Admittedly, the content calendar is a great tool for organising marketing projects and keeping things clear for everyone involved. A year later, though, we are sensing some resistance to using the tool. And we notice the same resistance among our clients.
So does this time-consuming process deliver content that REALLY hits the mark?
Content calendar = planning for the sake of planning?
We suspect that planning too far ahead and sticking too strictly to the plan is a hindrance rather than a help, although we can’t actually substantiate that with figures.
This is what we have found from sitting down with clients and discussing their content workflow:
- The rush to get content online ‘as agreed’ causes a lot of stress and doesn’t always lead to the most inspiring content.
- They sometimes get fixated on the planning, which may mean they pass up on golden content opportunities and abandon fun ideas.
- The opposite also happens: they put a lot of work (and money) into comprehensive planning, but still switch to freestyle content creation a few weeks later.
For us, this is a clear signal to try something different. So for the time being, we have replaced our downloadable content calendar with a mindful, agile approach.
The ‘but’: when is the content calendar a lifesaver?
Our sister company Outsource Communications will be offering a free downloadable template once again this year.
So why is it okay for them and not for us? Well, Outsource mainly uses the tool in companies where it’s difficult to maintain a consistent communication flow and keep up the pace. In these cases, you do need a clear and well-organised central structure, such as… well, a content calendar. This is the only way to ensure that everyone is on the same footing, gets the right deadlines and pursues the same concrete goals. Especially when there’s a lot of content on different platforms, this planning is the ultimate lifesaver.
The ‘but’ of the ‘but’: when does planning become counterproductive?
We freely admit that content planning can be mindful and efficient. Just as long as you don’t ignore these red flags:
🚩 You end up on autopilot
A kitchen employee at McDonald’s makes each burger according to a fixed recipe, in the right packaging, and drops it into the right slot. Okay, maybe we’re exaggerating a bit, but following your content calendar isn’t all that different. It makes you less aware of what is going on right now: what is keeping your (potential) clients awake at night, and what questions do they have? You are producing to fill the slots – to keep your blog or social media going – and risk losing sight of your business reality. And sometimes you even forget the pickle.
💡 Check in with each other every week. Perhaps there’s something we heard in the corridors that is more exciting or more important than our scheduled posts?
🚩 You’re talking about the same thing as everyone else
Where did that pickle suddenly come from? Well, that’s the surprise effect, the original angle, the secret sauce that makes your post different from everyone else in the LinkedIn rush hour. Because after two hours of content planning, Thick Sweater Day might suddenly seem like a very tempting theme for week 42. And your competitors had exactly the same thought, because they’re scanning the same top topical calendar for inspiration. Either way, it’s not really going to stand out, is it? It’s so important, that pickle!
💡 Choose two top topicals per year that are genuinely relevant to your business: ones you can actively contribute to. In our case, for example, that might be translation day and pickle day. Okay, you’re right, that joke’s not funny anymore. 😊
🚩 You seek too much of your inspiration externally
Quickly looking up a few websites for inspiration to get that content calendar filled in no matter what… been there, done that! In itself, it’s no great crime. It’s just that, by definition, the most unique content will be inspired by what’s actually going on within your company. What’s cooking in your kitchen, so to speak. (See what I did there?)
💡 Need inspiration? Head out into the corridors! Talk to project managers, salespeople, floor managers, freelancers, anyone you can find. What are they working on? What extra skills are they learning? And what would be really interesting to share? Your in-house talent is a goldmine: the Big Mac of content inspiration, if you like.
🚩 You’re going crazy trying to post something about a particular topic no matter what
Content calendars sometimes lead to ‘analysis paralysis’ because you can no longer see the forest for the trees, or the content for the planning. You’re struggling with TOFUs, MOFUs and BOFUs, while your customers just want a tasty cheeseburger. In other words, your content is too carefully thought out. And your readers really feel that. The content clearly wasn’t created for them, but just to fit a strategy.
💡 Have the courage to leave a gap in your content planning here and there. This allows you to experiment with spontaneous, creative content that doesn’t follow the fixed recipe. Dare to create based on your gut feeling. Not because you have to, but because you really have something to say. Suddenly, just like that.
Had enough of all this content fast food?
Then have the courage to let go of your calendar altogether and adopt a more instinctive approach. Exactly what this workflow looks like depends on the company in question, but this is how we see it:
Find out what keeps your sales & HR people awake at night
What are their goals? Who do they want to reach and what obstacles do they encounter along the way?
Think up a feasible ‘content cascade’ around one of these themes
For example: we want to focus on small breweries by creating a podcast about exciting, new craft beers. Thanks to the response to this podcast, we will make new contacts and plan introductory meetings with them. At these meetings, we will present a brief survey. We will publish the results as a lead magnet in the form of a downloadable white paper on our site.
Briefly discuss what you are doing together every week
Modify your formats where necessary, and also discuss extra hot topics that pop up organically.
Rinse & repeat!
We are busy experimenting with this method ourselves. Going off the beaten track can be quite stressful: it requires changes in mindset, habits and processes. But the end result is an effective and customised content method, which genuinely helps your team and encourages them to achieve goals.
And if there’s anything we want to share with you, whether you use a content calendar or not, it is this: stay curious and head for the kitchen. You never know: they might have invented the ultimate secret sauce in there, and you would never have known if you hadn’t put your head round the door.
Do you have any additions to our musings yourself? Any questions or concerns?
Feel free to drop us an email. We look forward to brainstorming with you!