By Joe Pulizzi published October 16, 2009

Creating Consistent Content – A Content Marketing Plan

The following is a guest post courtesy of Russell Sparkman from Fusionspark Media, a new media communications company based in Washington state. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Russell on a number of projects, most recently their amazingly successful New Media 2012 conference.

As you will learn from Russell’s post, he’s advocating a content marketing schedule that is quite ambitious, challenging for most companies. We believe this sort of thinking is not just nice to do, but necessary to the overall business and marketing strategy. Check it out and let me know what you think.

This is a story about story budgets. No, not the kind of budget that defines, in dollars and cents, what you’ll spend on a story.

This is about the traditional media use of the term “story budget” to describe the running tab of story ideas that make up a long-term publishing schedule.

If you’ve been following this blog, among others on similar topics, you’ve heard many times that content marketers need to think and act like publishers. One essential step in this process is to create and maintain an ongoing story budget.

An essential component of a story budget is the publishing schedule around which you plan, produce and publish content. If you are embarking upon Content Marketing strategies you will need to establish a publishing schedule that you can plan around, and adhere to, as much as possible. Planning your publishing schedule is easy as 1-7-30-4-2-1 (*see important message, at bottom).

This mnemonic device represents the frequency around which you should be publishing content to your web presence, and across social media sites, other sites, etc., as part of a strategic content marketing initiative. Let’s review these numbers one by one:

1 = Daily

“1″ is the loneliest number, according to a Three Dog Night song. In terms of content marketing strategy, it’s the busiest number. In this case, “1″ is an active number because it refers to the daily basis upon which you are engaged in publishing. Now, you may be sitting there thinking “how on earth can I publish on a daily basis?”

Here are a few tips of what you can easily publish on a daily basis:

  • Twitter updates that offer something of value to your constituents
  • News items you read elsewhere that are relevant to your core content; use Google Alerts to provide you with a steady stream of news relevant to your product, service or cause
  • RSS feeds into your site from other sites offering content relevant to your core product, service or cause.
  • User-generated Content (UGC) in your site, through your own site’s submission functions, or dynamically fed through sites such as Flickr. UGC also includes comments and ratings systems.

7 = Weekly

“7″ is a lucky number in the game of craps. But in terms of content marketing, “7″ refers to the weekly contributions you make in your content marketing strategy. Here are a few suggestions of weekly activities related to your content marketing strategy:

  • A new blog post
  • A photo gallery
  • A short video (one with simple production values, i.e. of someone giving a presentation)
  • Offline media buys, such as Radio, TV, Print
  • Participation in related forums, or discussion groups
  • Update of your product catalog
  • Update of your primary website’s pages and/or sections

30 = Monthly

“30″ is the age over which we didn’t trust anyone. Until, of course, a lot of us passed that age milestone. However, in terms of content marketing, “30″ represents what you can publish on a monthly basis.

As the length of the cycle increases, so do the potential production values of your monthly offering. A few ideas of what you can publish on a monthly basis include:

  • Write a new blog post based on extensive research, or an interview with a subject matter expert, etc.
  • Create and send an eNewsletter
  • Produce a short video (2 to 3 minutes, with increasingly greater production values, i.e. script, location shooting, multiple cameras, etc)
  • Produce a video of one of your executives speaking at a conference
  • Produce an audio Podcast
  • Create a PowerPoint presentation and share it via Slideshare
  • Organize and promote a “Tweetup,” or similar offline gathering
  • Make online/offline media buys, such as Radio, TV, Print, Google Adwords

4 = Quarterly

Taxes are often due quarterly. And so are important content assets of your content marketing strategy.

Look at your quarterly publishing cycle as an opportunity to reach for a bigger bang. Examples of what you can publish on a quarterly basis include:

  • Publish a research-based White Paper
  • Create an E-book series and distribute it in PDF format
  • Produce a video series
  • Create an animated infographic
  • Produce a special issue of your eNewsletter
  • Make an announcement of contest or sweepstakes winners

2 = Bi-annual

Twice a year, you should plan something big as a part of your content marketing strategy. If done correctly, a Bi-annual event would be something worth video-taping, so that you can use the video to fill weekly, monthly or quarterly needs. Examples of Bi-annual content include:

  • Produce an experiential event, and record the proceedings for later use in your weekly, monthly or quarterly cycles
  • Create a new print brochure & offer it for download in PDF format
  • Produce a webcast
  • Utilizing the content you’re producing (stories, photos, images), participate in a trade show or conference

1 = Annual

Birthdays and anniversaries come around once per year. These celebrations are a clue as to what you should think of in terms of producing content on an annual cycle. Your annual content marketing activities should be a celebration, an event, an announcement. Some suggestions include:

  • Produce an experiential event, and record the proceedings for later use in your weekly, monthly or quarterly cycles
  • Host an executive roundtable, and record the proceedings
  • Produce an annual industry White Paper, or eBook
  • Speak or present at an annual conference
  • Announce and launch a contest or a sweepstakes
  • Update your web presence with a new story feature, a new tool set or new functionality
  • Create and launch an iPhone app, a Facebook app

Produce a Game

Altogether, a 1-7-30-4-2-1 publishing schedule amounts to what is increasingly being referred to as multiplatform, or 360 platform, or transmedia storytelling experience. These are content marketing strategies where your content and your story are ubiquitous and you are engaging with your audience anywhere, any time and on any device.

* Important Note: A 1-7-30-4-2-1 publishing schedule is an ambitious undertaking that is well-worth the effort in terms of building awareness, building and engaging an audience, generating qualified leads, etc. However, it’s well understood by the author that there are considerable human bandwidth and financial factors to be considered in producing according to such a schedule. We’re working on it, ourselves. Suffice it to say that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your content marketing story budget. The emphasis here is on planning, and building out your story budget and publishing schedule over time. Starting today! So, get started!

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi considers himself the poster boy for content marketing. Founder of the Content Marketing Institute, Joe evangelizes content marketing around the world through keynotes, articles, tweets and his books, Managing Content Marketing and Get Content Get Customers. Joe's latest book is Epic Content Marketing (McGraw-Hill). If you want to get on his good side, send him something orange. For more on Joe, check out his personal site or follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

Other posts by Joe Pulizzi

  • http://www.creativebrandmarketing.co.uk/blog Nigel Lamb

    Great article. I’ve read many blog posts from others that talk about content on blogs, what you can write about, and also about choosing a theme for your blog, but this is the first one to talk about (in my layman terms) a publishing schedule.
    Personally it’s a lot to take on all at once, but is certainly could be something that could be brought on in stages, building up to the full 1-7-30-4-2-1.

  • http://marketingthatmatters.blogspot.com Chris Herbert

    This is a really good framework to use. Thx. Can you give us an idea of what to budget for this type of plan?

  • http://investmentwriting.blogspot.com Susan Weiner

    I’m doing 1, 7 & 30. The other numbers are great food for thought

  • http://www.coronissolutions.com Brian Hicks

    Great recommendations Joe. Succinct & many are easily executed.
    Brian

  • http://www.fusionspark.com Russell Sparkman

    Re Chris Herbert’s question about what to budget for this type of plan:
    This question, of course, comes up all the time. Because there are so many variables, I’m going to shift the question from “What to Budget” to “How to Budget.” Here is how we explain content marketing budget development to clients:
    1. Read Seth Godin’s Meatball Sundae. I often recommend this book to existing and new clients because of its key premise: ask not how you can use New Media approaches such as Content Marketing to market your “business as usual” company or organization, but how can you change your company/organization to better utilize New Media approaches;
    2. If you follow the advice in Point #1, and you’re focus is Content Marketing, then a conclusion you need to come to is that it will take a new commitment, or realignment, of human resources to content creation or development. If it’s a small business, this may mean the business owner’s commitment; if it’s a large corporation, it’s going to be a realignment of people in the communications departments. Or, it’ll mean creating a relationship with an outside content strategy/development agency;
    3. If you make the human resource commitment, then the next step is to look at what you normally spend or budget for marketing and realize that now you’re going to begin using a significant portion of those funds to invest in content. Notice the use of the term “invest.” This isn’t spending. It’s investment;
    4. Next, look at the recommended 1-7-30-4-2-1 schedule featured in this blog post, and start picking off the low hanging fruit. budget-wise. For example, blogging is a major time commitment, but since it can be done without paying anyone, it’s often the most affordable point of entry. Additional, lower cost approaches are self-generated, in-depth presentations such as White Papers in PDF format, Powerpoints uploaded to Slideshare.com, and so;
    5. At the opposite end of the spectrum from blogging, in terms of time and budget, is producing a workshop, a web video series, or an event. However, these are excellent investments because content from them can be “multipurposed” across the whole content plan and publishing frequency range (for my own content marketing efforts, we came out of the starting gate by producing an event, for example. We have videos from the event that we’ll be publishing monthly to our site, and so on);
    I’ll wrap this comment up with a little story. I lived in New England for many years. I learned that Old New England farmhouses often started out as a single, small house and a separate, detached barn. Over the years, the farmers would add onto the single, small house in phases as the family grew and as income allowed, until, eventually, the house and the barn were connected. They became one unified unit.
    When planning your content marketing budget, and striking out to publish or produce content on a 1-7-30-4-2-1 frequency, keep the Old New England farmhouse analogy in mind.
    You may start out with a daily or weekly blog (i.e., the little farm house), and a more production intensive project like an annual event (i.e., the barn).
    Over time, as resources and budget allow, your content investment will make all the little in-between connections so that you end up with a content marketing strategy that is a unified whole.
    Additional Reading:
    Content Marketing Playbook
    http://blog.junta42.com/content_marketing_blog/2009/10/check-out-the-content-marketing-playbook-a-free-ebook-experiment.html
    The Content Factory: Maximizing Content Investments Through Multipurposing
    http://www.fusionspark.com/blog/2009/01/09/the-content-factory-maximizing-content-investments-through-multipurposing/
    Content Marketing Secrets, Part I: The Energizer Bunny of Marketing
    http://www.fusionspark.com/blog/2009/02/12/content-secrets-part-i-the-energizer-bunny-of-marketing/

  • http://redcanary.ca Trevor

    Brilliant even for publishers. After all, successful online publishing is not just about sentences and paragraphs, it must be a holistic digital practice.

  • http://www.crearecommunications.co.uk Jenny Pilley

    Thanks for this post Joe, really insightful. I think many of us like structure and with this in mind you’ve provided an excellent tool many of us can work from.
    As the others have mentioned, few of us are doing all of the list but dipping in some, but a structure is needed to ensure all bases are covered, and you’ve provided that.

  • http://blog.junta42.com/content_marketing_blog/2009/10/custom-publishing-budgeting.html Junta42 blog

    Custom Publishing Budgeting – Providing Some Answers

    We’ve had some excellent feedback around Russell Sparkman’s guest post on creating a consistent content plan. As part of the discussion, Chris Herbert asked how a company should go about budgeting for a custom publishing plan such as this. Below…

  • http://www.russhenneberry.com Russ Henneberry

    Very good stuff. This plan is not too ambitious in my opinion either, with the suggestions laid out herein, there is more than enough opportunity to publish material on this schedule.

  • Allan

    Awesome stuff. Starbuck’s marketing plan is also great to learn from:
    http://www.wepapers.com/Papers/50461/Starbucks__Marketing_Plan

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  • http://www.seodesk.co.uk James Jones

    Great plan its not too ambitious and very achievable. Content is very hard to keep doing but with a plan like this you can organise yourself so you get it done to a high standard.

    Thanks Joe good stuff

  • http://ajamesediting.com Amber James

    Hi Russell, Joe and My Lovely Content Creating Peers,

    The information in this post is extremely informative, concise and accessible. I really appreciate that you’ve boiled this content marketing method down so well, but also that you’ve stated quite clearly that this isn’t something we should try to do in a day or even a year. Sometimes it can feel like a scramble to keep up with all the latest ways to connect with your audience and content marketing is one of them.

    You lay out an achievable plan of action that requires me to echo the sentiments of previous commentators: good stuff.

    Cheers,
    Amber

  • http://www.comoganardineroxinternet.com Rogelio

    Although I usually plan my content, I rarely pass the 1 month mark for planning. Going quarterly or more might seem a little more trouble but since planning saves you more trouble than anything else, it’s worth the work.

    Great post.

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  • http://affiliatemarketermakemoney.blogspot.com/ Affiliate Blogger

    Creating content is not an easy task but when i read till the last word of this blog post, i believe it is achievable. Thanks for helping people with writers block to find new ideas.

  • http://cashinghub.com/ Jeet

    Great PLAN, Managing time is important. Publishing content consistently can get you top spot on search engine. consistent means weekly or daily. Quarterly is not recommend as it’s a very long gap. You might face crawling problem.