We are rapidly approaching that festive time of year. Soon, a cheerful red hat will grace homes with its presence, and a watchful, twinkling eye will coerce children into obedience.
You know who I mean.
The Elf on the Shelf.
Parents, I heard your collective groan all the way in my Mt. Sterling office, but I have a confession: I love Elf on the Shelf. I love how excited my kindergartner gets, and I love planning out the details.
Alyssa here. P&P’s content strategist, making her debut on the blog.
Obsessing over details is a benefit to being a Virgo. Or ENTJ, depending on your belief system. I credit finding my marketing sweet spot in content strategy to this compulsion.
A content strategy answers how your content supports your organization’s goals. A content calendar (also called an editorial calendar) is a critical piece of a content strategy that answers what content you are sharing and when.
A successful content calendar helps your team stay organized and hit deadlines while serving as a tool to track what’s working. Whether you plan monthly, quarterly or annually is up to you.
It’s also created the same way as a successful Elf on the Shelf calendar.
How to Make a Content Calendar You’ll Use
1. Make Your Life Easier, Not Harder
Implementing a calendar that significantly adds to stress levels and workloads will not be sustainable. If your team is already using project management software, adding your content calendar as a project makes sense.
P&P already uses Asana, so that’s a natural fit. My family shares a Google calendar, so it’s only natural I use Google sheets. Plus, virgos love conditional formatting and color coding.
2. Stay Focused
I like to stick my goal right there at the top of the page to remind myself of what I’m doing during the planning process. It keeps me centered and prevents me from going rogue. Avoid vague goals and tie it to your business plan.
3. Set a Budget
How much do you have to spend? This helps prioritize production costs. It also prevents you from getting too excited about an idea that doesn’t make sense for your audience or specifically help you reach your goal.
Like buying a $350 ride-on princess carriage that your child will outgrow in two months for your Elf to roll in on. Or a $1000 Facebook ad campaign to a Gen Z audience.
4. Highlight Big Milestones
Be more proactive by keeping major milestones top of mind. Program kickoffs, fundraisers, webinars, annual report releases and so on all belong on your calendar.
When you see your big milestones at once, it’s easier to begin to strategically fill content gaps to help you hit your goals. Build anticipation and hit all your channels in a cohesive way.
My daughter and I have a tradition to see the Nutcracker ballet each year. She and her dad go ice skating at Triangle Park. Christmas tree decorating to Die Hard. I plan around these events topically while building anticipation.
5. Be Resourceful
Strategically repurpose what you’ve already got in different ways. Specifically for your consistent communications, like newsletters, social media and blog posts.
Likewise, take a group of similar blog posts or social media posts and combine them to form a larger piece of content. Then call it reverse content atomization so your Board is super impressed.
I also scour blogs I love and Pinterest as inspiration for ideas others are using and adapt them to fit my needs and audience.
6. Switch it Up
Reliability and predictability are different things. Reliability is consistency, the backbone of any content strategy. Predictability is the same form of content over and over to the point that it gets boring.
Switch up your medium and switch up your topic. When you’re using a content calendar, you’ll be able to see at-a-glance if you’re doing the same thing too often.
I’m not going to put the Elf in our Christmas tree 10 different times. That’s going to lose my audience.
7. Who is Responsible for What
Clearly assign tasks. If everyone thinks someone else is covering it, it won’t get done. Or, as I like to call it, don’t forget to make sure dad knows when it’s his turn to move the Elf.
8. Track and Tweak
Did a particular piece of content get a ton of engagement? Do your clients love a solid how-to list? Figure out what works, and do it again with a twist.
Instant Snow To-Go was a big hit last year, so I’m going to use that medium a few different times. If it flops, or you discover something to try that’s more engaging, you can always tweak it.
9. Prepare for Next Year
Spend time during your lulls to begin planning for the future. Produce evergreen content. Look for content to update or expand. Keep up with trends. Clean up your lists. Stock up when it’s on sale!
Want to see it in action? Download my 2020 Elf on the Shelf plan to use as a template.