Plan ahead: Brands will profit from a news diary

Wimbledon, Glastonbury, Valentine’s Day, Easter, bank holidays, and, of course, Christmas – dates not just for your own diary but for your content marketing diary too. These and many more  should be flagged up every year in a centralised diary to help marketing departments to plan their content production.

Keeping a news diary is core to running a news desk. Whether that’s at The Times or Dry Cleaning News, the diary is the bedrock of the desk’s planning and allows the news editor to make sure they are covering their bases and maximising the use of their resources. It also avoids duplication and helps preparation. Brands would do well to do the same, but most don’t.

A recent survey from Gleanster Research and Kapost found that 36% of firms miss content deadlines because they don’t have a centralised content calendar. That is pure wasted effort, wasted resource and a wasted opportunity that one of their rivals will take advantage of.

The same research found that of the top performing brands, 85% did keep a centralised content production diary compared with just 44% of average performers. That is not a coincidence: the winners are strategic and know how to make the most of every opportunity that comes their way.

Effective communication is as much about planning as content. Everyone has limited resource, certainly in terms of manpower and budget. Getting the most out of each helps to drive performance as you can use slower periods to get ahead. Indeed, the Kapost survey found that the most common causes for missing deadlines were approval delays, communication issues and the brilliantly categorised “general chaos”. It’s all in the planning.

Some events are obviously more important to certain sectors. Shops take more than a quarter of their annual revenues during the run-up to Christmas. The correct provision of content marketing resource at that time can turn a upturn into a bonanza.

Robinsons recently nailed it with a Wimbledon competition on its website. The manufacturer of the barley water refreshing Andy Murray on Centre Court hid giant tennis balls across the UK and posted clues throughout the Wimbledon fortnight on its website, driving traffic. Robinsons gets a gold star.

Pimm’s is equally associated with the South London tennis club in the first two weeks of June. But its site, however, had no mention of the world’s oldest tennis tournament while it was going on. That is a fail: must try harder.

Crucially, it’s not just external dates that matter. Good content diary-keeping will inevitably include company milestones such as product launches, anniversaries, road-shows and other marketing campaigns. Like Robinsons has done, these should ideally be set with an eye on external events either to piggy back and gain a timely advantage or to avoid clashes where your marketing effort is cancelled out by events. Tropicana, for example, doesn’t stand a chance at Wimbledon.

There are also seasonal considerations. Some brands are excellent at tapping into seasonal changes to promote their wares. Selfridges, for example, has reams (or the web equivalent) of editorial promoting everything from summer fashion looks to summer scents. Even BBQ style and make-up get a look in.

Diaries aren’t static spreadsheets – they are constantly evolving and should be updated at regular department meetings; everyone in the company should be encouraged to contribute ideas.

A diary maintained like this  can form the basis for resource allocation, just as it is the central component of a newspaper newsroom. Ahead of the annual Budget, editors will meet to discuss who will cover what and where. Similarly, the marketing department of a financial services firm should be thinking in advance about what content they can put out to tie in with the Chancellor’s speech. They can assemble the content well in advance with just key facts and figures to be filled in as required.

In this way peaks and troughs of activity will immediately be apparent, allowing you to decide whether you have the resources to work on a project ahead of the next series of Dr Who as well as one for the new Jurassic World film.

There’s also  post event planning. EE, sponsor of the Glastonbury music festival, built a 4G network and provided a phone charging service as well as an app to help revellers plan their line-ups. After the speakers fell silent and the rubbish had been recycled, EE published facts on its website blowing its own trumpet. It said eight terabytes worth of data had been downloaded at Worthy Farm and the equivalent of 3 million images had been uploaded. Go to the top of the class!

On the other hand, profits made by Glastonbury go to Oxfam, Greenpeace and Wateraid. But none of their blogs covered the festival this year let alone looked back at the event. That is a waste in proportion to the estimated 1,650 tonnes of rubbish left behind this year.

With Oxfam, Wateraid and Greenpeace in mind, it’s no surprise that the Kapost survey found that 25% of content marketing budgets were wasted on inefficient operations. That’s largely down to a failure of planning. The content marketing diary is the way ahead. You just need to put a weekly meeting for it in your diary.

Christmas

The nights are drawing in and the days are getting shorter. It’s June 25 and Hamleys, the Regent Street toy store, has just published its list of top 10 Christmas toys.

It does the same thing about the same time each year and the feature desks lap it up. Argos, the high street catalogue retailer, has even jumped on the bandwagon putting out its own list simultaneously, hoping some of the Fleet Street magic will rub off on its sales.

You don’t have to be a genius to know that Christmas is big for retailers. With some stores taking 28% of their total annual sales in its run-up, the planning is well underway by mid summer.

But it’s not just retailers that think ahead to December 25. Big brands have also worked out that they need to relate their longer-term marketing to December. Indeed, pre-Christmas release dates for expensive electronic toys and gadgets are already trickling out as marketers crank up the pester power. By September marketing will be in full swing, with TV ads, posters, magazines, newspapers and brands using blogs and placed content to supplement and maximise their impact.

Carefully planning should include checking the diary for related events that can be tied in to content marketing activity throughout the second half of the year. The countdown of the number of shopping days has already begun; Harrods will be opening its Christmas department in August; the Autumn term begins as tinsel starts to appear in shops. These are all opportunities for brands to hijack and use to put their message out. The savvy ones have been doing it for years.

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