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December 03, 2015
The following was inspired by Amanda Hicken's article on PR Newswire's Beyond PR blog: The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your 2016 Editorial Calendar.
The year is beginning to wind down. Aside from a couple of press releases that may be left in the queue from earlier in the quarter, your content is pretty much complete. You have managed to attain your 2015 goals, so now it is time to sit back until 2016, right?
Wrong. The attitude most successful marketers take is "start planning for 2016 NOW!" If you don't you may be left hanging, with your goals and targets unmet, next year at this same time. Not having a content marketing strategy can mean disappointment. Approximately 55% of the least effective marketing groups don't have one, while 95% of the most successful content marketers do have a strategy.
So where do you start? You need to view the year ahead from 10,000 feet. This means your communications strategy needs to consider all the communication vehicles you can use, including your blog posts, white papers, tweets, Facebook posts and of course your press releases. Your communications team needs to function as a group and not in a silo. If everyone is off doing their own independent campaign or program, this could end up being inefficient and disappointing.
Everything must work in concert--all your communications strategies must flow together and connect with one-another. Make sure you match your content with the most optimal vehicles for communicating that content. Determine what should be sent out as a corporate press release and what should be posted as informational content for your audience.
When planning for next year, re-examine your current year to see what campaigns were hugely successful and which ones were just mediocre. Why were they successful? What made the mediocre campaigns just so-so? Look at the strategy that made your successful campaigns work well and try to apply the same recipe, with a twist to keep it fresh. When something underperforms, there is usually an underlying reason. What is that reason?
Look at all the press releases that you distributed. Considering the ones that worked out well, why did they succeed? Was it timing? Was it tied to or made reference to something current in the news? This is also known as 'news jacking' - a subject we talked about in a blog post a couple of years back. It is important to not only know which campaigns were successful, but also to know the reasons why.
When you lay out the blueprints of your content marketing strategy for 2016, plan when and how you will publish or promote that content. A good way is to break down the year into quarters and consider important events that occur within each quarter--product launches, announcements, and so on. Keep in mind that sometimes the right time to distribute a press release comes without warning, because of an unforeseen event. You should also consider other major events within your industry that may take away from your spotlight. You probably don't want to announce something in the same week that a competitor makes an announcement, unless your announcement is directly related to your competitor's and this will help you leverage your announcement. For example, if a competitor's announcement includes a new product introduction but your new product supersedes theirs in some way, it may be a good time to send your release out.
We have covered some of these points in previous informational pieces in our knowledge base.
While on the topic of timing, the next consideration is "holidays." What days of the week do they fall on? Typically many people will combine their vacation time with a holiday; particularly when a holiday lands on a Thursday, Friday or Monday. There are a few schools of thought about this particular point.
The first way of thinking is that because it is near a holiday, there will be less people submitting press releases, which could mean there will be less information out there competing for your audience's attention. The second school of thought is that because it is a holiday, there will be fewer journalists around to pick up the story because they are away.
Lastly, depending on how your press release is being distributed, you could potentially capture more of a consumer audience as opposed to a journalist audience. This is because many press distribution businesses now 'auto publish' your news. Although journalists may be away and not working, consumers, because they are also not working, may spend more time reading online news.
By planning ahead of time, you can figure out what scenario will work the best for your business model. When planning your content, do keep in mind the most important factor is content quality. A combination of five well written press releases and articles will go much further than ten releases of mediocre quality.
Success is in the details
When you have reached the step of identifying the content that is to be published, you need to determine a few details including:
1. Who is your target audience? Consumers? The media? Investors?
2. Where will you be publishing this content? Social media (un-paid)? Social media (paid)?
3. Are there any actionable items that need to be taken? For instance a landing page with registration?
4. What type of lead time should be considered if an actionable item is to be taken?
Organizing your postings of press and articles for the year is an excellent start, however don't forget to monitor your results to ensure that your content goals and budgets are being satisfied. Use analytic tools like Google Trends to help you determine the quantity and quality of the coverage your press release garners. You can find the Google Trends tool here.
Ensure that once you post any content (press release, articles, white papers, etc.) that you follow up with your social media channels.
By following a few of these simple tips, you will be well on your way to a successful 2016 content marketing strategy.