As a marketer, you know the industry is a mixed bag of talent. Some marketers are creatives, others are Type A planners operating on the assumption that everything should follow a predetermined sequence.
Although all types of personalities have a role in marketing content creation and management, great marketing comes from a balance of the proverbial left and right sides of the brain.
If you've ever started a new job or taken on a new client and asked for brand guidelines, core messaging, or a content schedule only to be met with blank stares or to never get a response to that email, this article is for you.
Yeah, you could totally wing it blog post by blog post, tweet by tweet. But if you truly want to build brand awareness and create meaningful relationships with your readers, followers, and customers, planning is a must.
Here are eight ways planning will make you a better marketer.
1. You're ready to respond
Authenticity starts with knowing who and what you are and what you're striving for. In fact, some argue that your mission matters more than your product or service. By writing, editing, sleeping on, revisiting, and finalizing some core messaging for a brand, you'll have stock, yet genuine, answers for inquiries that come your way.
Core messages make it easy to create content—and responses—for blog posts, tweets, Facebook posts, or email inquiries. You'll be efficient and consistent, delivering a constant message about where your brand stands.
2. You're ready to pull back if needed
There's a time and place for process and structure. Security, ownership of channels, and emergencies are a few examples of where a documented publishing process can help you respond in the case of an emergency or a sudden change in your organization or at your client's business.
In the case of an emergency, you should have someone who's designated to pull your promotional tweets if a natural disaster or act of terrorism occurs. If there's a need to pause all online presence for a period of time—in the instance of major market changes, leadership switches, or layoffs—there should be a trusted, designated person to own that.
You do not want to be like this company, which started layoffs prior to changing its social media passwords, resulting in a brand-damaging live-tweet of the layoffs.
3. Your content is shareable because it's relevant and clean
By planning and building a content schedule, you can also build out timelines: when to assign it to a writer, what you need from a designer, when it should hit the editor's desk, and when it should post.
If you plan for high-quality content creation and ensure there's time for each step of the process, you're preparing the whole content package that your fans and readers will want to share because it demonstrates the thought and creativity that went into it. (You can find a guide here.)
4. You'll start to notice trends that are unique to your audience
Determine your goals (e.g., 10,000 visits to my website per month), how you'll monitor it (e.g., Google analytics), and how frequently you'll measure it (e.g., monthly). The more specific you are at the beginning of a marketing campaign or long-term strategy, the easier it'll be to make adjustments for improved results.
You'll start to notice trends for your unique audience... trends that you won't find on a marketing blog or through an email newsletter. Maybe your audience eats up celebrity gossip, or maybe they love pro-NRA positioning. The only way you'll know what your audience wants is to monitor progress toward your goals.
5. You and your team know which way the ship is going
From a morale perspective, by planning a marketing strategy, messaging, and goals you can create a sense of control and a mission—as if you're all moving toward a common goal. If you're throwing mud against the wall and hoping it sticks, you'll probably attract writers, designers, and editors who can't and won't invest into the content creation because... why should they? Steer the ship by referencing plans and documents that demonstrate thought and strategy.
6. You can meaningfully contribute to ongoing dialogue
Defining which issues your brand takes a stand on—and which side they stand with—can help transform followers and readers into brand advocates.
7. You'll sleep better at night
Some research has shown that the best way to manage stress is planning. That's right: not meditation or yoga or back massages. Planning.
And if planning leads to managed stress, and managed stress leads to better thinking, then you have the time and brainpower to generate creative marketing that resonates with your audience.
8. You can stop mistakes before they happen
Have you ever read an article by a major media outlet or publisher and thought, "How did that make it all the way to Facebook without someone noticing [X mistake]?" Like the time American Apparel posted a photo of the Challenger tragedy, mistaking it for fireworks.
Often, such mistakes can be attributed to a lack of planning content, a breakdown in process (a rushed editor or community manager gives approval without truly reviewing), or a complete absence of a review process.
By planning a process for review prior to publishing content, you can post high-quality, error-free content even on the fly, as Oreo did during the Super Bowl blackout in 2013.
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Keep fighting the good fight, all you planners. If a content schedule doesn't exist, map it out yourself. If brand or content guidelines don't exist, make them.
Planning will make your life easier and your work better, and it will put you a head of the pack.