By Joe Pulizzi published July 28, 2012

7 Steps to Creating Your Content Marketing Channel Plan

Once you create content, you need to decide how you are going to distribute it. To figure this out, you need to consider the context in which your audience will view the content and then use that to alter the content accordingly. In short, you need a content marketing channel plan that considers these seven factors:

  1. Situational analysis
  2. Channel objectives
  3. Content/conversation plan (how you’re telling your story)
  4. Metrics
  5. Personas addressed
  6. Content management process
  7. Editorial calendar

creating a content marketing channel plan, CMI

1. Situational analysis

This is your first step and the universal one that addresses all the marketing channels. This is where you use the information from your persona and engagement cycle mapping to look at your current “situation” to determine where you can have the most impact with your story.

Obviously some of your existing marketing efforts (e.g., your blog and website) will come into play here. The idea is to map what you currently have to what you need to effectively tell your story. Ask yourself:

  1. What do we already have that helps us tell this story (e.g., an existing website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, corporate materials, article marketing effort, etc.)?
  2. What must change in order for us to tell this story (e.g., do we need to add a blog, develop a separate blog, create or revisit our social web strategy)?
  3. What must stop (if anything) for us to tell this story (e.g., do we need to stop using Facebook and divert our energy to a blog)?

Out of this situational analysis will come some prioritization, budget consideration, and more tactical things that need to get done.

2. Channel objectives

This is where you map objectives of the marketing channels to the engagement cycle (remember these are tightly woven with your ultimate goals). And it’s perfectly okay if a channel only “contributes” to another channel.

For example, based on the goals of your content marketing and the story you are telling, you may decide that the primary objective of your Facebook page is to create increased and loyal traffic to your ultimate content (let’s say it’s a blog). In order to drive that traffic, you may need to create a following on Facebook. So your first “objective” for the Facebook page will be to “build your ‘likes’ ” to create that community.

3. Content plan

This is how you map the channel to the larger story structure. This will usually take the form of an outline or narrative and is used to organize your content plan for the channel.

For example, in the situation described above — because your primary objective for the Facebook page is to increase loyal traffic to your blog, you want to build a community. So the first part of your content plan for Facebook might be a “contest,” email marketing program, or some other type of community-building action to build your Facebook subscription. The second part of the plan might kick in once you’ve reached some “goal” (e.g., conversions, number of subscribers, etc.); then you’ll begin refocusing your content to drive specific personas to your blog. You can use your imagination to see how this step might be multilayered, as you continue your community building and refocusing of content.

You need to consider context here as well.

For example, let’s say you’re talking about a “mobile channel” and your channel objective is to build subscribers to your blog or website. And let’s say you post lots of really valuable, long-form content on that blog. Maybe an initial content plan for that “mobile channel” would be to produce a different, shorter, or more mobile-specific category to that channel, knowing that your mobile persona only has time and bandwidth for a very short version of content that they may want to read later. Here, you are fulfilling the “contextual need” of your mobile persona.

4. Metrics

We use the word metrics here very specifically, as opposed to key performance indicators (KPIs) or “results.” With as many marketing channels as you already have working, against all the different campaigns — and as your content marketing will inevitably overlap into your marketing channels — metrics are what you want to track here.

Here, metrics are “goals” that will align with your story. For example, you might say “with this contest we’re running on Facebook, our goal is to get 1,000 subscribers over the next two months before we move into the second phase of our story.”

5. Personas addressed

Looking back at your persona mapping, certainly not every channel will address every persona. So for each channel you are considering, you should identify which personas will be addressed.

Once you are done with your channel plan, look at it holistically and make any adjustments that are needed. You may find that you have done a great job of creating a channel plan that fails to address your most critical persona.  Whoops. Or, you may find that you’re trying to address too many personas through one particular channel — and it makes better sense to split them. For example, Dell has multiple Twitter accounts used for customer service, discounts and general information.

6. Content management process

For this stage, you need to ensure that you have a method and process (e.g., people and tools) to manage the content and conversation for this particular channel. What will you manage? Who will do it — and how?

7. Editorial plan

Lastly, you’ll need an editorial plan for the channel. This will map to your global editorial calendar — but doesn’t identify dates or times yet. The purpose of the editorial plan is to define velocity, tone, desired action, and structure for the content for this channel.

For example, for your Facebook page you might have the following:

Velocity: Three posts per day
Tone: Friendly, funny, and with a tongue-in-cheek attitude
Desired action: We want them to click through to the blog
Structure — 10 to 20-word post, plus pictures (if applicable) and a “conversion link.”

So there you have it — the seven basics of a content marketing channel plan. As mentioned above, just keep in mind that you can create multiple channels. You’re allowed to have more than one blog, or multiple Facebook pages — and you don’t have to launch them at the same time. For example, you may find that two different types of blogs are more appropriate than just one. Or you may find that you want to later add a Twitter account specifically for a subsequent “chapter” of your content marketing story. There is no one right way to do things, so experiment, get feedback and continue to evolve your channel plan.

The content strategy defines the channel strategy — not the other way around.

This piece was excerpted and edited from Managing Content Marketing by Robert Rose and Joe Pulizzi.

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is the Founder of Content Marketing Institute, a UBM company, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s the author of five books, including his latest, Killing Marketing. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine. If you ever see Joe in person, he’ll be wearing orange. Follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

Other posts by Joe Pulizzi

  • Mariawilliams672

    Clear image is provided in terms of content marketing… like it when it comes to channel objectives and the content plan in the post

  • Ayaz

    Hi Joe! these are great points and tips. Certainly following these rules any blogger can achieve their goals easily. Thanks for sharing great information. 

  • Jason Dodd

    can you provide some specific examples of where this has worked for businesses that dont have massive budgets, are not already a well-known brand or arent in some kind of affiliate marketing niche. the theory sounds nice but the reality is that content marketing is just spam in a different medium…

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Jason…I would look at what Eloqua, Monetate or Openview Venture Partners are doing. Each of them are doing amazing work without large budgets.

  • Saul Fleischman

    Great stuff, and may I suggest that anyone looking to hone in on conversations, curate content and/or topic-tag for reach needs to use the brand new social media tool, for brand monitoring, listening, topic smart-tagging, and content curation (with proper referencing of original content creators): RiteTag is a tool for finding the “rite” tags for many social networks based on your query. We also provide stats and examples of recent updates with each tag suggested, so people can learn about the types of content that tends to go with a tag.

    Some tools do tag illustration. Also, they do the job just with Twitter; already has 10 social neworks (with topic-tagging) integrated, and will expand to more than 20 – which people can search on simultaneously. RiteTag – to find the rite tags, per network (they vary per network) and learn about tags as well. Its not about SEO, but SSO: social sharing optimization: optimizing social media updates to be seen by those not following you by name, but following and searching for your tagged topics. And absolutely nothing out there does what does for this, not for one network, let alone the ten that we already have integrated.

  • Karro

    Great information and still relevant.

  • tracydiziere

    Awesome as usual! I think a whole blog post could be written about “Channel Objectives.” That’s such an important area and I suspect it can get complicated from a planning perspective. Let me know if you take up the topic in the future and I’ll be sure to read and share it!

  • Bùi Ngọc Dũng

    Hi Joe, very impressive articles, wondering if you have an applicable template for those 7 steps