One of the unfortunate side-effects of everyone having a website is that pretty soon a website can look dull, flat and empty; and a neglected site in every case is worse than no site at all. This effect is compounded since the rise of social media, as the networking sites are all frameworks constructed to display meaningful, thought-provoking and relevant content to its best, in one shape, form or another. Without consistent content planning, the potential for a website to fall flat is high.
The amount of effort and impact that content has online is often underestimated during a site launch or a rebrand, and when I worked in larger companies it was a constant battle to get the right focus, in terms of time and budget, on creating the content needed to make the exciting new technology or design work to its best effect. When large technical projects are being run, even content management systems, it is all too easy to focus on the technology rather than the content that the site is designed to display, and the move from beautiful designs and cleverly structured wireframes to a living site that needs feeding with content on a very regular and visible basis can be quite a shock as a project moves from launch to live.
Quite often, whatever size of business, the immediate focus can be in understanding and being able to work with the technology platform, but at the very latest the point that a new site is launched or a relaunch goes live, the focus is instantly on the content, as this is how customers and prospects will become interested and remain loyal to a site, whether it be content to drive the anticipated customer journey as smoothly as possible, or content about the latest product or service a company is offering.The intention of all content should be to engage the user and to effect a conversion of some sort, whether that be to capture a new lead, to make a sale, or to resolve a customer service issue. Now that a company needs to be active across multiple platforms in order to meet customers’ developing expectations, there needs to be even more effort and focus on ensuring that the correct level of content is generated or sourced in order to protect and enhance your online positioning.
A critical component to feeding a site ad keeping it alive to its users is to plan ahead, to identify both the content you have and allow you to plug the gaps that appear, and to be able to address this in a controlled and timely manner.
Looking at this on two levels is the most effective way to start. Firstly, if you look from an annual perspective, you can plan ahead in conjunction with your company’s wider business strategy, and plan pieces of content tied in to events, new product launches, press releases etc. You can also look at external prompters of content – seasonal changes, conferences you might attend, industry-wide changes that will impact your customer over the coming year.
All of these things can be loosely plotted onto an annual calendar, and then weekly detail can be added on a weekly calendar, which should be kept up-to-date up to a quarter in advance, though appreciating that the detail may come closer to the publishing deadline.
This calendar can span all the different sites on which you want to play, from your company website through social media networks and even onto forums if your business has found that as a channel in which you can be effective.
There are many different downloadable calendars you can find online, although I have found a simple excel spreadsheet to be the most effective. There is also a balance to spending time on your calendar versus spending time on your content. Keep the system simple and manageable and you will find you have plenty of advance ideas and placemarkers for vibrant content that will enhance and develop your online estate.
How do you manage your content calendar, and how far do you look ahead? I would love to hear in the comments below.