Why Your Content Plan Isn't Working for You: It's a Calendar Not a Strategy

+ How to Fix It

Is your content planned out in neat little rows, but it's still not working for you?

Not working for you =

  • Your audience is lukewarm or dead silent.
  • Your shares are nonexistent.
  • You know something is missing the moment you click publish. 

If I had to guess, I'd say you don't have a solid content strategy.

Here's the thing: You need a content strategy, not just a to-do list. A content calendar is awesome and necessary, but it's not a Strategic Content Plan. 

A To-Do List or a Strategy?

How do you know which type of content plan you have now?

Choose A or B:

a.) Your plan guides your content, drives it in the right direction for you, your brand, and your audience.

b.) Your plan strictly focuses on tactics--what you do, when, and where.

So many content creators focus only on the tactical (what-to-do) plan. They think that's all there is to it.

The truth is: You need both--strategies and tactics. And the strategy comes first.

Here's the other "big secret" about your content:

Your WHY = Your Strategy = Your Spark

Strategy vs. tactics, say what?

You don't have to deep-dive into the difference between strategy and tactics (unless you really want to).

The quick version: Strategy is your big goal/aim, and tactics are how you make it happen. 

I'll add a layer for content strategy: Your strategy is all about your WHY, while your content calendar is a play-by-play to support it.

Another way to think about it? 

Your Strategic Content Plan provides context for your content.
— Melanie Sparks

what's in a strategic content plan?

First of all, don't get hung up on the term. If you want to call it something else, go for it.

There are probably a million ways to create a Strategic Content Plan, and this is just one of them.  

My advice: Mix and match and see what works for you. 

Key Components

Introduction

I like to begin the document with an introduction. It sets the stage and gets me in the right mindset.

You might be thinking, "Nah, I'll skip the intro." Don't. Write it to remind yourself why you created this plan and how to use it.

The introduction should be concise--a paragraph.

It should sum up:

  • What is this document? (Example: This document serves as a framework, backdrop, and guide to my brand storytelling--AKA content.)
  • What purpose does it serve? (Example: This plan outlines the goals, strategies, and measurements I’ll use over the next year to build and grow my business, using my content.)
  • What is my main hope for this plan? (That it will inspire strategic action.)

Your Why

This is where a lot of us skim the surface. We'll say something like, "I want to help women be creative."

That's just the surface. 

Total credit to Abagail and Emylee for getting me beyond my surface why.

They recommend you dig a few layers deeper, as I did in Strategy Academy

But why do you want to help women be creative?

Here's my example:

  • First-level: I want to help creative people deliver content their readers LOVE. 
  • Next level: I want women to have a creative outlet and be successful. It's about damn time. 
  • Even deeper: Why? Because it hurts to keep your creativity bottled up. Celebrate. Pop the cork on your creativity. We only live once; don't waste your talents.

Do you see how the emotions started to come into play as I dug deeper?

If your why doesn't hit you in the gut, keep digging!

Goals

Don't get micro-level here. This isn't the place.

Instead think big, overarching goals. Think pillars that will support your content. 

Choose 3-5 main goals for your content. If it makes sense, you can also add 3-5 sub-goals under each main goal. 

Remember, these are goals specifically for your content. How do you want your content to work for you?

Examples:

  • To attract and nurture my ideal audience and clients. 
  • To help my audience solve problems through my valuable, actionable content.

Who You Serve

This section is all about is your ideal audience, reader, or client. 

I chose the word serve because it hits home for me. It puts the focus on meeting their needs, which is the smartest way to run any business.

(Check out the Content GPS post and worksheet to really dig in here.)

Or jump right in:

  • Who might benefit from your content?
  • Who are you trying to reach?
  • Picture the person scrolling through your blog, savoring every post. Who is she/he? 
  • Who shares your posts and comments the most?
  • Who gets it?
  • Take the above and mold into: Your ideal reader

My top recommendation for this section: Be specific--like DNA specific. 

Key Brand Elements and Messages

Again, don't let the terms throw you.

This is such a personal process. You have the answers, and you know what works for your brand/biz.  

I'll guide you, but don't ever think you can have a "wrong answer."

Moving on...in this section, I include Brand Feelings and Values, Key Brand Messages and Themes, and Solving Audience Problems.   

Things to think about:

  • What are the values and feelings underpinning your brand? (Fun? Creative? Blunt? Goofy? Caring?)
  • What messages and big themes express your brand? (Steal my format: Word/theme: Description, messaging, words you want the audience to hear.) 
  • What are the audience problems I help solve? (Steal my format: Audience problem >> result after working with me.)

Tactics, Resources, and Opportunities

 I said earlier that tactics and strategy aren't the same. Right.

But this is where you list all of the nitty-gritty things that get your content out to our ideal audience.

Without tactics, your plan is rudderless. (AKA - up a creek without a paddle.)

Don't worry. This isn't a waste of time. If you do this step, you'll be way ahead on your content calendar. 

Examples of tactics:

  • Blog/Website (such as posts; programs, courses, and services; opt-in freebies)
  • Emails to Subscribers
  • Social Media
  • Relationship Building and Nurturing (such as Facebook Groups)
  • Paid Advertising
  • Collaboration (such as guest posts, or co-hosting a free webinar)

Even if you don't plan to implement a tactic, such as paid advertising, right away, list it anyway. It's a reminder and a future resource.

Strategies

It's about time we got to the strategies! :) 

Don't fool yourself. This is all strategy, baby.

If it helps, you can think of this section as the smarts behind your content. 

What are the specific techniques you can use to connect your content to your audience in meaningful ways?

Examples pulled straight from my Strategic Content Plan:

  • Listening to my audience
  • Remembering my why
  • Asking for help when I need it
  • Being flexible and adaptable

I recommend drilling down into each strategy to provide examples of what this strategy might look like in action. 

For example, "asking for help when I need it" might mean:

  • Relying on my communities for support  
  • Seeking feedback and input even when I’m scared
  • Being open to others’ opinions and feedback, even when I don’t agree

Evaluation

Last, but so important is evaluating your content strategy. 

Is it working? How will you know, if you don't measure it? (And PLAN to measure it in advance, as in put it on your calendar.)

A few metrics you might want to check in on monthly:

  • Email subscribers, open rates, click-through rates
  • Social media engagement
  • Web analytics (Page-views, unique visitors, bounce rate)
  • Conversion rates (How many visitors to a page ended up buying something? Or taking another call-to-action.)
  • Clients (Numbers, successes, and bottom line: Are they happy?)
  • Feedback (What are your readers telling you about your content? Be proactive and ask them!)

You Can Do It (and you should)!

I pinky promise--if you're a content creator, you need a Strategic Content Plan.

It will pay off. So many times. So many ways.

Don't skip it. Don't think it's too hard.

Buckle up buttercup. Set aside a couple of hours and knock it out. (Or if you want help, I'm your huckleberry. It all starts with a phone call.) 

Your turn - tell me in the comments if you have a content strategy, calendar, or both.