How to build a content plan from scratch
In the third of a series of practical guides, Kat Harrison-Dibbits, Head of Communications at Manchester's multi-arts venue HOME, shows us how to build a content plan from scratch. Part of a series on effective communications.
A former colleague of mine once described our social media channels as a monster that constantly needed to be fed – and she was right. Day-in, day-out, channels need high quality content that’s engaging to your audiences in order to stay relevant and even seen – the algorithm will punish accounts that post too rarely or aren’t interacted with by simply not serving them to people’s timelines. That’s a pretty stressful sentence to type, and an even more stressful situation to deal with every day.
Happily, there is a way to make it more manageable. Rather than just churning out posts, creating a content planner will help align your social media to your organisation’s strategic goals, boost creativity and create more engaging content. Starting a content plan when your organisation hasn’t had one before can feel overwhelming – I know, I’ve been there more than once. But it’s also a really exciting place to be – anything is possible and you have a way to really influence the way people see your organisation. But where to start?
Start with your comms strategy or business plan
Before you do anything, think about the purpose of your content – and that means thinking about the purpose of your organisation. For instance, at HOME what we do is act as an arts centre, but part of the purpose behind that is to tackle inequality and help protect the planet from the climate crisis. So my team are always on the lookout for social story ideas that can help support that – whether that’s an awareness day or our weekly #SustainableFriday posts.
Choose where to host your plan and set it up
It doesn’t matter whether this is on a drive, in Teams or on an intranet, so long as everyone has access – we use Google Docs because it means multiple team members can edit at the same time
List the dates down the side – we list daily dates but if you post less often for resource reasons or whatever you might want to use weekly instead. Then add a column for important dates to note, before putting a column for each channel, with the channel name listed at the top.
In that important dates column, add dates that are important to you and your audiences – I’ve put a list of ideas where you might find these at the end.
This is what ours looks like:
Have a brainstorming session
Creativity doesn’t exist in a vacuum – get your team together and throw some ideas around. We have a couple of rules for brainstorming sessions – there are no bad ideas and even half-baked thoughts are written down in case they spark something brilliant later. In one organisation I worked in we had the luxury of sitting next to a huge white wall, so we would jot content ideas on post it notes, stick them on the wall and once every week or two reorganise them into categories and use them to populate the content planner.
Always be giving your audience value
It’s very easy to fall into the trap of only ever sharing social posts about the latest theatre show on sale or an offer on three for two handbags. But that gives your audience no reason to follow you – each month check over your content plan and make sure that at least 50% of your initial content is “non sales” – education, information or just sheer enjoyment.
Make sure you measure and analyse this content to inform future planning – you’ll probably find that over time you want to increase that ratio even further.
Make sure you use it!
Once it’s built, don’t just leave it lying dormant. We us a traffic light system for content that’s in progress, published or missed so we can reschedule if appropriate (you can see an example in our planner above). Discuss it in your team meetings and build it into your campaign planning – this should be a living document, not a list that never gets looked at again!
Some ideas for what to put into your content plan:
- Announcements and onsales – this should be your bread and butter
- Organisational anniversaries – is it five years since you opened, or a year since you produced a great show?
- Behind the scenes pictures – look at rehearsal diaries or gallery install schedules
- Awareness days – did you know there’s a Museum Selfie Day?
- Dates linked to what your audiences love – we include a lot of director birthdays or “this classic film was released on this day”
Kat Harrison-Dibbits, Head of Communications, HOME