Nathan Ellering

How to Execute a Carefully Thought-out Content Plan

By: Nathan Ellering | May 20, 2015 | 

Content Plan

By Nathan Ellering

Earlier today, Laura Petrolino wrote a blog post about the buyer’s journey.

It was one of the few articles I’ve seen that answers the question on how to create content that follows a purchase decision.

I mean, how many more times are you willing to read a post about content marketing that begins with “know your audience”?

Any post I read that begins with that intro makes me cringe.

Don’t we all know that already?

You know your audience and you know the kinds of messages you should be creating for different stages of the marketing funnel.

Laura started that this morning and I’d like to follow-up with how to execute your content plan.

A Content Plan Starts With a Measurable Goal

You should always start with a goal that will drive every decision you make going forward.

For example, some goals might be to increase:

  • Social media shares.
  • Social media subscribers
  • Traffic.
  • Email subscribers.
  • Customer conversions.

Each of these builds on to the other.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 6.36.29 AM

It’s helpful to have goals for all of these metrics to understand the correlation among them.

This will help you create a content plan and optimize it for each goal to measure its effectiveness.

Try a structure like this when you write your goals:

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 6.36.38 AM

You can supplement your information into that structure:

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 6.36.46 AM

And if you don’t know where to begin, define a few content types you will publish every week for three months to get a baseline for your its performance.

For example, publish one blog post per week on your blog, then measure the average post’s performance for social media shares, social media subscribers, traffic, email subscribers, and customer conversions.

From there, use this algorithm to plan your goals:

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 6.36.54 AM


  1. Have a goal for your entire content plan.
  2. Know how every piece of content contributes to the goal.
  3. Have a plan to measure your success.

Flesh out Your “Marketing Funnel” With Real Content

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes, and write down every question they have along the way from being a newbie to an expert in your industry (and with your product).

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 6.37.02 AM

Now organize all those questions in a chronological order.

If this were a perfect world, how would your audience step through your content from beginning to end that will result in them becoming a customer?

From there, answer every question.

Think of multiple bullet points here as there are probably dozens of answers to every question.

Those answers serve your content plan. Now you can see where there are gaps in your existing content, too, so you can fill those areas.

Note: Your readers will never experience your content this way. But. This serves as an excellent way to help them find you at whatever stage of decision making they’re currently working through.


  1. Find the patterns within your topics as questions your customers have.
  2. Organize the patterns from beginner to expert.
  3. Answer the questions with bulleted lists.
  4. Turn the bulleted lists into content ideas.

Gather Your Resources

Begin by knowing the skills you need to publish awesome content:

  1. Write.
  2. Design.
  3. Optimize.
  4. Publish.
  5. Share.
  6. Promote.
  7. Repurpose.

You can do all of that with as little as one person, but an optimal number is three:

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 6.37.10 AM

  1. Contributor to write the content.
  2. Designer to enhance it.
  3. Editor to optimize, publish, share, promote, and repurpose it.

There is no reason to include higher-ups in your approval process. That’s your editor’s responsibility.

That’s why this point is so important: Agree with all the doers here—and their managers—that this is exactly the workflow you’ll follow from ideation to published content.


  1. Know who will help you and each person’s responsibilities.
  2. Agree on a simple, efficient workflow.

Plan Your Publishing Frequency

The best advice here is to start slow.

New processes take time to learn, so it’s likely that at first, the team will need to commit more time to produce content simply because they’ve never done this before.

And that’s OK.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 6.37.18 AM

From here, though, you’ll plan a publishing frequency that will help you reach your goals.

When you establish your content plan, the reach of every piece you publish will grow.

But here’s a simple model to help you estimate a good publishing frequency to shoot for based on how your current content contributes to your goals:

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 6.37.26 AM

Now, you can slowly build your momentum to publish more content.

Think of this like running a marathon—you don’t just wake up one day and run 26.2 miles. It takes training for you and your team to build up your publishing endurance.


  1. Agree on a publishing frequency with your team.
  2. Publish less content at the beginning to get the hang of a new process.
  3. Predict a publishing frequency that will help you hit your goals and slowly ease into your advanced publishing schedule.

Plan and Create Your Content

Plan the answers you fleshed out for your marketing funnel as content on your editorial calendar.

Note: It’s good to have a mix of content from every part of the marketing funnel, so don’t just start from the beginning and work to the end. The content plan should have the beginning, middle, and end.

Now it’s time to put the team to work. Use a simple, task-based workflow as reminders for the team to complete their responsibilities for your content.


  1. Lay out all of your content in a single editorial calendar.
  2. Use a simple workflow to avoid overcomplicating the content creation process.
  3. Trust your team to fulfill their responsibilities.

Review How You Did

Your content plan can always improve. Set aside dedicated time to review your goals, plan, and execution.

Review these things for every piece you create:

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 6.37.33 AM

If you continue to execute blindly without reviewing the metrics of how your content affects your goals, you miss out on valuable data to help you make meaningful, quick changes to improve your content plan.

Don’t be that person.


  1. Set aside time to review your content plan and execution with your team.
  2. Review what went well, what you should stop doing, and what you should do differently.
  3. Hold one another accountable to follow through with any changes.

If you need additional help, try this template to get started.

How do you execute your content plan?

About Nathan Ellering

Nathan Ellering is head of marketing demand generation at CoSchedule, the #1 best-selling marketing calendar for everything you need organized. He loves strategy, vintage vinyl records, marketing, craft beer, blogging, new ideas, and demand generation. Though not exactly in that order.

  • JamieNRutter

    “There is no reason to include higher-ups in your approval process. That’s your editor’s responsibility.
    That’s why this point is so important: Agree with all the doers here—and their managers—that this is exactly the workflow you’ll follow from ideation to published content.”
    Yes! It definitely needs to be agreed on, in writing, before this all starts! Don’t even let extra cooks near the kitchen.

  • JamieNRutter Hey Jamie, I’m so happy you liked that part! I’m really passionate about that.

    Higher ups need to empower your editor to make the best decisions on behalf of your blog, company, and community. It is the editor’s responsibility to live up to their expectations.

    There is no better way to publish content than with the trust formed by that agreement.

    Thanks so much for reading and for the comment! You are awesome in my book!

  • The approval process can be such a campaign killer. You really need to educate the leadership about the importance of the schedule and they should see it with the outcomes. This is excellent, Nathan. It’s a wonderful addition to Laura’s earlier post.

  • njellering

    chrisvermeulen5 Hey Chris! Just wanted to reach out to say thanks for reading and sharing! I appreciate it and wish you the best of luck!

  • jolynndeal Hey Jo Lynn, thanks! I agree that educating leadership is the way to go *before* you start. Help them empower your editor to make decisions on their behalf so you can move quickly.

    Leadership time is put to better use on strategic direction instead of the details that editors can provide.

  • I love these fill in the blank images. Around here we call those “Mad Lips,” right @ginidietrich? Feel free to use that terminology Nathan, it’s basically like a cool kid card in a phrase.

  • LauraPetrolino ginidietrich Haha, Laura! That is a really interesting approach! I’m not a math person, but I really like data. Providing formulas like that helps me visualize how to find that data, which I’ve always found helpful! Glad you liked it!

  • Oh, man. If people took all the advice Laura’s post from this morning and then this post, they’d hardly need to hire communications firms!

    (Thank goodness they don’t, right??)

  • Eleanor Pierce Hey Eleanor, well… Just kidding! I think a lot of folks may have a general idea of what to do.
    Most know how to do this sort of stuff effectively. That’s doing the right things. But we can always find ways to work more efficiently. That’s doing what’s effective with agility.
    That’s exactly where you come in and help them look like rock stars. 🙂

  • EmilyWenstrom

    The way you have this info organized is so engaging. Thanks Nathan!

  • EmilyWenstrom Hey Emily, thanks so much for reading! I’m glad you found it engaging, too. Actionable and engaging is exactly what I was shooting for!

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  • IllyPerez

    Good content info, however after reading, I felt like this post should have been titled, “How To Plan for Your Marketing Goals” –  It wasn’t as specific and helpful as I thought it would be. Overall good research & the images are a great touch.

  • IllyPerez Good point, Illy. I wonder if I might have some other content that might work for you (or at least, your thoughts here would help me write a great follow up post to this one).

    Would you be able to explain what gaps are missing here? Were you looking for working with a team, actually creating content, or some other info? Again, I’d definitely use it to connect you with a better piece of content to help you out, or else write a new article to answer your question!

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