• Patricia Murphy

Creating a Content Calendar Doesn’t Mean Scripting Every Day

Are you a planner? Do you like to plan out your weekly schedule, knowing where you will be every moment of your day?

Or are you more of a free spirit, where you take what comes your way, but don’t actually worry too much about when you do things just so long as you get them done?

Or do you fall somewhere in the middle, where you have a general idea of what you’re going to be doing and when, but you’re not tied into a strict schedule?

Many social media planners and content marketers fall into one of these three camps. One group knows exactly what blog post, Instagram post, and tweet they’re going to send every moment of the day. One group just kind of tweets whenever they feel like it. And the third group, the Just Right group, has a general idea of what they’re going to publish, but remain flexible on the exact message.

I’ve seen some companies that will plan out each and every blog post and tweet they’re going to send in an entire year. The first three month’s blog articles have been written, and the entire year’s tweets have been written and scheduled.

Needless to say, this can often have unfortunate results and make a company come across as heartless and crass. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen where a corporate brand tweets something that clashes with something else that happens.

For example, while Hurricane Harvey was pummeling Texas last year, Chick-fil-A, Burger King, and Target were all sending out tone-deaf tweets about their hash brown scrambles, chicken fries, and being “pawsitively pumped for #NationalDogDay.” Five years before that, Gap tweeted to Hurricane Sandy victims to stay safe and to encourage people to shop All in the same tweet. (They later apologized.)

Why did this happen?

There are a couple of reasons this could have happened.

The person in charge of those accounts was just being insensitive and unaware of how tone deaf their tweets sounded. This was especially evident in Gap’s tweet.

They had scheduled their tweets, let everything run on autopilot and then didn’t shut off that automatic stream when disaster struck.

I’ve seen item #2 happen more times than I can count, and it all happens because of one simple problem: people overscripted their social media communication.

I don’t care who you are, or how much you plan, life happens, things change, and disasters occur. You can script and calculate your life all you want, but things will change almost immediately. An employee will quit, you’ll launch a new product, or your industry’s rules and laws will change, and everything you planned flies right out the window.

This is true of life, and this is true of an annual content calendar.

Once you have to change your content calendar because of something major, you’ve wasted a lot of time, energy, and money putting it together.

Let’s say a financial services company wants to educate potential customers on what can be done with IRAs and self-investing. They write and schedule 30+ articles and 200+ tweets about the tax implications of self-investing those IRAs, but then the law changes, and the things you’re allowed to do and not do with those IRAs changes drastically.

This means the company will have to throw out or rewrite all 30 articles, and many of those tweets are now unusable. That probably took over 100 staff hours to come up with all of that — 2.5 weeks of work for a single person — and it’s now obsolete.

This could have all been avoided.

If the financial services company had just been a little more flexible in their content planning, they could have avoided wasting all that great content and the time and money to make it.

To be that flexible, all you have to do is create a general guideline of the things you want to talk about. Write up a list of general topics you want to discuss, and schedule those topics. Let’s say an IT security company wants to write articles for their blog. Their list can include:

News about phishing and scamsNetwork securityLaptop securityMobile device security

And they’re going to cover that list of topics one time each month: the first week of the month is for phishing and scams, the second week is for network security, and so on.

They can create a similar content calendar for their tweets, Facebook updates, and LinkedIn updates. Every update can follow the same schedule. Just curate news stories about each topic and schedule them to go out in that order: the first update is about phishing, the second update is about network security, and so on. Repeat as needed.

Not only do they know what the topic is going to be about, so the appropriate subject matter expert can plan accordingly, but it gives them the flexibility to or switch around change topics if something changes in their field, or if there are breaking news developments to report.

If you want to write all of your content in advance and be done with it, write a book. Then you can release it all at once, you don’t have to worry about dropping off production, and if something changes, well, that’s what second editions are for.

But otherwise, resist the urge to pre-plan everything you do. It costs you a lot of time and money, and there’s a very good chance you’ll have to do a lot of revising and rescheduling before publication time anyway.

If you would like to learn more about content calendars and how creating guidelines for your content schedule can work for you, please visit our website or you can contact us for more information.

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