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Guest

Pros and Cons of Using a Content Schedule

By: Guest | November 19, 2012 | 
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Today’s guest post is by Shanna Mallon.

Creating a formalized content schedule takes foresight, but it also makes coming up with regular posts much easier.

Should you have one? Would it make sense for you?

More and more organizations are using a formalized content plan in their marketing efforts, not just for their blog posts but also for their complete social media campaigns.

Why do they do this?

To help answer those questions, here’s a look at the pros and cons of using a content schedule.

We’ll start with the benefits!

Benefits of Using a Content Schedule

  • Consistent Posting. When you plan your posts ahead of time, this helps ensure new content goes out at regular intervals. Instead of scratching your head for topic ideas, the topics are laid out before you. Regular content dispersion is important because it means you avoid the typical ups and downs in traffic and audience that come from inconsistent posting. Through a content schedule, you spread out your content throughout the month, setting yourself up as a resource to be trusted.
  • Diverse Content. If you have to come up with a new topic every day, it won’t be long before your ideas start to sound repetitive. Whether you’re a real estate agency that leans towards posts about selling or a retail store that likes to post new products, not having a content schedule usually means you’re going to default to the same posting style every time. With a content schedule, on the other hand, you can predetermine how many posts will be about what, allowing you to prevent being predictable and boring.
  • Easier Teamwork. When you write a blog with more than one author, having a content schedule is key. With a content schedule, you have assignments to give to writers, not to mention the ability to assign those topics far in advance. Whether you’re working with in-house writers or outsourcing, planning post topics gives you a leg up in looking forward. Likewise, a content schedule makes it easier to budget time and costs for the future.
  • Improved SEO. Planning your posts is helpful in terms of SEO because you can think more strategically about keywords. Each month can target a specific market, with corresponding keywords in all your posts and social media activity for that month. Planning ahead makes this process more efficient and controlled.
  • Advertising Benefits. Should you want to work with advertisers on your site, it’s helpful to be able to tell them what content is coming up soon. When you can say, for example, that this month will feature a series on the business benefits of certain social media tools, you not only show yourself to be professional but also have an extra way to entice companies specializing in those topics.

Despite the many advantages drawing companies towards content schedules, keeping an editorial calendar is not without its downside.

Here are some of the biggest drawbacks of sticking with a content plan.

Drawbacks of Using a Content Schedule

  • Feeling Confined. Setting all your topics ahead of time can sometimes feel constricting. Rather than freeing up you and your writers to respond to current events and trends or to write about something that catches your attention, a content schedule can set you up to feel locked into the prescribed topics.
  • Can Seem Disingenuous. There’s nothing like having your scheduled post about enjoying fall weather go up just as a hurricane hits your community. With a content schedule of automated posts or tweets or updates, what you’re saying can sometimes come across as stale or canned because it’s written days or weeks before it gets posted.
  • Little Flexibility: The reality is that planning your blog content ahead of time can turn out to be counterproductive when your company’s goals change, roles shift, or strategies get reimagined. A content schedule gives you less flexibility to instantly adapt to changes as they come.
  • More Demanding. Here’s the reality about content schedules and writing teams: Everyone needs to be on board. If you keep the schedule but no one else does, you’re faced with the undesirable task of hounding writers for their finished pieces. Schedules are helpful only if they work!

Looking at the pros and cons of content schedules, what do you think? Do the benefits of consistency and diversity outweigh the drawbacks of feeling confined or disingenuous? Does your company use a content schedule—why or why not?

Shanna Mallon is a writer for Straight North, a Chicago Internet marketing agency. Follow Straight North on Twitter and Facebook.

13 comments
phillymac
phillymac

@lizscherer <waves enthusiastically>

magriebler
magriebler

I totally agree that content schedules are lifesavers. I don't know how anyone operates without them.

 

What gets you in trouble are those darn automated posts. That's when you find yourself looking foolish and insensitive when Hurricane Sandy, for example, is ravaging the east coast. It's worth the investment of time and money to do as much of this work manually as possible. Keeps you flexible, nimble and attuned to what your customers are saying. And it makes your content calendar an effective tool, not a shackle.

 

JasKeller1
JasKeller1

I thought content calendars have become standard practice among most companies with an online presence? These pros and cons seem more for individuals and very small businesses. I you have a devoted person (or team, or agency, etc.) for comms, then I do not see how it is effective for those individuals to be spending every morning writing a blog post or tweets for the day.

 

Any effective content strategy starts with a plan, and a content schedule is where you can consolidate that plan in a way to make the day to day execution feasible. It is also a way to make sure you are diversifying the content you are posting in a way that not to bore your audience with redundancy. In short, use a content calendar and plan ahead!  

ClayMorgan
ClayMorgan

At my newspaper, breaking news is part of our bread and butter. Despite this, I can tell you a number of things. I can give you a good idea of what our front page will look like for the next seven days. I can also tell you what our Sunday front-page centerpiece will be over the next two months, and I can tell you what special projects we'll be working on through 2013.

 

The plan, however, is what allows us to be flexible without creating an unmanageable burden on the staff. I tell them constantly, "a good plan makes the surprises less painful." We have breaking news just about every day - a big story developing this morning, but it is all OK, because our content plan is in place and functioning properly.

 

With a quick glance, I (and all my editors) know what reporters/photographers/videographers are available to cover something, what stories can easily be moved to another day (print) or another time slot (digital).

 

I can't even begin to imagine producing significant amounts of content without a solid, but flexible, plan.

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Anthony_Rodriguez
Anthony_Rodriguez

I have scheduled content for the first time. And it has done wonders for me so far. Yes it was difficult to plan it all out in advanced but it has made my life easier in a month that is a national celebration of adoption and what my Foundation is trying to accomplish.

 

I am anxious to see what the results are at the end of the month to see just exactly how effective planning this all out has been. On the surface I see it has been beneficial. Engagement is up among our existing users and we have more people who are aware of the Foundation as a result of our regularly planned postings.

 

But that doesn't mean I am not flexible with the schedule either. There have already been instances where planned posts just won't work out or something else comes up and needs to replace what I had planned that day. The one thing I don't want to do is overload users with tons of posts just because there is a lot of great stuff comes up in one day.

 

I probably will only plan out a month's worth of content a couple times a year but there is a lot of value to having a weekly theme of content ready so you know what types you need to have ready to go.

lizscherer
lizscherer

@phillymac Hey there. Happy Thanksgiving!

creativeoncall
creativeoncall

 @magriebler It was interesting to hear Gini D. speak at Wine n Web tonight, and mention that she forgoes a content calendar; per other comments here, the no-calendar approach doubtless works better for the passionate individual content creator than it does for larger corporate content creation (but there's still that problem of maintaining the passion...)

Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon

 @JasKeller1 Content calendars may be common practice, but there are many brands and blogs still hesitant about them. It depends on the nature of your blog and the community you're engaging. Glad you find content schedules to be beneficial for you!

Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon

 @ClayMorgan I like your perspective here, Clay. It's like a combining of the best of both worlds. On the one hand, plan ahead; on the other hand, be flexible and alert. Thanks for your feedback!

Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon

 @Anthony_RodriguezThat's great to hear, Anthony. Would love for you to come back and let us know your thoughts when the month is through!

Anthony_Rodriguez
Anthony_Rodriguez

 @creativeoncall  @magriebler This is a situation where different approaches work for different people and they are still effective to the end result. I work for a small nonprofit and we are all very passionate about the content we create. But a content calendar is a tool that helps us plan for all the things we want to say while still being flexible for the things we didn't plan for. Content calendars work for all sizes of organizations and are not something only large corporations partake.

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