In this guest post, Storyation’s head of strategy, Andrés-López-Varela (pictured below), says he’s no fan of the marketing content calendar and, he urges, it’s time you got rid of yours too.
There’s something that we really need to talk about when it comes to content ‘strategy’. It’s something that is quietly eroding the confidence marketers and brands have in content programs, and it’s something that might not be immediately obvious.
That something is the content calendar. For a long time, the content calendar had been considered best practice and the guarantee of an effective and productive content program.
But, honestly, the only thing a content calendar is going to achieve is to add to the ‘noise’ that all those marketing gurus on stage at big conferences are telling us we need to cut through, rise above, overcome.
The first major problem with content calendars is that they can quickly be adopted as your actual content strategy. You have your whole quarter or year mapped out; you know that you’re publishing a social post twice a day, a long form article twice a week and a fun, shiny new video on a Thursday. Job done, yeah?
Your marketing director might look at the calendar and say ‘great content strategy’ and then, over time, you, as a content marketer or manager may begin to believe that. The reality is that content calendars are a way to organise your thoughts and priorities, but they don’t represent the three critical elements that a strategy must possess.
These elements are, in no particular order, a crystalline understanding of your audience and what you can help them with, a deep understanding of what commercial metrics you’re looking to affect with content and a razor sharp focus on your brand’s tone of voice and style.
There are other pieces to a great strategy puzzle, but these three are the biggest ones missing from the whole ‘content-calendar-as-a-strategy’ approach.
The second glaring problem with committing to a content calendar in the way that a toddler might commit to a security blankie is that you’re not focusing on outcomes, but rather the process.
Sure, there’s value to be had in streamlining your team or agency’s content production workflows. But in this day, a content marketing platform or project management software can help you achieve this outcome better than your musty ol’ spreadsheet content calendar.
By focusing on the process of doing or making content, your content program is actually just adding more landfill to the wasteland of content that calls the internet home.
Those teams and organisations that are fixated on using the content calendar as a means to measure and track their content program’s performance are kidding themselves. If you’re focused on ‘pumping out’ a set number of content items for a month or even as part of a campaign because that’s what the calendar says, then you are making it exponentially harder for your great content, the real stuff that works and should connect with your audience, to actually make an impact.
The calendarised approach to content cultivates marketing teams that are passive and unfocused when it comes to meeting their audiences’ needs or even just ‘doing good marketing’.
And so, it’s time to stop with the calendar. The content calendar is a relic from a bygone era (2010-2012, that is) which never really lived up to its own hype. If you’re a marketer that has doubled down on their content calendar ways, I encourage to give those ways up and start to explore approaches that are more practical, effective and, honestly, more modern.