11 Ways to Build Out a Scalable Editorial Calendar

11 ways to build out a scalable editorial calendarWhen I’m creating an editorial calendar for an ongoing project, I like to start with key dates that will impact the direction of my content. Things like holidays, trade events, special promotions or key dates that are significant to the company. Once that’s fleshed out, I schedule one cornerstone piece of work every 4 to 6 weeks that is then transposed into different channels depending on the client and their audience.

Plotting Key Dates

Once I’ve plotted out my key dates, I look at what content is required to support those milestones. If I’m writing for a B2C client, that might mean incorporating holidays into the context of my work. In B2B, writing about trade events or special promotions are obviously going to get built into the schedule as well.

Creating Pillar Content Strategies

Once date-driven events are plotted out, I look at creating a pillar content piece that sets a theme for a period of time (let’s say 30 days). Once developed, I then slice and dice it for a variety of channels, audiences, and touch points.  The key is to create one large and detailed content asset that can then be remodeled rather than continuously developing new pieces from scratch.

For example, let’s say I’m looking at a January through March calendar schedule for a B2C fitness technology company. I might focus on creating an ebook about effective goal-setting in January, a heart-healthy piece for February and an inspirational guide for March. All of these key pieces are ebook format. From there, I can pull segments of the book into the following assets:

  1. Break ebook content into blog post series.
  2. Create social media posts to promote the ebook download, but also retooling content and images to use separately.
  3. Transition content into a slide deck and post on SlideShare (great SEO here, even for B2C).
  4. Use the slide deck content for a monthly webinar series.
  5. Post the recorded webinar/screencast to YouTube and Vimeo
  6. Record the entire ebook to audio, post to iTunes and Sound Cloud.
  7. Make a 15 minute Periscope meet up to discuss goal-setting tips (or whatever the topic is).
  8. If appropriate, retool content for a LinkedIn blog post or series.
  9. Is the topic evergreen? Split the content up into a 5-part drip email mini-series and use it as a lead-generator.
  10. Pull images and infographics from the ebook and pin them to Pinterest. Have them point back to a lead gathering landing page as an evergreen download.
  11. Pull segments of the ebook and create guest posts with it (using the full ebook as a lead magnet of course).

Retooling content is not only the most scalable way to create multiple channels and assets for your company, it also builds authority, trust and familiarity. When a brand produces a consistent flow of information, your audience anticipates it (and that’s a very good thing).

So how well is your content really performing? 3 Ways to measure success, today.

measuring content performance

There are four types of content marketing metrics: consumption, sharing, leads, and sales. Most marketers overvalue the first two (blog page views and retweets, for example) and undervalue the last two (email subscriptions from people who first read the blog and, ultimately, sales from among that group). If you focus your metrics on behavior, rather than on data aggregation, you’ll be measuring points of greater business value.
– Jay Baer (@jaybaer)

My websites rarely get comments anymore, although traffic continues to grow year-over-year. My Facebook posts appear to get little traction, but when I measure traffic sources, I see that it’s still my second largest social channel source next to Pinterest.

The interesting thing here is that on the surface none of these assets look like they provide much engagement, yet they tend to convert to subscribers very well.

As Jay Baer states above, marketers and brand owners tend to focus on content consumption volume rather than metrics that move the revenue needle (subscribers and sales). Because let’s face it, it’s much easier to build assumptions by glancing at numbers of likes and shares than actually measuring how effective an asset has been in leading potential customers into a sales funnel.

Here are three ways to look past the initial likes and shares of your content to the behavioral results of your overall strategy.

  1. A full package CRM solution like Marketo or Hubspot will connect the dots between a potential customer’s first social engagement all the way to final purchase and the touch points that occurred along the way. Marketo leans toward B2B enterprise while Hubspot is more affordable for smaller organizations. These programs are ideal for measuring overall inbound marketing effectiveness, tracking everything from live events, webinars to PPC and email promos.
  2. If you just want to measure the impact of a single campaign or offer, it’s far easier than you might think to set up a Google Analytics conversion tracking system that will track how effective certain promos or opt-ins are at converting. Bottom line – if something is taking up precious real estate on your website but it’s not performing well, either change it up or let it go.
  3. Using heat maps to track clicks on any given page on your website will give you an idea of where your visitors are going, what they’re clicking on and more importantly, what they’re not clicking on. SumoApp offers a free WordPress plugin that provides instant results on how a campaign or sales page is performing.

Bottom line – while great content is still king, consumption behavior is more complex than first glance assumptions, so you need a judicial system in place to make sure your assets are performing at their best. While robust end-to-end systems like Marketo are great for big picture (and big budgets), small, simple (and free) systems can be installed pretty easily to provide real-time feedback on how well your content is performing for you.

I’m not so sure about persuasion (and other nifty influence tricks)

persuasion
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As an expert, projection of confidence is a key component in your level of persuasion, right? Right. But not the way you think.

In a recent Stanford Business study, researchers confirmed that experts increase their level of persuasiveness if they express some degree of uncertainty or doubt about a particular opinion. In doing so, audiences that naturally assume an expert is confident in their perspectives, perk up and begin to pay closer attention to the gap in certainty. As human’s we’re hardwired to make sense of things, and closing the loop on an expert opinion is no exception. Once the audience’s attention has been captivated in story details in an effort to arrive at the right conclusion, their minds become more open to persuasive evidence. To add my own scientific opinion, expressing occasional uncertainty reinforces a sense of authenticity and transparency in the expert, which enhances connectivity and resonance in the audience.

So how does this translate to applied communications? Zakary Tormala, the brains behind this theory suggests that if you want to capture attention and influence, consider opening your argument with a position of doubt. In doing so, you have a higher likelihood of increasing focus and getting your audience to process the message more effectively. However, if you’re a CEO looking to gain confidence in a time of uncertainty, this tactic might not be the way to go. Confidence and charisma will take you much further when addressing tenuous issues.

What’s the take away here? Judge your audience, anticipate their level of attention, and determine what you need them to feel (persuaded and engaged or comforted and reassured) and consider the “expert doubt” factor as a tool of persuasion to be used at the appropriate time.

Get the whole story on the HBR website.

Want to engage and influence staff and customers? Tell them a good story.

storytelling

In Daniel Pink’s, A Whole New Mind, he talks about Steve Denning, an expert in organizational storytelling. According to Denning, “storytelling doesn’t replace analytical thinking…. It supplements it by enabling us to imagine new perspectives and new worlds…. Abstract analysis is easier to understand when seen through the lens of a well-chosen story” (p. 108). From a communications perspective, storytelling can enable the target audience to engage at higher levels of involvement in a campaign message by creating an experience that adds dimension, emotional investment and increase persuasiveness of an idea.

Creating Empathy vs. Using Logic

The key reason that high involvement leads to increased persuasion is the formation of empathy in the minds of the target audience. As Pink suggests, empathy “is the ability to imagine yourself in someone else’s position and to intuit what that person is feeling”. Empathy can be an effective form of persuasion, especially when the marketer is targeting their communications towards an Affective-thinker (someone who reasons through “I feel” rather than “I think”). When communicating with cognitive versus affective-oriented thinkers, appropriate use of “I think” versus “I feel” in the context of messaging will increase the likelihood of resonation within each audience.

How do we determine cognitive versus affective thinkers in our audience? Although gender is not an absolute definition, “on average, women are more affectivelyy oriented than men” (Mayer & Tormala). So if you can segment gender in a targeted communication, you might increase your likelihood of persuading your audience without changing anything other than “I think” vs. “I feel”.

Here’s a short but very clever story on the art of persuasion, told by none other than a fellow Canadian. The moral of her punchy story – if you want to persuade, a little creativity goes a long way…and that Canadians are fabulously nice people 🙂

Branding From The Inside Out

branding

branding

It’s interesting to me that many of the brands I’ve had the opportunity to explore from the inside, often suffer a disconnect between the external brand, and how the company looks and feels under the hood. Building brand authenticity starts at the core of the company. The mission, the values, the personality attributes, should be inspired by a top-down leadership model, and fostered from the bottom up through an internal communication narrative. For when a brand aligns internal culture and external messaging, employees have a stronger sense of value recognition. And when values align, good things happen.

In January I’m kicking off a new research project on how organizations can effectively communicate enhanced meaning intervention (aka happiness) through mediated technology. In laymen’s terms, I’m asking the question of how we can increase value alignment, social connection and a sentiment of meaningful work through social media, internal portals and transmedia storytelling. Put into practice, the 3-foot stack of research on my desk suggests that companies can enjoy enhanced organizational commitment, increased employee engagement and slurry of other fabulous kickbacks around creativity, innovation and productivity.

Fortunately, the idea of increased happiness in the workforce is not a theory that starts with me. One of my mentors, a professor of marketing at Stanford University, encouraged me to dive into the growing research and consider how we can disseminate this knowledge into mediated content.

The end result will no doubt point towards what Nike has done to develop their internal portal to increase employee connection to the brand. Or perhaps what Zappos has created via YouTube to tell the story of how they inject autonomy, fun and weirdness into their workday.

Here’s a clip on Professor Aaker’s ideas about branding from the inside out, as well as a goofy (yet authentic) story from the Zappos workforce.