Getting organized and increasing productivity are common New Year's resolutions. And with good reason. Marketing teams that have a documented marketing strategy are 538% more likely to report success

If you haven't already started thinking about your 2019 marketing strategy, now's a good time to dive in. And a content calendar should be one of the key pieces of your strategy.

Here's an easy step-by-step process to flesh out your 2019 content calendar and keep it full throughout 2019.

Simply put, "winging it" doesn't work.

Devoting time on the front-end to develop a plan means less time on the back-end floundering and fumbling through trying to get content out the door. 

Forget about being strategic. Without a plan, you can throw strategy out the window - that much is nearly guaranteed.

Using a content calendar makes it easier to plan out what you'll be doing in the future AND take into account an actual content strategy. 

1. Map out the what, when, where, and why.

Monthly or quarterly planning is fine, but, if you want to leverage your calendar to its fullest, I recommend planning out as far ahead as you reasonably can. That means allocating space for holidays, seasonal events, and other calendar items you know are going to crop up eventually.

To start, you'll want to figure out which content channels you currently use and what you will continue using in 2019. 

This could include:

  • A blog or website content
  • Social media
  • Email
  • Podcasts
  • Video
  • Print magazines, brochures, or newsletters

2. Brainstorm.

Before you can fill your calendar, you'll need ideas -- a lot of ideas, actually. 

Start by writing down every idea that pops into your head. They don't have to be good at this point, just get them down on paper. Grade the ideas on a three-point scale. Threes are great ideas, twos need more refinement, and ones are duds. Then choose which of your threes you'll implement.

3. Create content themes.

As you plan your year of content, you'll want to factor in seasonality. Think about particular holidays, sales, or times that require special promotion.

Break these down into categories:

  • Holidays. Are any pertinent to your business and mean you will need to create special content around?
  • Peak buying seasons for customers. Do people purchase your products during certain times of the year?
  • Industry events like trade shows and conferences. 
  • National Days or faux holidays. Think national margarita day; bring your pets to work day, etc. 
  • Company events, parties, product launches, etc. 

You can also create monthly themes for your content similar to how magazines focus entire issues around one topic. 

4. Populate your calendar.

The next step in this process is to get all your ideas down on your calendar. You can use an excel template, a shared Google Calendar or a marketing project management tool like CoSchedule. 

One useful tip is to color code your calendar. This helps you identify project time, department or individual responsible at a glance. 

Here are a couple ways my team uses color coding: 

  • By re-occuring initiative -- Things like podcasts, academy courses and book promotions get their own specific color. This helps differentiate these special content projects from everything else. 
  • By theme -- A lot of company rely on seasonal promotions around holidays, etc. You can use a special color coding to tell what content items are tied to specific themes. 
  • By department -- Another way my team uses color coding to organize content is by department. This helps us see at a high-level what content is being produced and for whom. 

5. Determine timelines and due dates.

After you've added all your content projects to your calendar, it's useful to work backward to determine reasonable timelines and add tasks and due dates for each individual. 

Here's how we do it: 

  1. Determine who is needed to bring the content from conception to launch.
  2.  Plan each task that is associated with the content item. 
  3. Next, determine the length of time needed to complete each task.
  4. Work back from launch date based on how long each task will take and assign tasks to the correct individuals. 

This will make sure that each member of the project has a reasonable amount of time to complete the work and ensure that all your content goes live on time. 

Here's what it might look like: 

  • Write blog post: Content Writer -- 30 days before launch
  • Proof content: Content Strategist -- 25 days before launch
  • Design graphics: Graphic Designer -- 17 days before launch
  • Approve graphics: Content Strategist -- 12 days before launch
  • Schedule social promotion: Writer/Social Strategist -- 10 days before launch
  • Final proofing: Content Writer -- 1 day before launch

This simple 5-step process to planning out an entire year's worth of content means you can put an end to the constant scramble and finally start being strategic with your content.

Published on: Jan 30, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.