How to Create a Successful Content Plan

There is actually no definitive way to create a content plan. Each person has their own unique process, and each team has its own dynamics. However, the most successful and consistent content plans follow a certain structure. And when done correctly, the results are as sweet as a raspberry ripple on a hot summer day 🍦

Now some teams may combine these stages or modify the workflow itself. And that is absolutely fine. Especially if the team has experience working together on dedicated content campaigns. But before you adjust the process to suit your need, it is best to fully understand it. So let’s dive right in, shall we!?

Identify the target audience

Before we even get into the actual content creation side of things, it is important to ‘First-Things-First’ this with a brief overview of the intended audience. While this is a vital aspect of successful content plans, this is actually the stage that gets skipped or rushed the most (which is shockingly shocking 😲).

Potentially, content managers and teams may be in a hurry to get into production, or they have a belief that they generally understand who it’s for, so they just leap over this part. But, take it from someone who has jumped this stage for the above reasons; it is worth taking the time to ensure you and your team are fully aligned on who your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) is.

And the best way to build it is by starting with more demographic-based questions, such as Location and Profession. Then bridging this into deeper insights involving the industry and the individual tasks that this potential customer may be required to do. Finally, you flesh this out with a more nuanced examination of their core objectives, pain points, and how specifically your brand can actually help them.

For more info and guidance on this critical stage of the process, check out Collato’s Inside Scoop about finding your intended audience

Content Ideation

Now we can move onto the Second-Things-Second phase and my personal favorite: Content Ideation and Brainstorming. This one can be tricky to create a standard practice guideline for, as each individual has their own unique way of consolidating their thoughts and generating ideas.

However, here are a few helpful points to remember when looking to structure this kind of work in a team dynamic:

  • Create a Content Briefing document ahead of the Brainstorming Session that details who the audience is and what the goal/outcome should be. The more detailed this initial brief is, the more targeted the ideas will be.
  • Don’t start with a blank page: Ask collaborators to bring ideas to the table, rather than hope inspiration springs in the middle of a meeting.
  • Don’t lose sight of the shy team members in the session. Having an idea isn’t the only thing that should be encouraged and nurtured in this stage. A lot of times, your teammates may actually have an idea, but find it difficult to promote it. So be sure to take a moment to ensure that each party has had ample opportunity to have their say.

Alignment and Process Planning

Once you have the ideas pitched and selected from the ideation stage, it is now time to assign roles and responsibilities. Many times, this part happens alongside the Brainstorming meeting. And, as mentioned earlier, if your team has experience working together, many of these tasks just smoothly land in each other’s roles. But just be sure to list out each individual task involved, as you don’t want any key ingredients falling off the table when it’s time for choppin’.

So the best practice is to simply list out each and every step that requires work from an individual:

If you were creating an ebook, for example, it needs to be written, designed & approved. Not only that, but a user flow needs to be defined: a landing page needs to be created (which also needs to be written, designed & approved), does this landing page lead to a Thank You page or will it lead straight to the PDF (If it’s a Thank You page, then that needs to be written, designed & approved). Will you also be sending out a follow-up email with the ebook inside it? How will you promote it? What platforms? What is the budget? Each step has lots of intricate details involved.

Once you flesh this out, now it is time to assign the right task to the member of your team. And the good thing is that through repetition, this part becomes super smooth.

Creation and Final File Storage

Now that the content is decided upon and assigned, it is time for the actual creation phase. Collato recommends a 5-step process for this specific stage alone:

For a deeper dive into the content & document review process, we recommend you check out this article on the Collato Inside Scoop blog. However, for this article, we do want to highlight the storage side of the content creation process. This is often overlooked or taken for granted. And it’s also the area that can lead to friction after the fact – Your sales rep sending a previous draft of a brochure to a prospective client, or having to create a new social media banner from scratch, as you can’t find the editable file.

Be sure to bake in the storage part of your content plan before you end up juggling drafts and assets across various platforms. And if you’d like to see how Collato can help you with this particular part of the journey, click here.

Reflection & Review

And finally, how do you know if your plan was successful if you don’t take the time to reflect and review? Many times, there is excitement or pressure to move on to the next plan or campaign. But, before you fill your cone with new flavors, be sure to take the necessary steps to fully understand how the last one tasted – Get your team together and inspect how the previous plan went. Did you hit your target? What were the smoothest parts of the process? Where did friction occur and blockers appear?

And this isn’t an exploration of who to blame for the negatives either. It’s a time to celebrate what went well and analyze where you could improve for the next content plan.

And that is it! The 5 stages of creating a successful content plan. We do hope you enjoyed it. And we also understand that this is definitely a more macro-level view of the entire process. If you are looking for more specific insights into the individual stages involved (with some smooth ice cream punnery sprinkled on top 🍦) then we definitely recommend that you swing by our main blog, The Inside Scoop.

Also, if you’d like to learn exactly how Collato can help you and your team reach deadline in record time, then test-drive some of our topnotch Content Collaboration templates today.

Thank you for reading, and best of luck with your content plan!

Chris Brennan

Chris Brennan is an Experienced Content Marketing Manager and part of the team at Collato, a collaboration platform to empower marketing teams, creators, and freelancers to better manage their creative content.