October 17, 2022 (Updated: May 4, 2023)
Content distribution is the process of sharing and promoting your content marketing pieces across various channels. Though the concept sounds simple, distributing your content to the right sources so your audience finds it in the right place at the right time takes a lot of strategic planning. Today, we’re looking at how to create a content distribution plan for your brand and providing a template to help get you started:
Having a content distribution plan helps set goals to measure your campaign success. It also helps align your team to reach those goals and boosts the effectiveness of your content creation and curation efforts. Knowing how to work through the process makes it simpler for your team to jump right into distribution following content creation. Then you can experience the rewards faster than you would if you were waiting on purely organic methods to run their course. Use these steps to create a content distribution plan for your brand:
For your content distribution plan to work best, you have to know who you’re sharing your content with. There are plenty of rewards for your brand if your distribution strategy goes well. But most of that success hinges on making sure your audience finds and connects with the content you share. Creating or perfecting your customer personas and audience profiles is a great way to understand what your audience wants to see and where they want to see it.
The more you know about each of your audience groups, the more aligned your content and distribution methods become with their habits and needs. Even if you’ve used customer personas in the past, review the demographic data about your most recent channel visitors, like gender, age, location, income level, and other related categories.
Programs like Google Analytics and similar metrics programs provide the information that you need. You can also run customer feedback surveys and campaigns to get direct responses from your audience about what they want to see and where. Then, compare the information you find to the information in your current customer profiles and adjust if necessary.
After you’ve evaluated your audience and its segments, it’s important to learn where they spend their time online, both for business and pleasure. B2B companies may actually have more options for distribution platforms than other companies. These brands have the option to distribute on industry-level platforms, like partnering with a similar brand for guest posting. But B2B companies also have the option to connect with their audience on recreational channels, like Facebook and Instagram.
The key to finding the right blend of distribution channels is to find out your audience’s favorite content platforms and what they do when they visit those platforms. Just because you can distribute your content on a variety of channels doesn’t always mean you should. If your audience uses YouTube, but they use it to watch music videos, not B2B how-to content, then that’s not your best distribution channel. Let your audience’s preferences guide your plan. That method will help you see the best results.
Looking back at your past content and distribution strategies helps influence your future plans. Audit your existing content helps you understand what’s worked in the past and what hasn’t. Look at the topics your brand has covered, where you shared that content, and how the audience responded.
For example, maybe you shared a video and an article with a how-to on how to install your company’s latest software package. When you compare the two, you find that the video got more views, shares, and interaction from the audience than the article. That data gives you insight into a few areas of your content marketing. First, maybe your audience prefers videos over written content. Or, maybe they like to visualize step-by-step content. The audit might show that it’s easier to share a video on other platforms, making it easier to increase engagement with that format than the article.
Compare everything you learn about your past content distribution with what you learn about your audience. This helps you draw the best conclusions about what works and what they expect to see.
Though this phase overlaps with other areas of content planning and content strategy development, you have to know what type of content you’re creating and where you’re going to put it before you can think about distribution. Picking the right channels is often more important than picking the content types for distribution. But the two are so closely linked throughout content strategy that it’s worth mentioning both.
Being able to choose the right channels comes from all the research and auditing you did in earlier steps. When you know what channels your audience visit regularly, you’ll be able to prioritize those as good distribution sites. Knowing all this information about your channels also helps you pick the right content types for every topic. If your audience spends their time on video-heavy channels, you know to add more video content to your creation plans rather than written or static visual content.
Before you create any content or firm up your distribution plan, you need to consider why you’re doing this work. Set goals for each content creation and distribution strategy that tie into your greater company aspirations and objectives. Your overall goals for most content marketing campaigns stay the same. You might try to increase brand awareness and conversions or increase sales.
To accompany these goals and make them more attainable, you can attach key performance indicators (KPIs) to each one that has specific and time-bound components you can track later in the plan. For example, if one of your content goals is to increase engagement with your audience, you may establish a KPI like “decrease website bounce rate from 65% to 30% by the end of the quarter.”
After you know what you’re creating, where you’re going to put it, and why you’re creating content, then you can prioritize which pieces to develop and share first. All of your content is important. But something has to come first and something has to come last in the development process. Factors to consider when prioritizing which content to create and share first include:
Typically, projects that take longer to complete, have an expiration date, or that you have all the resources to complete usually take priority over others. You can start these projects earlier in the development process and choose to distribute them first when the time comes.
A content or editorial calendar is one of the most helpful organizational tools in all content creation strategies. This tool allows you to plan and track a piece of content from ideation to distribution. Through every step, you can specify who’s working on the project, how long it should take to complete it, and where it goes next in the process.
Fill in your content calendar with each project and sort the individual tasks based on the priorities you set in the last step. Content calendars help keep your projects on schedule and hold your team accountable for getting their work done.
When the planning is done, it’s time to create your content. During the development stages, before distribution, make sure you’re optimizing your content for each intended platform. Optimization has a few different meanings in marketing, but it most commonly refers to beefing up your SEO to rank better on search engine results pages (SERPs). When we talk about optimizing your content for a specific platform, SEO is a factor, but it’s not the only factor to consider.
Optimizing your content for a specific platform also means looking at that service’s guidelines and best practices. It means understanding what makes a piece of content user-friendly on the service and how your audience might experience the content when they find it. Paying attention to these minor details helps improve user experience and accessibility, which can improve the results you get from your distribution strategy.
When the content is ready to go, it’s time to publish and share so your audience can find it. When working with owned media channels, your team can publish and promote the content on its own. For example, you may use email newsletters or other direct forms of communication. When working with earned or paid media channels, pay attention to the publication and sharing guidelines. Work with your partners to create a promotional schedule that works for both organizations.
After your content goes live, it’s tempting to consider the content development project finished. But it’s not. When working with earned media channels like social media, your job doesn’t end with publication or sharing. Review comment sections and audience replies often. Stay active in the earned and shared communities to further promote and bolster the distributed content. See what people say about your pieces and gather their reactions.
You don’t have to wait for the audience to comment or reply on their own either. You can ask open-ended qualitative research questions in your posts or even create feedback forms to get your audience’s thoughts on the content and distribution methods. The more you learn about the performance in each distribution cycle, the more data you have to enter the next.
And speaking of data, it’s also important to track the quantitative results of your distribution strategies that align with your KPIs. Along with audience feedback, measurable data is the way to tell if your distribution strategy works or not. You can also compare one piece of content’s distribution performance to another to see which one is better received by your audience. Similar to customer responses, this information is useful for planning your next content distribution cycle, learning what works, and finding what you can change to do even better next time.
When scaling your content marketing efforts to get the most out of your content strategy, you have to have a reliable, repetitive process that you can use and know it’ll work over and over. Setting up a template for your content distribution plan is a way to make this happen. Listed below are sections to consider for every content distribution plan you create. The information you put in each one may differ depending on the exact content, campaign, or industry, but the categories usually stay the same.
Here are the sections you should include in every content distribution plan:
If your distribution plan matches one or two of your pre-created audience or client profiles, you can list the name of that profile in this section. When creating your plan template digitally, you can add a link to the profile so that anyone viewing the plan can look at it for reference.
If you’re not using personas and profiles, or you’re simply not sure which one is the correct fit for your current distribution plan, you may choose just to include the right demographics for your audience segment here. In either case, including this section in your content distribution plan helps all team members understand who you’re trying to reach with your content to keep all campaign activities aligned.
Similar to including your audience profiles or demographics in the distribution plan, it’s important to add any campaign goals you expect to reach. Including the goals and KPIs makes it easier for your team to stay on track and know what they’re trying to achieve with each distribution strategy. Including these pieces in the plan document serve as a refresher and reminder of what you’re working toward to make sure every decision in the distribution plan aligns with the goals.
Include the content type for each piece within your distribution plan. Being able to see all the types listed together in one document helps you see if you’re covering all the content formats your audience wants to see. It also shows gaps if you’re missing any content types or if you could better spread out the distribution of formats so you don’t overwhelm your audience with one type too often.
Include all the content channels where you plan to share each individual content piece. Within your distribution strategy, you may share the same piece of content, or a similar version, on multiple channels. Make sure you include each one in the list and then flesh out when and how you want to share each piece on each channel using the content calendar.
Your content distribution plan should include your content calendar or a link to your content calendar that all team members can access. Doing this allows you to see where each piece of content is in the development process. Then, when each one reaches the distribution phase, the calendar tells you when, where, and how to share the content for maximum impact. Adding the content calendar to your distribution template helps keep the team organized and informed about every step in the process.
Include a spot for your content distribution performance and metrics. Though you won’t fill this part of the template in from the beginning, you can return here once you track your KPIs for each piece. Record important metrics that relate to your goals and KPIs for easy reference. When you audit your content for the next campaign, you can return to your plan document and find the results at a glance rather than combing back through old analytics reports.
Setting up your actual content distribution plan template is entirely up to your team. Some choose to use spreadsheet programs like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. These programs allow you to sort, track, and calculate information automatically across distribution plans so strategists can review and make comparisons more easily. They’re also easy to share with your entire team or network.
But spreadsheets aren’t the only way to create a content distribution template. Tools like Notion or other content calendar programs often have ways to incorporate your distribution plans within the project cards or forms. As long as you can include all the information you need to prepare for and track your distribution performance, you can use any program that easily integrates with your other tools and is user-friendly for your team.
Perfecting your brand’s SEO is still an important part of content distribution. Though you use other tricks for content placement and promotion, accounting for organic traffic is still a big part of any distribution plan. With Google’s constant algorithm and core updates, you need to be on top of the service’s latest best practices and expectations to keep that organic traffic flowing. That’s why CopyPress and Search Engine Journal have teamed up to bring you a webinar about the latest Helpful Content update.
At this live session, you’ll learn what Google considers helpful content and how you can create content that fits the profile at scale. You’ll also learn how to leverage the resources you already have for content creation and how to recover if your domain took a hit thanks to the changes. Register today and get access to both the live webinar and receive a recording in your inbox to watch or replay at any time.
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