Should you have a 52 week content strategy?

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Michelle Quillin asked in the comments:

“I’m a big advocate of editorial calendars for planning, strategy, and a source of inspiration. I really need to do long-term planning myself. Some time ago, Laura Roeder recommended a 52-week strategy. What do you think of planning out that far ahead, with a marketing strategy in place?”

I think a framework is a generally good idea; that’s what I do with my stuff. I also think that it needs to be a framework, a scaffolding, onto which you can hang other stuff, and in which there’s enough space that you can be incredibly flexible.

For example, I think you’d have a very hard time staying fresh and relevant if you had a content calendar that looked like this:

August 3, 2011: 22 Reasons Why Instagram Is Awesome For Selling My Little Pony Toys

That’s far too confining and limiting to me. Look at this Google Trends chart.

Google Trends - Web Search Interest: pinterest, instagram - Worldwide, Jan 2011 - Jan 2012

What happened around then? Pinterest became the new darling of the image world.

If you had a framework that looked like:

August Blog Posts
Week 1 – Image-based selling blog posts
Week 2 – Photography tips for image-based selling
Week 3 – Sharing images
Week 4 – Driving traffic with images

Then I think you’d be talking about something a lot more useful. It’s more flexible, and it lets you adapt to rapidly changing conditions.

Here’s my final suggestion with a long term strategy: be prepared at any moment to throw it out. I can’t emphasize that enough, because whenever we as individuals or as companies develop these long range plans, they have a habit of calcifying until they’re immutable laws written in stone tablets that the VP of Marketing brought down from the mountain. That’s dangerous on a couple of fronts. First, it’s predictable, and predictable isn’t necessarily good in an environment where your competitors are looking for any advantage. A predictable content strategy can inadvertently let them scoop you on nearly any topic. Second, a written-in-stone attitude means you can’t pivot. You can’t adapt. When something major happens, you can’t change or newsjack or anything.

If you approach the content strategy with the feeling of, “let’s be ready to toss this if it’s not working out”, and you can maintain that attitude, then you’re going to be much more successful and adaptable when it’s called for.

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