How To Create a Content Plan [With Free Templates]

Christy Walters


October 7, 2022 (Updated: May 4, 2023)

nine yellow post-it notes on a gray wall to represent hot to create a content plan

You might feel a great sense of accomplishment after you finish your content strategy. You know what content you want to create and what goals it’s going to help you achieve. But after strategy development, the most important part of content production begins: content planning. Today we’re looking at how to create a content plan to take your strategy from ideas to valuable brand assets:

What Is a Content Marketing Plan?

A content marketing plan is the document or collection of documents and tools used to turn the ideas of your content strategy into brand assets. The plan answers the five Ws and one H questions:

  • Who creates your content?
  • What kind of content are you making?
  • When are you publishing the content?
  • Where are you publishing the content?
  • Why are you creating the content?
  • How are you promoting the content and reviewing its results?

Developing a content plan helps determine what content you hope to create and how it meets the expectations set in your content strategy.

Why Should You Create a Content Marketing Plan To Execute Your Strategy?

Having a content marketing strategy is extremely important to make sure that you’re creating content that resonates with your audience and helps your company meet its goals. But most of a marketing strategy is coming up with ideas. The process contains a lot of research, thinking, and theorizing. Theory and strategy are great, but they won’t get your brand results without an actionable plan to make them happen in the real world, outside of a brainstorming session.

Content marketing strategy is the framework to reach your goals. A well-developed plan helps make those results a reality. Having a content marketing plan keeps all your stakeholders, creatives, and team members on the same page about marketing objectives. The plan is straightforward in defining what your department does to bring about the expected outcomes.

How To Create a Content Plan in 12 Steps

Use these steps to create a content plan to bring your next great marketing assets to life:

1. Define Strategy Goals and KPIs

Creating your marketing strategy always comes before creating your marketing plan. The plan has a defined start and end to get from point A to point B. But you have to know what those points are before you can set up a plan to connect them.

Start by working on your strategy and defining the goals you want to achieve within your content marketing campaign. Then pick realistic key performance indicators (KPIs) that you can measure throughout the content development process to ensure that the campaign stays on track to meet those goals.

2. Settle on Audience Segments

Another planning step that takes place during strategy development is learning more about your audience. During strategizing, your team discovers exactly which people fall within your target audience. Then you segment these people into different groups based on their location in the marketing funnel, pain points, or product and service needs, among other variables.

Doing audience segmentation early in the planning process helps as you move forward. Knowing who you’re targeting with each piece of content or on each channel makes it easier to use your resources wisely and see better results from your efforts.

Related: FAQ: What Is Audience Segmentation?

3. Run a Content Audit

Your new content has to coexist with your old content on all channels. You can’t start making new pieces without first understanding what your brand already has to say on specific industry topics. Running a content audit is a thorough way to look through pieces you’ve already created to check for duplicate ideas and get new ones to fill content gaps in your marketing.

Aside from knowing what information your brand already shares, content audits are also the perfect time to check search engine positioning for all your pieces, the channels where you publish content, and how it performs. Requesting your free content marketing analysis from CopyPress allows you to complete both processes. The report also gives you insight into how your current content stacks up against the competition and reveals some of the best content gaps you can focus on with your new asset creation. To get your personalized report delivered to your inbox today, fill out the form below.

“CopyPress gives us the ability to work with more dealership groups. We are able to provide unique and fresh content for an ever growing customer base. We know that when we need an influx of content to keep our clients ahead of the game in the automotive landscape, CopyPress can handle these requests with ease.”

Kevin Doory

Director of SEO at Auto Revo

4. List the Budget, Resources, and Tools

Following strategy development, but before making your content plan, it’s important to know what resources and tools you have available for creation. You might have great ideas in your strategy, but you can’t carry them out in the content plan if you don’t have the time, budget, or team to execute them.

Budget and resource limits don’t mean you can’t achieve everything you set out to do in your strategy. But you may need to get more creative about how you bring the ideas to life. For example, you may look for an agency partner to help with your content creation instead of hiring a training a team of freelancers. This slight change could help save your company time and money.

5. Develop a List of Content Topics

Within the strategy phase, your team selects content topics or makes topic buckets that cover the general ideas or themes you want to address in your content. Often, these topics directly relate to industry trends and pain points. They may also touch on problems your audience needs solved. In the planning phase, especially after a content audit, you can refine these topic buckets to pick the right keywords for each individual piece of content.

Related: What Makes a Good Keyword?: 7 Tips To Find the Right Ones

6. Pick Content Types

Most people think of written works like blog posts or articles when they hear the words content marketing. But there are a variety of other assets you can use to promote your brand and connect with your audience.

infographic about statistics for content goals for social media

Image via Sprout Social

For example, according to Sprout Social, video and image content is actually far more successful and expected on social channels than text-based posts or even live content. Consider what types of content your audience wants to see based on the research done in the strategy phase. Match each content type with topics that lend themselves to the medium and fit within the constraints of your budget and resources.

You can also choose content types based on where segments of your audience sit in the marketing funnel. For example, blog posts, videos, and infographics are great tools for brand awareness at the top of the funnel. In contrast, direct emails, comparison guides, and case studies are better suited for the decision phase in the middle or the lower part of the funnel.

7. Select the Best Content Channels

Within your content plan, you need to know on which channels you’re sharing content. Distribution channels where you already share content are usually your best options for pushing out new pieces. These may include channels like your blog or website, social media channels, or email direct marketing.

Depending on the research from your strategy, you might find that it’s time to add a new channel to your distribution plan. For example, if you’re starting a podcast for the first time, you may need to look for new channels where you can share this content. Your analytics should help you decide which channels are best for each audience segment and content message to get the most reach and engagement.

8. Develop a Content Calendar

After you know what you’re creating and where you’re putting it, it’s time to develop a content calendar. The calendar lists the deadline dates and times for every step in the content development process, from writing or filming to sharing on distribution channels.

You can create a content calendar from scratch within a program like Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel. You also have the option to use a content management system like Notion, which includes pre-made templates and other features to make the calendar creation process easier.

No matter which option you choose, it’s important to make sure the entire team has access to the document or tool. This includes anyone on your internal team, freelancers, and the necessary parties from your agency partners. You can likely set editing and workspace permissions to make sure that each individual member has access to the features they need and none of the ones they don’t.

Related: Content Calendar: How To Create One and What To Include

9. Create Content

Once your content plan is ready to go, it’s time to put it into action. Let your team create the content you’re sharing. Follow the content calendar to make sure each piece is on track to meet its deadlines. Encourage transparent communication among all team members working on the project. Free-flowing communication and a clear hierarchy of the project team make it easier to communicate any snags in the process. The faster you can address issues, the less time you’ll lose.

10. Publish Content

When your content is complete, it’s time to publish it on the channels you specified in step seven. Your content calendar typically has a place to list publication channels and deadlines, just like all the other stages of content creation. Rely on this calendar to make sure things go live when they’re supposed to. You can also use the content calendar to monitor if you’re publishing the same content on multiple channels. This is a good reference during the measuring stage to help you see which content performs best on which channel at a glance.

11. Promote Content

After publication, promote your content across other channels—beyond the ones you regularly publish to. For example, if you publish an article on your website or share a video on YouTube, you can then share that content on your social media accounts.

Some of the most common distribution channels to build into your content plan include social media channels, direct marketing, and content partnerships. Like publication details, most content calendars also have a way to designate when you promote content on other channels, making it easier to track your content spread visually.

12. Measure Plan Success

No content plan or strategy is complete without measuring the results to see if your campaign was successful. The KPIs you chose back at the beginning of the process should be able to tell you if your plan helped meet the content goals.

Depending on what content you create and the channels you use, there are a variety of metrics and analytics programs you can select to find this data. Aside from your content calendar, consider programs like Google Analytics, built-in metrics programs with your social media channels, and content management systems that let you collect data from across channels and repositories. The data you collect at the end of each plan helps you form and tweak your next content strategy.

Related: 8 Metrics To Consider When Interpreting Data From Analytics

Content Plan Templates

Though you know how to create and fill in the right information to start your content plans, you may need help with the formatting. Luckily, many organizations across the internet offer helpful, downloadable, free content plan templates you can use. Customize these documents to fit your specific content strategy or campaign. Here are a few options to consider when starting the hunt for your content plan template:

Let CopyPress and SEJ Help You Plan Helpful Content for Google

It’s not unusual to have to change your content plan throughout a campaign, especially when new information comes up or Google makes a change. Many brands’ content plans likely got thrown for a loop thanks to Google’s Helpful Content update.

If you work for a company looking to readjust your content plan after taking a Helpful Content hit, join CopyPress and Search Engine Journal for a webinar called How To Adapt To Google’s Helpful Content & Core Updates. Get tips from our CEO and Founder, Dave Snyder, and Heather Campbell, the Director of Marketing at SEJ. Register today to reserve your spot or to receive a recording of the live event that you can watch when it fits your schedule.

Author Image - Christy Walters
Christy Walters

CopyPress writer

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