election, natural disasters like wildfires…all of these forced us to check in with our content to make sure it was still okay to publish. It also required us to make brand statements — for ourselves and our clients — which took precedence over what we had planned.
In other words, because we worked so far ahead, we actually gave ourselves more work to do because we had prioritized gettin’ shit done over flexibility. * Latasha is crying as she reads this *
So… our big takeaway? Plan in advance, but leave wiggle room
What can you learn from our 2020 blunder? You should still plan content ahead of time, but not so far ahead that you can’t make edits quickly or tweak your plan in favor of trending or topical news.
You should plan content by the quarter, but only work about a month ahead on your content at a time.
For example, you can brainstorm content ideas for Q1 2021 based on your initiatives for that quarter. Do you want to launch a new course? Host a masterclass? Grow your email list?
Whatever your big goals are, make sure that you focus on content that supports those goals. Then, work backwards to map out topics and individual pieces of content.
Make a list of topics you want to cover on social media, in your blog, on your podcast, in your email newsletters, etc. Assign some tentative dates to publish your content (which can always be changed) and then start fleshing that content out.
Write your content for January 2021, but avoid working ahead of that. With this content planning schedule, you stay flexible and can make changes easily if you need to.
Get a content planning spreadsheet to help you out
You don’t need fancy, complicated, or expensive systems or programs to plan your content out in advance. All you need is a simple spreadsheet and some time to focus on brainstorming. Because content planning is so near and dear to our hearts, we made a content planning tool that’s easy to use and (best of all) free.
Uncanny Content’s Content Planning Spreadsheet lays out the basics for you with columns for topic, outline, format, publish date, and audience. Fill in the cells with your ideas for the upcoming quarter and you’re golden. Just remember to stay flexible with your content.