Become a Better Blogger: Content Planning | Andrea Goulet | Skillshare

Become a Better Blogger: Content Planning

Andrea Goulet, Co-Founder & CEO, Corgibytes

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12 Lessons (57m)
    • 1. Trailer

      1:20
    • 2. Welcome and Overview

      1:20
    • 3. Strategy and Purpose

      3:57
    • 4. Audience, Style & Goals

      7:38
    • 5. Writing Your Brand Statement

      2:20
    • 6. Overview & Content Pillars

      5:24
    • 7. Brand Journalism & Source Libraries

      9:39
    • 8. Guest Posts & Interviews

      5:37
    • 9. Publication Channels & Frequencies

      6:18
    • 10. People and Processes

      5:04
    • 11. Using Google Spreadsheets

      3:13
    • 12. Adding Details & Wrap Up

      5:36
29 students are watching this class

Project Description

Create a 3-Month Editorial Calendar for Your Blog

Welcome to Class!

  1. Familiarize Yourself with the Project Plan

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    Come on in! 

    Take some time to look through the class Project Plan and familiarize yourself with the class. 

Define Blogging Strategy

  1. Describe the Purpose

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    Welcome to the wonderful world of blogging! Whether you're an old pro, new on the scene, or just taking a test drive, an Editorial Calendar is a great tool to help you explore how you can get the most out of this platform. 

    Before we dive in and start writing, or even planning, we're going to look at why the heck we're blogging in the first place. 

    Business Reasons

    • Become known a Subject Matter Expert
    • Increase business contacts
    • Content Marketing
    • Develop content for articles, presentations, and books
    • Earn money by advertising, affiliate marketing, or selling

    Personal Reasons

    • Check off a bucket list item
    • Express your ideas and thoughts
    • Learn a topic by teaching
    • Have an outlet for creativity
    • Document experiences for nostalgia

    TO DO: 

    1. Set a timer for five minutes.
    2. Write a bulleted list of reasons why you want to blog. 
    3. Keep writing until timer goes off. 

    Post your progress in the Student Gallery to get feedback from other bloggers taking this course. 

  2. Define the Audience

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    When you're writing your blog, it's tempting to get sucked into an isolationist mindset. But the best blogs are a conversation — a two way discussion between the author and the reader.

    The next step to creating our editorial calendar is answering the question, "Who will be reading my blog?" 

    To do this, we want to look at a number of different factors, both about the external environment our audience interacts with, and the internal feelings they have. 

    Demographics (quantitative traits)

    • Gender

    • Age

    • Job title

    • Years of experience

    • Location

    • Devices used to access content

    Psycographics (qualitative traits)

    • Personality

    • Values

    • Attitudes

    • Interests

    • Lifestyles

    Once we've identified the traits, the next step is creating a short story that describes a persona, or ideal representative. 

    TO DO

    1. Create a bulleted list of the demographics and psychographics of your primary audience. 
    2. Search a stock photo site such as Bigstock, iStockPhoto, or ShutterStock to find a picture of a person who could represent the audience.
    3. Use the traits and the picture to create a 2-3 paragraph description of your persona. Give them a name and use detail to help the character come to life. 

    Post your progress in the Student Gallery to get feedback from other bloggers taking this course. 

  3. Define Your Blog Style

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    Strike a pose, baby! It's time to talk about style. 

    Just like how individual designers have a distinct look on the runway, the best bloggers have a specific and consistent style that relates back to the overall tone of their content. 

    Most companies document this vision in the form of a style guide. While it may sound exhaustive, style guides don't have to be comprehensive to be useful.  

    TO DO: 

    1. Write the first five words that come to mind when you think about the style of your writing. Don't spend more than a couple of minutes on this part. We'll refine in the next steps. 
    2. Next to each word, write a similar word that represents what you DON'T want your style to be. For example, if one of your original words was "conservative", you might write "stuffy" here. 
    3. Rewrite each pair of words as an equation and try to find a more exact word to describe your blogging style. For example, "conservative - stuffy = straightforward". 

    Post your progress in the Student Gallery to get feedback from other bloggers taking this course. 

  4. Write SMART Goals

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    Next up is figuring out our goals. Goals are different than the purpose that we outlined in the first section — they're specific outcomes that we're working toward, not a general statement of why we're writing. 

    Use the acronym SMART to help you write your goals. There are many versions of what each letter stands for, but I like this version best: 

    • Specific (not general or vague)
    • Measureable (quantifiable)
    • Appropriate (relates back to your purpose)
    • Realistic (the scope isn't too big)
    • Time-Bound (has a deadline)

    Here's an example: 

    "Use my blog to become a Subject Matter Expert."

    This example is vague, we can't quantify that this has happened, the scope isn't defined, and there is no deadline. It's not a SMART goal. 

    "Adapt posts from my blog to publish at least one article in UX Magazine by the end of the year." 

    Here, we can check off each of the SMART criteria. This is a much more useful goal than the one above because we know clearly when we've accomplished it. 

    TO DO

    1. Use the acronym SMART to develop at least three goals, or specific outcomes, that you plan to accomplish through your blogging efforts. 

    Post your progress in the Student Gallery to get feedback from other bloggers taking this course. 

  5. Create Brand Statement

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    Now that we've looked at our purpose, audience, style and set some goals, we're ready to create a brand statement, which is what we'll use to true back to for all of our editorial. 

    TO DO

    1. Fill in the blanks of the paragraph below. 

    _____________________________ (name of blog) is a ___________________ (descriptive word), ______________________ (descriptive word), and ________________________ (descriptive word) blog focused on providing content about ______________________ (main topic area) to ________________________ (audience #1), ____________________ (audience #2), _______________________(audience #3) so that _______________________ (main purpose)

    Why are we doing this?

    • ______________________ (purpose #2)
    • ______________________ (purpose #3)
    • ______________________ (purpose #4)
    • ______________________ (purpose #5)

    By putting in the effort to develop quality content on a regular basis, we plan to: 

    • ______________________ (goal #1)
    • ______________________ (goal #2)
    • ______________________ (goal #3)

    Post your progress in the Student Gallery to get feedback from other bloggers taking this course. 

Search for Inspiration

  1. Identify Your Content Pillars

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    In the last section, we talked about purpose, style, and goals to help our blog content stay cohesive over time. Now we're going to look at ways to introduce variety so our readers don't get bored. 

    A good way to keep readers engaged is by establishing content pillars, which give your content a solid structure and also act as a springboard for ideas. Think of a content pillar as a subject that's big enough to write about for more than ten posts. 

    For example, let's say you're establishing a blog about personal finances. Depending on what your purpose, audience, style and goals are, you could have a variety of content pillars, such as: 

    • Tips for managing money
    • Stories about inspiring people
    • Industry news and updates in plain language

    Another way to organize content is by looking at the content purpose rather than the topic. Here's another example: 

    • Engagement (posts designed to start a conversation)
    • Evergreen (posts that can be published at any time)
    • Events (posts tied to a specific time-bound occurance)

    TO DO

    1. Use your brand statement to develop at least three different content pillars for your blog. 

    Post your progress in the Student Gallery to get feedback from other bloggers taking this course. 

  2. Become a Brand Journalist

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    A good blogger thinks more like a journalist and less like a marketer. When I worked as the Content Lead for a social media marketing agency, I deliberately organized our team like a news desk with content running through a central editor who checked for style and maintained the editorial calendar.

    Journalist thinking goes well beyond the organizational chart. If one of the purposes of your blog is related to sales, you might be tempted to write content that persuades people to buy. While the occasional self-promotional post is appropriate (new products or features, for example) being too focused on yourself is a sure fire way to turn off your audience.

    Brand journalism uses techniques from traditional media in marketing related content. Here are some examples: 

    • Storytelling
    • Interviews
    • Research
    • Thought Leadership
    • Criticial Thinking 
    • Observation

    TO DO

    1. Think of a topic for a blog post. 
    2. Write a 1-2 paragraph overview using a "hard sales" approach.
    3. Re-write it using brand journalism. Begin by answering the questions who, what, when, where, why and how. 
    4. Read both summaries. What differences do you see? If you were a reader, which style would you prefer? Why? 

    Post your progress in the Student Gallery to get feedback from other bloggers taking this course. 

  3. Create a Source Library

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    Now that we've established ourselves as brand journalists, it's time to start assembling our toolbox for creating quality content. 

    Great writing does not happen in a vacuum. It's the product of interacting with the world and sharing your experiences. So, it's important to keep a pulse on trends, events, and changes in your industry.

    Here are some tools that I use to keep a pulse on my industry of content strategy. 

    Sourcing

    Storing

    TO DO

    1. Use the list above and set up at least three applications for sourcing content and one application for storing ideas. 

    Post your progress in the Student Gallery to get feedback from other bloggers taking this course. 

  4. Ask for Interviews & Guest Posts

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    Interviews and guest posts are powerful ways to grow your audience, but navigating this teritorry can be a little tricky if you're new to the game. Here are some tips for getting it right the first time: 

    Guest Posts

    • Let your audience know that you accept guest posts and create a short guide on how you like to work. 
    • Use tools such as MyBlogGuest and Blogger LinkUp to post content requests.
    • Ask for samples of the author's writing ahead of time to predict the quality of their work and whether their style is a good match.
    • If you're asking another blog for a writing opportunity, keep your request concise, friendly, and include a link to your blog or other articles. If your email sounds like a template, your request is likely to be ignored. It's worth the effort to personalize your request. 

    Interviews

    • Research your interviewee ahead of time. 
    • Send questions over email to give your interviewee time to prepare.
    • Let your interviewee know that you'll be happy to let them review your article before it's published. This goes a long way towards building trust. 
    • If you're planning on recording the conversation, ask for permission first. 
    • Use open ended questions to keep the conversation going. 

    TO DO 

    1. Think of a topic that would work well as a guest post or interview. 
    2. Draft a pitch that is short, simple, and specific.
    3. Research the best way to contact the person you want to work with. 
    4. Establish contact. Ask by using a personalized version of your pitch. 

    Post your progress in the Student Gallery to get feedback from other bloggers taking this course. 

Create Your Calendar Template

  1. Decide on Publication Channels

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    Here's a haiku for you, written by Outbrain:

    If you wrote a blog
    And no one came to read it
    Did you write a blog?

    Writing is only one part of blogging — publishing is a critical step that should be planned ahead of time to use resources wisely. This concept is often referred to as COPE, or "create once, publish everywhere" and large organizations such as NPR are moving towards this model. 

    This area of blogging can be dizzying due to the number of options, but don't worry. If you're constantly planning and tracking where your content is published, you can measure which channels are performing and which ones aren't. Publishing channels will change over time. 

    Free* services

    Paid services (generally not the best option if you are just starting out)

    *Some sites require advertising dollars to get the most out of the service (for example, Facebook). Free services don't always offer the most value. Don't forget to incorporate the time it takes to manage in your analysis. 

    TO DO

    1. Use the list above and choose at least one additional publication channel for your blog content. 
    2. Set up your profile. 

    Post your progress in the Student Gallery to get feedback from other bloggers taking this course. 

  2. Determine Publication Frequency

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    Keep up the great work! Putting the effort into planning your editorial calendar will really pay off. 

    Now we're going to start thinking about some of the technical details of blogging, the first being a posting schedule.

    One of the biggest mistakes of new bloggers is establishing a posting frequency that's too aggressive and can't be maintained. Then, when things get off schedule (which they will because let's face it — life happens) they abandon the effort all together.

    When it comes to blogging, it's better to start with a realistic posting schedule and ease towards a goal as you become experienced. Think "Quality over Quantity".

    A typical post can take several hours to put together. As you practice, you'll become more efficient, but consider your experience with writing and be honest about how often you should post to keep your blog healthy. 

    What does that magic number look like? Once a month? Every week? Every day? That depends on your personal circumstances. Only you will be able to determine the right frequency. 

    TO DO

    1. Think hard about how frequently you can realistically post. 
    2. Block off time on your calendar for writing. Using a recurring event can be really helpful.

    Post your progress in the Student Gallery to get feedback from other bloggers taking this course. 

  3. Describe Roles & Responsibilities

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    The leading blogs are a team effort. Even if you're a one-person show, it's worthwhile planning who you can lean on to help your blog crank out quality content on a regular basis. Here are some roles you'll want to consider: 

    Content Strategist
    The role of a content strategist is to plan ahead and create systems for ensuring the quality and continuation of your blog. A content strategist would be an ideal person to help you maintain your editorial calendar. 

    Copywriter
    This is a hat that you'll likely have to wear, but you can often find additional writers to help you create content for your blog. Having a good style guide will go a long way to ensure consistency if you're working with a team. 

    Designer
    As internet speeds get faster, visuals on your blog are becoming more and more important. A quality designer will be able to help you with photography, infographics, video, and animated web graphics. 

    Proofreader
    If there is no other role that you work with, please find someone to read your content before you publish it. When I first started blogging, I asked my mom, who has an absolute eagle eye, to read my posts before they went live.

    Approver
    Unless you're the decision maker of your business, chances are you'll need to run your posts past someone who will approve them. An editorial calendar can also be a big help here. Rewriting, or worse, trashing a post after you've already put in all the work of writing it can feel quite defeating. Use your editorial calendar to keep track of the details — including approvals. 

    TO DO

    1. Identify the different people who will help you produce your blog. At the very least, find one person who can proofread your content before you publish it. 

    Post your progress in the Student Gallery to get feedback from other bloggers taking this course. 

  4. Sketch Out the Project Flow

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    When your content machine is running well, it's a beautiful thing. To reach your peak efficiency, a little planning and design is required first. 

    Start by looking at your publication date and work backwards from there to establish who will be responsible for what, when. Here are some example steps: 

    1. Purchase Advertising :: 0 days from publication :: Jamie
    2. Publish :: 0 days from publication :: Jamie
    3. Content Approved :: -1 days from publication :: Maggie
    4. Content Revised :: -2 days from publication :: Jerry
    5. Content Proofread :: -4 days from publication :: Rachel
    6. Draft Delivered for Review (including images) :: -6 days from publication :: Jerry
    7. Design Assets Delivered to Writer :: -7 days from publication :: Joe
    8. Kickoff Meeting :: -14 days from publication :: Maggie, Jerry, Joe
    9. Content Calendar Submitted :: -21 days from publication :: Kristen

    It's also helpful to create a minimized project flow so that you can respond quickly when needed. In 2012, Oreo sent a timely tweet during a blackout during the SuperBowl. How? Proper planning and having all the decision makers in one "war room". 

    TO DO

    1. Create a chart that outlines the normal project flow for your blog. 
    2. Develop a streamlined version of your workflow to respond quickly when necessary. 

    Post your progress in the Student Gallery to get feedback from other bloggers taking this course. 

  5. Create a Template Calendar

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    By now you're probably thinking, "Andrea — when are we going to start putting all this information into a calendar. That is the name of the class, isn't it?" 

    Well, the wait is over. We've plotted and planned. Now it's time to put it all together. 

    I've used a variety of tools to help me manage editorial calendars, and my personal favorite is a Google Spreadsheet. This allows multiple people to edit one document without getting lost in version control purgatory. You can even lock specific cells for tighter control. And if you need to share it to someone who can't access the live version, you can export your Google Spreadsheet as an excel or PDF. (For example, I managed the editorial calendar for a Fortune 100 company that had really tight firewall restrictions.) 

    In general, I've found it easier to start with an existing calendar and modify it to meet my needs. Here's a template editorial calendar I created specifically for this class. If this one doesn't fit your style, type in "editorial calendar template" into your favorite search engine. 

    TO DO

    1. View the template editorial calendar for this class. Before you change anything, go to File > Make a copy...
    2. Modify the template to reflect the correct information for your blog. 

    Post your progress in the Student Gallery to get feedback from other bloggers taking this course. 

Complete Calendar Details

  1. Add "Business Critical" Posts

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    By now you have a fresh, empty editorial calendar that's just waiting to have its details. Time to put it to use! 

    Of course, there is just a teensy bit more planning to make our lives easier in the long run — the order in which we add content. We want to start with the most important content first. If we don't we'll end up playing musical content, rearranging dates as our calendar becomes more full. 

    The topic I recommend starting with is your business critical posts. If you have a planned product launch, major update, or other information that's important to communicate, put that on the calendar first. As we learned in previous chapters, these types of posts should be a minimal part of your overall content strategy. 

    TO DO 

    1. Conduct some primary research. If you work in an office, ask your co-workers (especially those in other departments) if there's any company news worth sharing. 
    2. Find the date on your editorial calendar and fill in the details of any business critical post.
    3. Try to keep self-promotional posts to under 10% of your overall content. 

    Post your progress in the Student Gallery to get feedback from other bloggers taking this course. 

  2. Set Date-Specific Opportunities

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    Next up in the content priority line is content that's related to a specific date. For example, if you're writing a fashion blog, you'll probably want to put the Academy Awards or Fashion Week on your calendar well in advance, since they're times of the year when the interest in fashion is higher than normal. 

    TO DO

    1. Think of events in your industry that you should plan ahead of time. Use your source library for inspiration. 
    2. Put relevant events on your content calendar, noting how you will tie in your content.

    Post your progress in the Student Gallery to get feedback from other bloggers taking this course. 

  3. Add Posts that Require Planning

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    Business posts? Check. Event posts? Check. Now it's time to plan for posts that require a little more attention. Which posts are these? Here's just a sampling: 

    • Guest posts
    • Interviews
    • Videos
    • Compilation posts (ex: 101 Ways to...)
    • Infographics
    • Case Studies

    All of these posts require additional steps to the normal project workflow. Add them to the calendar so that you have enough time to prepare the high-quality content that will knock the socks off your audience.

    TO DO

    1. Use the list above to brainstorm ideas for posts that will require extra planning. 
    2. Talk to members of your team for help estimating the amount of time you should budget. 
    3. Add topics to your editorial calendar with plenty of time to prepare. 

    Post your progress in the Student Gallery to get feedback from other bloggers taking this course. 

  4. Finish Up with Evergreen Content

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    The cone-shaped trees you see above are a perfect analogy for our next type of content: evergreen.

    You probably remember from a previous unit that evergreen content can be used at any time during the year. These are the types of posts where you really focus on providing a value to your audience.

    For example, Chris Fielden maintained a blog where he published short stories, but it didn't get a lot of traffic. He had done research on short story competitions and discovered that he had to do a lot of work to find what he needed. So he took his research and published a blog post listing short story competitions. The result? His traffic skyrocketed. He recently published another post about how he increased traffic through evergreen content. Worth checking out if you ask me.    

    TO DO

    1. Write a list of ten pet peeves about your industry. Is there information that's hard to find, unclear, or could be presented better? 
    2. Look at each problem. How could you use your blog to solve it?
    3. Add these topics to your editorial calendar. 

    Post your progress in the Student Gallery to get feedback from other bloggers taking this course. 

  5. Use Calendar to Manage Details

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    Well, here we are at the end of our project. But the good news is there's an amazing adventure ahead of us.

    Prepping your Editorial Calendar is a bit like getting ready for a long hike. There are a lot of things to pack, plan, and remember just so that you can hit the trail and get to that amazing view. 

    As far as maintenance, if you're working with a team, chances are you'll love seeing how your content engine starts working now that you're effectively communicating the details of your content plan. If you're going solo, I'm not going to lie, keeping your Editorial Calendar updated regularly is tougher because you don't have other people keeping you accountable. My best advice is to create a recurring event for an hour or two every month to help you stay committed. 

    Thanks for participating in this class. I can't wait to hear how using an Editorial Calendar changes your blogging. Best of luck! 

    To your success, 

    Andrea

    TO DO

    1. Start writing amazing content! 

    Post your progress in the Student Gallery to get feedback from other bloggers taking this course. 

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