This article is the third installment of a 6-part series. Read the first installment here.
I’ve worked on a lot of blogs in my career. Small twice-monthly blogs. Giant twice-daily blogs. Campaign-driven blogs and news-driven blogs. Authority-building blogs and social engagement blogs.
And in every case, no matter the size or type of blog, there has been one persistent question we have to answer again and again: What should we write about next?
Over the years, I developed a system that makes this question much easier to answer, and leads to killer results for the blog owner. It all starts with the blog topic planning kit.
Here’s how to assemble yours.
1. Document Your Process
The first element in your topic planning kit is a simple, one-page description of your topic planning process. This document should outline:
- Who will be on the topic planning team. This will usually include a lead writer, a production manager or editorial director, someone who is responsible for SEO strategy, and someone is responsible for content strategy execution. Everyone on this team should plan to attend all topic planning sessions.
- How often you will meet. This will depend on factors including the frequency of publication, the timeliness of desired topics, how frequently your content strategy shifts, and the availability of your team.
- How you will select topics. This will be based on your goals for the blog. Some blogs are extremely focused on news, and so the planning process may begin with a review of recent industry news. Others may be focused on SEO, and will begin with keyword research data. If the goal is authority building, the process may begin with a review of the audience profile, recent interactions with the audience, and any big questions or news currently impacting them. Some blogs may be tied to specific marketing campaigns, in which case topic planning will begin with a discussion around which campaigns are in need of content.
- How you will prioritize topics. Document how you will prioritize when goals conflict. For instance, if some blog topics align with specific strategic goals within the organization while others are part of an overall SEO campaign, which pieces get priority?
- Who will be responsible for putting topics into production. Your production manager or editorial director will generally be responsible for making sure that every topic is assigned a writer and a deadline, that SME interviews are scheduled in a timely manner, and that drafts are moved through the feedback and editing process smoothly.
2. Assemble Your Content Strategy Documents
A killer blog doesn’t arise out of the earth like warriors from a dragon’s teeth. To produce an effective blog, you must first have a strategy, and then align the blog’s content with your audience and your purpose.
Assemble your content strategy documents, your audience profiles, and a statement of your blog’s purpose. If you don’t already have those things, read this.
Additionally, grab a list of common blog content types, and add that to the kit.
3. List of Prompting Questions
Even the most organized topic planning conversation can sometimes hit a blank wall. When that happens to you, be prepared with a list of questions to get the creative juices flowing. Here is a list to get you started.
- What basic questions haven’t we answered for our audience yet? This may prompt a review of the audience profile, and can be aided by a tool like AnswerThePublic.
- What big fears, pains, or hopes does our audience experience that we can talk about? Again, a review of your audience profiles can help you answer this.
- What’s happening currently for our audience that we need to talk about? Current events, market shifts, new legislation, and media attention to an issue can prompt your audience to be thinking about topics you should be writing about.
- Has the sales team noticed any changes in buyer behavior? The sales team interfaces directly with customers on a daily basis. Changes in buyer behavior such as new questions they’re asking, new competitors they’re considering, and so on, can provide a rich resource of topics for you to cover in the blog.
- What’s everyone talking about on LinkedIn? If you’re a B2B organization, someone on your sales and/or marketing teams should be monitoring conversations among your competition and your audience on LinkedIn. Whatever is popular there for discussion, is likely to be popular on your blog.
- What other formats might we like to add to the mix? Quizzes, round-ups, interviews, infographics, images with captions–these are all fun departures from the standard text-heavy blog entry and a great way to keep your audience engaged between more in-depth or hard-hitting content. And, of course, video is always a good addition.
- What older pieces of premium content could we repurpose? If you have white papers, case studies, ebooks, and other deep content that have been lying around for a while, it may be time to revive and update them and/or cannibalize them for blog topics.
- What older blog articles is it time to update and refresh? You can repost old blog entries under a new headline with a little freshening up and some rewriting to prevent it being an exact replica. A skilled writer can write the same thing twenty different ways, so this can be an endless resource. Be careful not to produce the same topic repeatedly in a short period of time, but a popular topic from a year ago will benefit from freshening up and presenting again.
- What recent blogs got a lot of attention? If folks are talking about it, they probably want to talk about it more. Are there any new angles you could approach a popular topic from? How many different ways can you talk about it? Again, AnswerThePublic is your friend, as are Google’s “related topics” lists at the bottom of searches.
Print the list of questions and add it to your planning kit. You can also add your own questions and customize it to fit your needs.
Brainstorming topics can be painful, but it doesn’t have to be. A well-prepared topic planning team with a well-designed and documented process can knock out a list of topics in no time, and prioritize them almost as fast.
Here’s what your topic planning kit should contain:
- Topic planning process document
- Content strategy documentation
- Audience profiles
- Purpose statement
- List of common blog content types
- List of prompting questions
With your blog topic planning kit in hand, you’re halfway to the best, easiest, most productive blog you’ve ever been involved with. Next up, we’ll talk about how to equip your writers to succeed in delivering the content your blog needs.
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- Why Throwing a Person at the Content Problem Is a Problem - October 14, 2019
- How to Equip Writers to Succeed on Your Blog - September 30, 2019
- How to Assemble a Blog Topic Planning Kit That Will Lead to Killer Results - September 16, 2019