Content Marketing and PR – To plan or not to plan!?
February 25, 2021, Bad Soden – Let's be honest: planning content marketing and PR is a bit like new year's resolutions: all those good intentions that soon fall by the wayside! So what is the reality? Is it worthwhile spending time planning content for the coming year (agenda setting), in other words deciding in advance which topics to focus on and drawing up a detailed editorial calendar that can be worked through step by step? Or is it better to cut out the advance planning and “fly by sight”: stay alert and surf the wave of the latest trends (agenda surfing)? Does that really involve less work?
The two approaches are not mutually exclusive and there are good reasons to use both agenda setting and agenda surfing. However, both involve work, planning and patience. Otherwise content marketing and PR can turn out to be damp squibs.
One thing is clear: content marketing and PR cannot be done on the side! Common reasons why they fall by the wayside are lack of capacity, lack of people, too many projects — no matter whether the company is an SME or a major player in its sector. Maybe the company does not have a marketing and communication department and the boss tries to take care of things on the side (the problem here is obvious!). Or maybe the departments responsible have so many other projects on the go (internal communications, employer branding, change and transformation processes, etc.) that there is simply too little time to plan content marketing and PR work.
Planning is vital
Communication is complex and there are so many variables that need to be considered. After all, the goal of PR and content marketing is to reach the right target groups with the right content at the right time and place. Of course, a spontaneous burst of activity can be successful, but somehow it never quite feels right.
A better solution is get a good understanding of how your target group ticks so you can really target their needs. Keyword searches can be helpful. A market analysis of trends and topics also makes sense.
Then you can compare what interests your target group with what you want to communicate, in short, your expertise and what you do. That is the basis for ensuring a balanced content plan. Defining key topics is the first step towards a communication strategy.
The next step is considering the timing. When might it make sense to place the content, so it grabs the attention of the media or a specific target group? Anchor points could be seasons, specific events, political issues, and…and…and ... The agenda-setting phase is time-consuming because it involves thinking about a number of aspects. For example, when is the company planning a (marketing) campaign that could be used as a springboard for PR and content marketing? It also involves research, going through the publication schedules and media data of your target media and considering the budget that has been earmarked for specific topics. Of course, that takes time and effort, but ultimately it is worthwhile - if the content hits the nail on the head, there is better chance it will be noticed by the target group.
Linking content (WHAT) and timing (WHEN) is what we call an editorial calendar. However, it is equally important to consider where to place the content, in other words, which platforms or channels to use: printed media, online platforms, social media, your own website. As a starting point, an Excel spreadsheet can be helpful. However, keeping track of things via a spreadsheet naturally gets more difficult as the content, deadlines and channels become more complex. Fortunately, there are digital tools to help – and Köhl et Feling of course.
The work should be spread across as many shoulders as possible. Define who is responsible for what – and hey presto, you've got your production plan! Now, at the latest, it should be clear that agenda setting and foresighted content planning are not activities the managing director can do on the side. After all, managing directors have other things to do ... ;-)
Another way of approaching content is agenda surfing. When the media is driving certain trends and topics, it often makes sense to ride the wave. Here’s an example: In spring 2020, as it became increasingly obvious that the major trade fairs would have to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the media showed great interest in companies that had taken up the shift to virtual trade shows: they could be sure to grab the attention of journalists and the public. The art of agenda surfing is to push your content out with the wave.
However, agenda surfing has nothing to do with sudden action or the “maybe now’s the time to do something” mentality. Agenda surfing involves taking the time to find out which topics are currently in fashion with the public and the media. The outcome can be included in content plan and the editorial calendar.
Successful communication requires discipline and patience
Admittedly, that doesn't seem really “sexy”. But once the real groundwork has been done and the content has been planned, mustering the patience to stay the course is important – because that is only the first hurdle! There is the steady stream of new topics to be examined and integrated into the editorial schedule. And the content plan needs to be put into practice: Which topics are suitable for a blog on the company website? What can be used in an effective press release? What could be marketed in a case study or used to publish a more detailed specialist article?
Thankfully, professional help is at hand!
How often a company posts content or publishes information depends on the company, its communications experience and, of course, its “staying power”. If you have limited experience of PR and content marketing, the best advice is not to try to do too much at once: the initial enthusiasm will soon wear off, and you’ll find yourself back thinking “we need to get round to ....” Here too, help is at hand. :-)
Our advice: don’t try to do more than you can handle; it’s better to post content regularly via the relevant channels. Because being present is what gets you noticed.
Testing and analysing
Now you have got this far, don’t be tempted to let up – all PR and content marketing efforts need to be analysed carefully. How did it go? Was there any response to what I published? Was the response positive or negative, lively or a bit subdued? Why might that be? Perhaps the timing was wrong?
And here's one more piece of advice: Be patient! No-one can expect the first steps to be perfect, that you will suddenly attract thousands of followers, the phone will never stop ringing and editors will be queuing up for interviews.
So when is the right time for content planning?
The short answer is: anytime! Just because your planning wasn’t perfect at the start of the year, doesn't mean you have to spend the next ten or eleven months stumbling blindly through the media landscape.
”The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago.
The second best time to plant a tree is now.”
So: The best time for content planning was obviously yesterday - but the second best time is NOW!