I’ve said this many times during the last few years, but marketers these days have a lot in common with publishers, and it’s time to embrace this reality fully.

Today I want to outline a complete systematic approach to creating and executing a content plan that borrows heavily from the editorial outlook of a publisher, while acknowledging the marketing objectives facing most businesses.

Content creation and production is perhaps the biggest challenge facing marketers today, and you must take a very planned and practical approach to getting it all done. Waking up every morning and deciding what you are going to write on your blog does not scale.

A Total Content System (TM) approach allows you to plan, delegate, curate, create, collaborate, repurpose, and generally get far more out of every piece of content you produce. Once your system is in place it will build momentum with each passing month and begin to multiply in value to your organization.

The Total Content System goes like this:
• Create a list of monthly Foundational Content Themes
• Develop your Content Delivery Platform
• Integrate your content with Core Business Objectives

Foundational content themes

Either through your own knowledge or by using a keyword tool like Google Keyword Tool or Wordtracker, develop a list of core content topics and assign one to each month for the next 12 months.

Each theme should be a substantial topic related to your business or industry and represent an important keyword search term. It might be helpful to think about it like a book. Each month might represent a chapter in what will ultimately make up an important body of work by the end of this year.

You can also designate terms that you know you would like to rank higher for, but currently have little or no content that leads people online or off to you.

I’ll use my organization as an example to help illustrate this point. My business and model may be significantly different than yours, but examples always seem to help fill in the blanks for people.

My editorial themes for 2014:
• January - Referral Marketing
• February - Coaching and Consulting
• March - Sales and Lead Conversion
• April - Online Integration
• May - Writing
• June - Strategic Partners
• July - Customer Experience
• August - Content Marketing
• September - High Tech, High Touch
• October - Growth Strategies
• November - Analytics and Conversion
• December - Personal Growth

These are all topics that I believe my community is interested in learning more about and that I personally have an interest in developing more content around. (I’m working on a sales book and will be heavy into daily writing on that project in March--all content has a purpose!)

Develop your content delivery platform

Now that I have my list of foundational themes I can organize my Content Delivery Platform components accordingly. Again, this is my model, but many of these elements work for any kind of business and should be considered in your business.

• Newsletter--I put out a weekly email newsletter. I will add themed content to each issue either through some of my own writing or by finding other people’s content related to the theme and highlighting it.

• Blog posts--I write a daily blog post and may schedule a post related to the theme on a weekly basis. This still gives me lots of room on topics but helps me focus both from a content and SEO standpoint.

• Guest posts--We currently run one guest post a week and use our monthly theme to suggest topics to potential guests. (If you would like to submit a guest post, see the themes above for guidance and submit your idea here.)

• Podcast guests--I produce a weekly audio podcast, and the monthly theme really gives me guidance in lining up topic experts well in advance.

• PR Pitches--We use our themes to promote stories and pitches to the media.

• Sponsored pitches--We receive invitations to write sponsored content, conduct sponsored webinars, and use our theme to guide these pitches. We also reach out to organizations that might have a special interest in a particular month’s theme with sponsor opportunities.

• Webinars--Since we are creating all this rich, topic-specific content, we host monthly online seminars to deliver the content in a new form.

• eBook--People really seem to love eBooks, and they are an essential element in our list-building efforts. Most themes lend themselves nicely to an eBook compilation.

• Curate a Scoop.it topic--As we are doing the research and preparing all of the ideas for our own content, we bookmark tons of other people’s content, books, experts, tools, and the like, related to our theme, and save the entire collection as a curated topic on Scoop.it. This allows us to attract even more readers and creates a nice library to draw from.

• Create a content package--The final step is to take all of this content from each month and create a membership or community offering that would allow people interested in the monthly topic to access the entire package in one tidy resource. One of the things I’ve discovered over the years is that while so much content is free and available, people will pay for content that is packaged and delivered in the way they want it. Figure that piece out, and you’ll really make your content efforts pay directly.

Integrate your content with core business objectives

Okay, so now you’ve got your themes plotted out, and you’ve got a plan for creating, filtering, and aggregating all manner and form of content into your delivery system. It’s time to map your content plan to your core business objectives. This step allows you to better understand how to get return on your content investment and how much you should actually invest in creating a certain form or package of content.

For example, if one of your stated annual objectives is to dramatically increase the sale of information products, you would produce content with product creation in mind. Or, if one of your stated objectives for the year is to significantly increase your subscriber list, you would focus on producing, delivering, and sharing content that attracts email capture, links, and strategic partnering.

One of the most important aspects of a Total Content System plan is that it changes the lens you use to view all the information that comes at you all day long. When you know what your theme is this month and next month, all of a sudden books, tools, articles, and conversations take on new meaning and seem to somehow organize themselves for the benefit of your ongoing, long-term approach.