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Content Creation Plan and Implementation - VQ Success

Content Creation Plan and Implementation

A A Content Creation Plan is a strategy for defining and managing all projects related to planning, researching, creating, editing, and publishing the content defined in your content distribution strategy. Your content creation plan might include a series of

Content Creation Plan: a strategy for defining and managing all projects related to planning, researching, creating, editing, and publishing the content defined in your content distribution strategy. Your content creation plan might include a series of steps or phases such as planning, research, drafting, editing, and publishing.

Topics Covered in This Article

This article on Content Creation Plan (last updated Sunday, December 26th 2021) is brought to you by VQ Success, a Content Marketing Agency that specializes in content-rich website articles and email campaigns for attracting high-quality leads and converting them into loyal customers.

Content Creation Plan and Implementation

The fifth step of your Content Marketing Strategy is to create and implement your content creation plan. At this point, you should have a clearly defined Buyer Persona, a well-documented content distribution strategy, and a content distribution schedule. 

This is the stage where companies usually move to hire a content marketing agency. Others use an internal content marketing team to get the job done. The three step content creation plan in this article should help you decide which approach is best for you. 

Content Creation Plan

NOTE: this article mentions five concepts which we cover in detail other articles, including our articles on 1) The VQ Success Content Marketing Strategy, 2) How to Create a Buyer’s Persona, 3) The Buyer’s Journey vs Customer Journey, 4) Content Distribution Schedule, and 5) Content Pantry.

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Your Three-Step Content Creation Plan

This article is based on the three-step content creation plan I’ve used to manage writing teams since 2009:

  • Step #1: Planning Your Content.
  • Step #2: Drafting Your Content.
  • Step #3: Polishing Your Content.

The secret to making this plan work is to assign a percentage of your project timeline to each of the three steps of your content creation plan. Here’s a formula that’s worked very well for me and for the teams of content writers I’ve managed over the years:

  • Step #1 (Planning): 30% of your project timeline.
  • Step #2 (Drafting): 50% of your project timeline.
  • Step #3 (Polishing): 20% of your project timeline.

For example, let’s assume your content distribution schedule requires you to create a 10,000-word SEO Article by the 15th of every month. This article will be your seed content for the following month. If you give your content creation team 100 days to complete an article (you’d obviously need to have three of these article projects going at all times), your content creation timeline would break down like this:

  • Step #1 (Planning): Days 1-30 (30%).
  • Step #2 (Drafting): Days 31-80 (50%).
  • Step #3 (Polishing): Days 81-100 (20%).

The secret is to give your content creation team enough time and financial compensation to deliver a high-quality product without burning them out. 

Content Creation Plan

And yes, you should treat writer burnout as a tangible content marketing cost. It costs you in time when you have to replace a writer and bring the new writer up to speed. It costs you in delayed deadlines when a writer quits (or goes MIA) in the middle of a project. Writer burnout is extremely common for people who hire and manage freelance writers, and the cost in time, money, and frustration is very real. 

This is why every serious content marketer should follow the simple formula laid out above. In my experience, this requires breaking from the crowd and embracing a new paradigm. Let me explain that statement in a little more detail before we move on.

(Click here if you prefer to skip my rant) 

The Costliest Myth in Digital Content Marketing

Before you hire a content marketing agency (or build your own in-house team), I urge you to completely reject the all-too-common assumption that content is a commodity you can mass-manufacture at dirt cheap rates. 

If you’re serious about results, I suggest allowing your writing team ten days per 1,000 words to complete their projects and budgeting .50 to $1 per word for their time and effort. This will allow adequate time for all three steps of this Content Creation Plan.

For example, a 10,000-word article would require 100 days and a $5,000.00 to $10,000.00 budget to complete. Likewise, a 3,000-word article would take thirty days and a budget of $1,500.00 to $3,000.00 to finish.

Content Marketing Rates

If you think this sounds expensive, let me assure you that this is quite reasonable if you expect a profitable outcome. The “Wild-Wild West” days of online marketing seduced many people into believing that content can be produced as easily as manufacturing giants produce toilet paper or iPhone covers. 

The truth is, content writers are expert service providers who earn a living by trading their time and expertise for money. You may not worry whether they have to rush through a 1,000-word article in less than two hours just to earn a livable (post-tax) wage. But you will care when your content produces no results and your writers burn out after three to six months.

Only ammeters waste time and money chasing the fool’s gold of cheap marketing content. Your content is the voice of your brand. Many of your prospects will form their attitude about your brand’s value and expertise based on how good your content is. That alone is enough to justify paying professional rates–especially when it comes to creating the content in your Content Pantry.

Now that I’ve (hopefully) persuaded you to invest adequate time and money into having your seed content created, let’s break down the three stages of our Content Creation Plan.

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Content Creation Plan Step #1: Planning

This step involves two things, conception and research. Conception is where you define the IDEA your content (article, video, book, etc.) will communicate to your reader. This is vastly different than picking a topic to write about. Topic-based content is generic. It informs your reader about a subject, but it has little or no memorable impact on their psyche. In his book, A Writer’s Coach, author Jack Hart says this about topic-based content:

“The lack of real ideas plagues every corner of American writing. Government reports drone on and on, restating the obvious and cloaking the lack of substance in gobbledygook. Business marketing plans trot out page after page of meaningless statistics without ever offering an original insight about the unique benefits offered by a new product or service (a failing that once moved adman David Ogilvy to observe that “people don’t want drills; they want holes”). Travel brochures slather glossy paper with empty adjectives but never tell potential travelers how a visit to a new place might affect their emotions or change the way they see the world.”

Jack Hart, A Writer’s Coach (Chapter I: Method, page 16)

The internet is full of such content, but the plague of generic writing goes back for decades. Ultimately, it is a product of laziness in the planning stage of your writing process. 

The secret to creating great marketing content is to change your focus from topics to ideas. Idea-based content changes the way your reader thinks about a subject. It inspires new trains of thought and changes your prospect’s brain chemistry in a way topic-based content can’t.

This change in brain chemistry happens because of a reward neurotransmitter called dopamine.

Content Creation Plan Research Stage

“Novel experiences induce dopamine release in the hippocampus, a process which promotes memory persistence.”

National Library of Medicine

Dopamine has been called a “driver of exploration” because of its role in rewarding novel experiences and discoveries. It is the same chemical that gives video games, social media, and even pornography their addictive quality. Your brain releases dopamine in response to novel experiences, such as a new idea. When your prospect’s brain releases dopamine, they are more likely to remember the information that triggered this release.

This is the difference idea-based content can make for your content marketing strategy. In his book, A Writer’s Coach, author Jack Hart describes idea-based content like this:

“Good ideas, in navigation or in writing, take the form of hypotheses. Productive information gathering begins with a statement that helps focus study, limits the scope of the project, and separates the relevant from the irrelevant. The hypothesis creates a filter. It allows the writer to impose order on chaos. It may well be fine-tuned or completely overhauled as the reporting proceeds, but a hypothesis built on good preliminary information gathering will more often than not stand up to the research that follows.”

Jack Hart, A Writer’s Coach (Chapter I: Method, page 17)

That said, your content should be based on an idea that changes how your prospect thinks about one (or more) of the following subjects:

  • The PROBLEM your product or service solves.
  • The ALTERNATIVE solution(s) to the problem.
  • The TYPE of product or service you offer.
  • Your specific BRAND of the product or service.
Content Marketing Strategy Research

We covered these four items in detail in our Buyer’s Journey vs Customer Journey article. Your job is to start with a topic that’s relevant to the stage of the buyer’s journey you expect your prospect to be in when they find your content. Once you have your topic, your next job is to find an idea that will change the way your prospect thinks about the topic. For the remainder of this article, we’ll be calling this idea your “hook.”

Since the topic of hook generation is beyond the scope of this article, I suggest you grab a copy of Jack Hart’s book and immerse yourself in the chapters on “Method” and “Process.” I also cover this in more detail in other articles on this site and in my marketing books. For the sake of this article, here are two quick prompts that can help you come up with your hook:

  • Blind Spots: inform your prospects of what they don’t know about the topic.
  • Misconceptions: challenge your prospects’ existing assumptions about the topic.

The more you know about your Buyer Persona, the better you’ll become at using one of the above angles to generate interesting and unique content hooks. And the more relevant, unique, and compelling your hook is, the easier time you’ll have researching, creating, and editing your content. Once you’ve found your hook, your next step is to find two types of information for clarifying and validating your hook:

  • Left-Brain Data: statistics, studies or other scientific data that validates your hook.
  • Right-Brain Data: a story or metaphor that clarifies and/or demonstrates your hook.

Once you’ve gathered this data, use the hook prompts below to organize your research and into a cohesive content outline based on Five Stages of The VQ Success Buyer’s Journey:

Buyer’s Journey Stage #1

Description: These prospects are indifferent about the PROBLEM your product or service solves.

Content Marketing Objectives:

  • Show Them How Relevant Their Problem Is.
  • Show Them How Critical Their Problem Is.
  • Show Them How Urgent Their Problem Is.

See our Buyer’s Journey vs Customer Journey article for more details on Stage #1 messaging strategies.

VQ Success Buyer's Journey Stage 1

Stage #1 Hook Prompts:

  • What are their blind spots about the problem your product or service solves?
  • What are their misconceptions about the problem your product or service solves?

*You are reading the VQ Success Content Creation Plan article.

Buyer’s Journey Stage #2

Description: These prospects are curious about the available SOLUTIONS to their problem.

Content Marketing Objectives:

  • Change Their Perspective of The Problem.
  • Debunk The Competing Solutions.
  • Sell Them On Your Type of Product or Service.

See our Buyer’s Journey vs Customer Journey article for more details on Stage #2 messaging strategies.

VQ Success Buyer's Journey Stage 2

Stage #2 Hook Prompts:

  • What are their blind spots about the competing solutions to their problem?
  • What are their blind spots about the TYPE of product or service you sell?
  • What are their misconceptions about the competing solutions to their problem?
  • What are their misconceptions about the TYPE of product or service you sell?

*You are reading the VQ Success Content Creation Plan article.

Buyer’s Journey Stage #3

Description: These prospects are sold on your TYPE of solution and comparing a list of brands.

Content Marketing Objectives:

  • Sell Them On The Relevance of Your Brand.
  • Sell Them On The Superiority of Your Brand.
  • Sell Them On The Uniqueness of Your Brand.

See our Buyer’s Journey vs Customer Journey article for more details on Stage #3 messaging strategies.

VQ Success Buyer's Journey Stage 3

Stage #3 Hook Prompts:

  • What are their blind spots about your brand?
  • What are their blind spots about your competitor(s)?
  • What are their misconceptions about your brand?
  • What are their misconceptions about your competitor(s)?

*You are reading the VQ Success Content Creation Plan article.

Buyer’s Journey Stage #4

Description: These prospects are sold on your BRAND, but haven’t completed a purchase yet. 

Content Marketing Objectives:

  • Address Common Objections.
  • Tell Them What Will Happen Next.
  • Give Them a Reason to Act Now.

See our Buyer’s Journey vs Customer Journey article for more details on Stage #4 messaging strategies.

VQ Success Buyer's Journey Stage 4

Stage #4 Hook Prompts:

  • What are their blind spots about the process of becoming a customer?
  • What are their misconceptions about the process of becoming a customer?

*You are reading the VQ Success Content Creation Plan article.

If you’re interested in learning more about these hook prompts and the Buyer’s Journey, I cover both topics in other articles on this website. I also suggest you buy a copy of A Writer’s Coach by Jack Hart and study the chapters on Method, Process, and Structure. Mr Hart’s book will also help you implement the second two steps of our Content Creation Plan.

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Content Creation Plan Step #2: Drafting

This step involves two things, outlining, and writing. Outlining is where you create the structure for your content. Writing is where you use that structure and the data you collected during your research to create your first draft.

This process is the same whether you’re creating an article, white paper, video script, a monologue, or even a complete book. Since outlining is a topic worthy of an entire article, I’ll simply share a few content outline ideas and how they apply to the stages of The VQ Success Buyer’s Journey.

Content Marketing Outline Ideas

Buyer’s Journey Application: Stage #1

Hook Focus: The PROBLEM your product or service solves

  • Problem: explains the problem and its symptoms.
  • Cause: debunks the assumed cause of the problem.
  • Impact: explains the risks of treating the assumed cause.
  • Invitation: teases the real cause of the problem w/call to action*.

*Call to Action: Require user’s email address to deliver a white paper download, private video, or email series explaining the real cause of the problem. 

Buyer’s Journey Application: Stage #2

Hook Focus: The ALTERNATIVE solution(s) to the problem

  • Promise: introduce an alternative solution and its promise.
  • Problem: expose a problem with the alternative solution.
  • Impact: explain the impact of the above mentioned problem.
  • Invitation: tease a better solution to the problem w/call to action*.

*Call to Action: Require user’s email address to deliver a white paper download, private video, or email series explaining why your TYPE or project or service is the superior solution to the problem. 

Buyer’s Journey Application: Stage #2

Hook Focus: The DIY (Do-it-Yourself) solution(s) to the problem

  • State Goal: summarize the end goal and its benefits.
  • Explain Steps: summarize steps, then explain each in detail.
  • Give an Example: example (video, picture, story) of finished goal.
  • Invitation: tease a better way to achieve the goal w/call to action*.

*Call to Action: Require user’s email address to deliver a white paper download, private video, or email series explaining how your TYPE or project or service can better help them achieve the goal.

Buyer’s Journey Application: Stage #3

Hook Focus: Your specific BRAND of the product or service

  • Promise: summarize the benefits of your TYPE of solution.
  • Problem: expose a common problem with your competitors.
  • Positioning: explain how your brand has solved this problem.
  • Invitation: tease your brand as the superior solution w/call to action*.

*Call to Action (Low-Threshold): Require user’s email address to deliver a white paper download, private video, or email series explaining why your brand offers the superior version of the product or service. 

*Call to Action (High-Threshold): Invite user to attend a webinar or talk with your sales person about how your product or service can help them solve their problem or achieve their goal.

Buyer’s Journey Application: Stage #4

Hook Focus: Your specific BRAND of the product or service

  • Introduction: introduce a hero/heroine who matches your Buyer Persona.
  • Attempt: vignette of hero trying to solve their problem or reach their goal.
  • Failure: vignette of hero failing to solve their problem or reach their goal.
  • Discovery: vignette of hero discovering your TYPE of product or service.
  • Success: vignette of hero succeeding with the help of your product or service.
  • Invitation: tease how your product or service can also help them w/call to action*.

*Call to Action: Invite user to place an order or talk with your sales person about how your product or service can help them solve their problem or achieve their goal.

Drafting Your Content

During my time as a ghostwriter and editor, I have discovered three methods for creating the first draft of your content:

  • Freewriting Method
  • Interview Method
  • Hybrid Method
Content Creation Process

The Freewriting Method is simple, although not easy. This is where you take your outline and the research gathered during your planning stage, and hand it to someone who has the focus and drive to hammer out your first draft. The secret to this method is to have ONE PERSON write the content, and don’t bring in anyone else until your writer has created the first draft.

If you involve more than one person in the freewriting process or if your writer tries to write and polish at the same time, you’ll end up with a file of disorganized ideas. Your writer should not worry about typos, grammar, or stylistic nuances. Save this for the third and final stage of your Content Creation Plan.

The Interview Method is where you use your content outline to conduct an interview with an expert on your topic. I suggest creating two to four solid questions for each of subsection of your outline and having the interview done by someone who knows how to either ask additional questions, or modify questions on the fly as they uncover the real gems of insight during the interview.

Record the interview and hire someone to transcribe the audio file into a text document. You can also use the audio version of the interview as part of your content distribution strategy. 

The Hybrid Method is where you hand the transcribed version of your interview to your writer and have them fill out or clarify any details that were either missed or poorly communicated during the expert interview. Your writer might also add stories, metaphors, quotes, or statistics to highlight the most salient points made during the interview. 

Those are the best three methods for creating the first draft of your content, whether it be an article, video script, monologue script, whitepaper, email series, or even an entire book. Once you have your first draft, you’re ready for the third and final step of your Content Creation Plan. 

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Content Creation Plan Step #3: Polishing

The final step of your Content Creation Plan is to put your first draft through three rounds of edits.

  • Round #1: Edit for Clarity
  • Round #2: Edit for Style
  • Round #3: Proofreading

Each round should be performed by the member of your Content Marketing Team best suited for the job. 

Round #1: Edit for Clarity

Have someone (other than your initial draft writer) go through your first draft and recommend revisions for anything that is:

  • Confusing.
  • Unbelievable.
  • Boring.
  • Awkward.

I suggest using these four words to clarify comments made on the content document. For example, if your editor finds a sentence that’s confusing, they would highlight the sentence and make a comment like this:

Confusing. This sentence seems to contradict the point made in the previous paragraph. 

After making these recommendations, have your editor send the draft back to the original writer for revision. Once your writer has made the revisions, proceed to the next round. I suggest limiting these revision requests to one round, with an absolute maximum of three rounds. If your writer and editor need more than this, this means you missed something in the planning and drafting steps of your Content Creation Plan.  

I also suggest checking out A Writer’s Coach by Jack Hart and studying the chapters on Force, Brevity, and Clarity and applying his techniques to this round of your editing.

Round #2: Edit for Style

I suggest this round be done by the person who wrote the first draft of your content. As long as you’ve used someone else for the Clarity round, you should end up with something remarkable by the time this round is completed. Since editing for style is a topic worthy of an entire article or even a book, I’ll summarize three essential techniques here:

  • Voice: match the tone and vernacular of your content to your buyer persona.
  • Rhythm: add some rhythm to the structure of your sentences and paragraphs.
  • Color: use vignettes and other techniques to paint a picture in your reader’s mind.

I suggest you check out A Writer’s Coach by Jack Hart and study the chapters on Rhythm, Color, and Voice for more details on these techniques. I also cover this topic in great detail in my free copywriting course 21 Persuasive Copywriting Techniques

Round #3: Proofreading

Have someone who is very detail-oriented check your content for mechanical errors. There should be no additional editing for clarity or style at this stage. Allowing or encouraging this kind of editing will slow down your project, and the end result will not be as polished. In my experience, this is very hard for some people to resist, but the ability to resist it and finish your content by deadline is the mark of a truly professional writing team. 

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Final Thoughts on Your Content Creation Plan

We hope you enjoyed this Content Creation Plan article. In conclusion, let me make one last very important point about the three step plan we just discussed:

Great content is the result of following a great process. 

The better job you do at each of these three steps, the easier time you’ll have with the step that follows and the better your end result will be. 

The more diligent you are in planning your content, the easier it will be to outline your content and create the first draft. The better job you do with steps one and two, the easier it will be to polish your content.

The opposite is also true. If you don’t have a good hook or if you rush through your research stage, you’ll have a hard time outlining and drafting your content.

If your first draft is poorly written, or full of fluff, your first round of your polishing stage will involve a lot of revising, and even rewriting. It’s hard to overstate the impact this will have on your end product and your ability to keep from burning out your content creation team. 

The bright side of this is that it will help you troubleshoot and improve your Content Creation Plan and Process. This is because any problems that you run into during one stage of this process are usually the result of something you missed or rushed through in the previous stage. 

Never assume that you can take a shortcut during one step and make up for it by doing a great job on a later step. This is a common mistake when working on all kinds of projects, from music, to writing, to event planning. It’s a downward slope delayed delivery dates, team burnout, and mediocre content. 

Remember that your goal is to create a piece of seed content from which you will generate all the other content (in various media formats) for your Content Distribution Strategy. Take your time with each step of your content marketing strategy and you’ll be much happier with the outcome. 

This concludes our Content Creation Plan article. 

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