If we’ve got the ability to get publishing to a company blog or other content stream, then the temptation is to start publishing, just get the thing moving and see what sticks.

I don’t doubt this approach has worked for some companies and people out there, but I often find that a lot of content marketing falters in the long term because of a lack of planning. A lack of planning means a lack of structure, and more than likely a lack of objectives. Not having these means increasing the probability of losing steam.

Much better to plan out your approach first, and then come back to that on a revolving basis after seeing what worked (and more importantly, what didn’t). Over the years, I’ve become familiar with a process. Each block of this process might seem simple in isolation, but it’s when you put it in the right order that it really works.

1. Research… deep research

You may know your focus area inside out. You might not. My advice at either end is to spend some time researching it – no one is going to have ‘completed’ their expertise in an area. Spending time researching will inevitably set off some fireworks and ideas you hadn’t thought of before. I suggest:

  • Existing industry magazines, books and papers
  • Competitor research – such as reading websites or their blogs
  • The keyword planner, Soovle or Answer the Public can also throw up interesting queries. I wouldn’t worry too much about keyword volumes at this stage – you just need to create ideas that people could potentially be interested in.
content planning

I feel it’s important that people involved in this research do it as a deep focused individual activity. After all, you can’t discuss the latest 60-page government paper about a topic without having read it. That sounds obvious, but the deep activity is so often abandoned. Allow the time for deep research, allow it time to gestate, and then come up with ideas. It’s not much use frantically trying to cram some reading in 10 minutes before the next stage.

The outcome is really to have rough ideas that you will be able to present to a group.

2. Content brainstorm and mindmapping

Having done the research, bring those initial rough ideas together in the form of a brainstorm. Brainstorms have a bad reputation of being filled with meaningless jargon and not giving clarity. But this is usually because the deep research isn’t done properly – do it properly and they can work well as a collaboration.

Someone ultimately must be the arbiter of this process – if you don’t have an editor, you should appoint one (even if not in a literal job sense). You may find conflicts arise without a leader to the process – ie…