Content planning made easy
Failing to plan is planning to fail; keep track of your themes, posts and yourself
Content planning becomes complicated over time. Me and my ego were convinced we could do this; us, some hacks, and our brilliant mind.
In the beginning, content planning is all rainbows, unicorns, and sunshine; after a while, the fuzziness creeps up your legs, and along the way, you’ll lose the overview. If this happened to little control-freak me, it can happen to you.
In this blog, I explain how to do content planning in the right way and what tools I currently use.
Why it matters
Keeping an overview of your storyline, content themes, and individual posts is essential.
Sure, you can drop it like it’s hot and post whenever, wherever you like. Big chance you will not make an impact or move any needles.
Failing to plan is planning to fail.
What you will read below:
- Why I use Notion for content planning
- What you need in a content calendar
- Content themes and tags for structure
- Planning newsroom and socials: posting asynchronously for more reach
- A place to keep ideation: that matters
- Good to know: security, workflow, and for your convenience
Notion in short
Lucky me, I found Notion. Sure, there are a million other apps, and there’s still good old Excel. This app blew me away with its simplicity and easiness of use.
You can go down the Notion rabbit hole; I use it for my convenience and stick to one feature and template.
Notion is an app. Free for individuals (yeah!), paid for enterprises. Start with the freebee version; if you like it and going to use it professionally, pay. Remember, if it’s free, you are the product.
You can do literally a million things with Notion, from product, project, and life management to Marketing, Sales flow, HR flow, copywriting, some AI, and even building websites. This gives me decision stress.
I skipped all that shizzle, jumped directly into the templates, and searched for the ‘Content Calendar’ template. Playing around, I selected the free ‘Blog Editorial Calendar’ that fits my needs and is easy to use.
Notice that some templates are paid; with some fantasy and light effort, you can easily make your own or drop me a DM to copy mine.
It's amazing what you can edit, clear out, and adjust. You really can tailor the templates; easy, fast, and dummy-proof. It took me about an hour to learn and configure Notion and create my bespoke template and calendar views.
My content calendar needs
What I need, and every Content Director should want to have
- Overview of how the individual posts add up to my themes
- Overview of the planning of these themes over the days and weeks
- Intended planning for upcoming weeks
- A matrix overview of the individual content item published on www and socials, I publish asynchronously on the channels and re-use content
- A list view for daily grinding and management
- A visual calendar view for sexiness and reporting to myself
- Using the tool stand-alone, I don’t want to integrate all my work, data, statistics, details, and copyright assets into a free app
I highlight the most important planning things to get you started. And how I use Notion for that.
Sure, you can drop it like it’s hot and post whenever, wherever you like. Big chance you will not make an impact or move any needles. And please remember, if it's free, you're the product.
1. Content themes and tags
I have divided my storytelling, my ‘All things content’ nerdiness, into four buckets (themes) with corresponding tags. This is to keep track of my self-chosen balance over the themes.
One content item (blog) has one main theme. Sometimes the blog scratches two themes; then I pick the one my readers probably will pick as well.
The themes can vary slightly over time in line with relevance, trends, and innovation. I adjust when needed; the ‘Strategy’ theme is my anchor and doesn't change over time.
Balance between the themes
The current balance is 50% on strategy, as that's my core business, 25% on AI, as that's hot and happening, 15% on how-to's, and 10% on socials. Very tangible, if I have 10 posts; ~5 on strategy, ~3 on AI, ~2 on how-to, and 1 on social.
For the detail nerds, in the calendar view below, you can see that at the moment, I'm a bit heavy on the 'How'-to's' due to my ‘You ask, I answer’ series. I'll make up for that over the next weeks and be more heavy on Strategy and AI.
The balance can vary over time. I like to take things lightly and don't be too rigid. Relevance and adding value to my readers still rule over my scheme.
No fixed days
Notice I don't have fixed days for my themes. E.g., ‘Strategy Tuesday’ or ‘How-to Thursday.’ This might work for some companies, for me, it doesn't.
Using fixed days forces me to produce content in line with those days. I prefer to produce content on what matters, what's hot and happening in the market, and the sentiment. I put my audience first, and I adapt accordingly instead of ‘forcing’ my content upon my audience in a fixed scheme.
The blog has at least one, mostly two, and a maximum of four tags. Logically, the tags I use in Notion correspond with the tags in my newsroom.
The tags are a deviation of the themes. I haven’t set these tags in stone; I go with the flow. I love to keep things simple, and there's no need to make things complicated or overly structured.
Good to know; the tags are visible in the newsroom and socials, the themes are not.
- Theme: Content strategy & insights, ‘Strategy’ in short, my anchor point, tag: strategy, data.
- Theme: AI, tag: AI. Notice that I don’t have a separate tag for ChatGPT, MidJourney, and DALL•E; as for this relatively new and emerging theme, I prefer the label name over the individual names. Again, no need to make things complicated.
- Theme: How-to’s. Tags: copy, recruitment, tools. These tags can vary; they have in common that I explain how to do something nerdy.
- Theme: Social, tag: social, LinkedIn, Instagram. I have social as a separate theme and use detailed labels as this is searched upon by my readers and SEO. Sometimes I use these same tags under the theme ‘how to.’
It depends on the key-take-away and message of the blog that defines the tags, not me with my own controlling rigid mind.
Read more on how to get your themes.
2. Planning newsroom and socials: posting asynchronously
As I don’t post all content at once on all channels, an overview is indispensable. Up till I found Notion, I kept track via Canva.
In Canva, creating a visual asset equals publishing it on the designated channel. Not created means not published. That hack worked seamlessly until I had more and more content in stock.
And then I started to use Canva to create all assets: blog header, LinkedIn header, IG story, and IG feed.
Especially when I noticed I prefer some content over others due to relevance in the news or other socials, it became even more complicated.
As life and growth happened, I lost track.
How I use Notions ‘Blog Editorial Calendar’ template
Why I prefer the template ‘Blog Editorial Calendar’ over ‘Content Calendar' to keep track.
- Most of all, it’s already in the name. I need ‘editorial’ not ‘content.’ My focus is on telling a story and keeping track of the storyline and themes. Not to keep track of the individual content publications and workflows.
- Second, my anchor is the newsroom blogs. You have to pick an anchor somewhere; I choose the newsroom as I can publish more frequently without messing up the LinkedIn algorithm and overloading my subscribers and followers with content. An editorial calendar focuses on one (anchor) publishing channel, not on the timeline in the content calendar.
In the settings, I added the four publishing channels to the editorial calendar and created the visual overview I wanted.
- Third, the content calendar is optimal for the overview of different types of content; blog, podcast, social, and newsletter. I found it less optimal to keep track of the themes. You can probably make that happen via the settings with the same hack as I did in the editorial calendar.
You pick the template that suits your needs; by playing in the settings, testing, iterating, and fooling around, you can create what you’re looking for.
Below you find my current configuration in the daily grinding list view. And a screenshot of the calendar view with the LinkedIn newsletter. If you want to know more or have a detailed view, drop me a DM.
3. A place to keep ideation
If you have a bubbly mind like mine, overflowing with ideas, you need a place to store them. Writing them down on a piece of paper means I’ll lose them. Using my little black book means I forget them. And creating drafts in my CMS gives me anxiousness.
Now I use editorial planning. First step: I enter the idea as a blog post and don’t enter a publishing date.
My settings in the editorial template
The view is determined by the ‘newsroom publication date’ (my first column), with the most recent on top. If you don’t fill in the date, those ideation blogs will appear at the bottom of the list.
I have moved and cleaned up the now fourth column, ‘status,’ to only two labels: ‘published’ and ‘to do.’ The ‘to do’ means I still have to publish the blog on my socials, or I still have to write the blog.
Why not a third label, ‘to write’? I like to keep things simple.
I know I’ll expand the columns and labels over time, and I don’t want to create a monstrous colorful Christmas tree. That also gives me anxiousness.
For me, this works to keep the overview and keep track, keep myself accountable and to work on the ideation blogs.
4. Good to know
A few last things I want you to know about using tools like Notion for your content creation, planning and publications.
- I use it only for planning. No uploading, API connections, filing, etcetera. Due to security, copyright, and confidentiality. If the tool is for free, you are the product.
- For the workflow, I stick to offline and always start with pen and paper. Doing everything digitally kills my creativity. Read more about my two-hour content idea to publication process.
- Notion is a tool. Use it wisely for your convenience. Pick the elements that suit you; no need to go headfirst down the rabbit hole exploring all options, features, and possibilities.
Want to know more?
I know content planning can be overwhelming. And you often ask what tools I use. Well, here you go. Notion is my most recent discovery, and so far, I'm pretty impressed.
If you want to know more about how to structure your content, use themes, tags, and this tool… don’t be shy and know that I am here to help.
Drop me a DM for a quick virtual coffee.