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writing-content-plan

Tips on Preparing a Content Plan

When it comes to blog writing, thinking up ideas can be a real stumbling block. A blank sheet of paper seems to wipe out all creative powers and you find yourself lost for words. If this is a familiar situation, I strongly advise you to prepare a content plan.

Yes, a content plan might take a few hours to compile, but it will become a valuable resource. With a structure in place and themes for each blog, you can avoid starting from scratch time and time again.

Start your Content Plan by Considering your Business Values and Objectives

Blogs provide a great forum for showcasing the developments of your business, as well as the underpinning company values. Jot down a few points that relate to your current focus.

  • What is the thought process behind current decisions?
  • What sparked a shift in direction?
  • Have you or your team recently attended any training?
  • What collaborations with other businesses are you working on?

This should help you highlight a couple of key points that you would like to share in a blog.

Working Example of Initial Idea Generation for a Content Plan

I recently worked with Helen Pettifer to put together a 6-month content plan. Helen offers corporate training in customer service. The themes we focused on were:

Vulnerable Customers – Helen has developed specific training around Customer Service for Vulnerable People, which she is keen to promote.

Customer Service Training – We talked about some recent training delivery and how these could be used as case studies to showcase her services.

Public Speaking – Helen has also been developing her public speaking skills and was keen to share this personal development.

Complain Handling – A popular course that Helen offers centres around Complaint Handling. She wished to share some insight on Root Cause Analysis, which is part of this training.

Now bring the Customer into the Picture

Blog writing is a careful balance between engaging with potential and existing customers, whilst also ticking search engine criteria. Yes, it is important to include keywords, but you need to add value to anyone reading the blog. For this reason, it is important to consider what blog content is of interest to readers. What is in it for them?

  • Explain how the new member of the team, training, state-of-the-art equipment or a new policy will have a positive effect on service delivery
  • Give away advice and information that will help the reader
  • Provide a product demonstration or review to help customers to gain a better understanding of what you offer
  • Consider how assembly instructions, aftercare advice or serving suggestions might ensure that readers can get the most out of their purchases
  • Add value by explaining the history, traditions or skills that relate to specific goods or services

Working Example of Adding Customer Focus to a Content Plan

Back to Helen; with four key topics in mind, we considered what her prospective readers might be interested in. We identified the following points:

Vulnerable Customers – Building a strong reputation for delivering great customer experiences, for every customer, every time

Customer Service Training – Having skilled motivated, confident and supportive staff who consistency provide great customer service

Public Speaking – Understanding how Helen can aid their team and gaining confidence in her skills

Complaint Handling – How to diagnose the root cause of complaints in order to make small changes that have a big impact

Adding Dates to a Content Plan

It is easy to put blog writing to the bottom of the pile. With so many other demands on your time, it is seldom the top priority. It is, however, an important means of engaging with readers and adding, fresh relevant content to your website. This will help to attract visitors and extend your potential reach.

By adding dates to a content plan, you start to hold yourself accountable. It gives a deadline, which can prove to be a good motivator!

My advice is to be realistic and consistent whenever possible. How frequently can you find time to prepare and post a blog?

Working Example of Adding a Timeframe to a Content Plan

In Helen’s case, she decided that once every 3 weeks would work for her business.

With the dates mapped out, we could consider the best time to talk about the themes. Dementia Week in May offers the ideal opportunity to talk about Vulnerable Customers, when awareness is already heightened.

Incorporate Extra Information into your Content Plan

When the dates are listed and the theme for each blog identified, you can help your future self a little more with a few added details.

  • Which page of your website will the blog link to? Copy and paste it into the plan
  • Will you include links to other sites and if so, which are relevant?
  • Do you have some ideas in mind of points that you want to cover in the blog
  • Is there a report or news article that you’ve read recently, which has a few key points that relate to your theme?

The more pointers you can incorporate, the easier it is to focus when you have time to prepare the blog.

Working from a Content Plan

With a content plan in place, you’ll have a starting point and initial ideas to work from. It will prove far more efficient than staring at a blank screen! If you still feel at a bit of a loss, get in touch: catherine@write-it.co.uk. In a content planning session, I can help you to develop ideas and compile the information you need to move forward.

Writing-ideas

Spark Ideas for Blog Writing

It’s National Writing Day, does this make it the ideal time to put pen to paper? Possibly not.

As with many activities, you have to be in the right frame of mind in order to write something of value. You may be on a roll and a poem, a letter or a blog post just flows. That would be fantastic, but it isn’t usually that simple.

As well as being a technical process, writing requires creativity. Inspiration doesn’t strike simply because you are asked to write. It takes time to develop an idea and the best place to get started is often away from your desk.

As a freelance copywriter, I have a monthly list of blogs to write. I prepare a rough content plan for the upcoming posts and keep these in mind whilst I’m out and about. Forcing an idea seldom leads to something worth posting. I find that ideas are often sparked in the strangest of places; the supermarket, during a conversation and most commonly, whilst I’m out for a walk.

If you have experienced writer’s block, keep the initial idea in mind, but go off and do something else. You’re more likely to find inspiration when you’re not expecting it.

Tips on the Writing Process

1. Decide what you intend to write about and consider the context (are you writing a blog post, a product review, a letter to Grandma, a training manual, a persuasive report or a full-blown novel?)

2. Branching out from your central theme, what ideas immediately spring to mind? Research those ideas on Google – is there a topical story that relates to your subject or stats that back up your idea with evidence?

3. Look through the information you’ve collated and identify the key points that you wish to communicate. (These could become headings for your blog or chapters of your novel). Then write the first draft without being too concerned with spelling, grammar or presentation.

4. Go away and do something else before revisiting your draft. Read it through, check the spelling and start editing. Should you add elements or be more concise?

5. When you feel you are getting there, read it out loud. This makes it easier to notice mistakes. (If you are writing a novel or other lengthy document, ask someone else to read through it if possible).

6. Finally, return to Point 3 – have you covered the main messages that you wanted to share? If so, it’s time to publish, send or submit your writing.

As with any skill, don’t expect to get it right first time. Take any feedback as an opportunity to improve, rather than a personal attack on your efforts. The more you write, the easier it becomes to formulate and develop ideas.

If you’ve been tasked with business blog writing for your company website and don’t know where to begin, a content planning session can help kickstart the process. Feel free to contact me for further information:

catherine@write-it.co.uk

Barriers to Blog Writing

Breaking Down the Barriers to Blog Writing

“Continuous Improvement is better than delayed perfection”

This quote popped up on my social media this morning. I don’t know who to credit for it, but sums up the reason we often hold back when it comes to creativity.

Getting Started with Blog Writing

Last week I spoke with a business owner. She was proud of her new website, but very aware that it had an empty blog page. Then she admitted that she had written a blog, but was apprehensive about posting it. Was it too long? Had she effectively communicated the key message?

With a little advice and a nudge in the right direction, she took a deep breath and clicked ‘Publish’.

I’m not sure how long she’d be contemplating that blog, but as soon as it was out there, her mind filled with ideas for future blogs. Her creativity was unlocked; she had broken down the first barrier of blog writing – getting started.

Concerns about ‘getting it wrong’ often hinder creativity.

I enjoy activities that spark creative thinking, so enrolled on a one day block printing workshop at my local arts centre.

After a brief introduction, the tutor gave us each a crisp, white t-towel and a carved block. She squirted thick, black fabric paint into our trays and told us to get printing. She’d imparted some basic instructions on applying the paint, but provided no rules.

This lack of structure threw some into momentary panic. Where should they start? What if it goes wrong?

A tea towel – at best it would be used to dry the dishes. Did it really matter if it went wrong? To some people, yes, because we feel a failure if we don’t get it right (even on the first attempt).

Once we all bit the bullet, the process was simple, fun and quick to deliver results. As each participant took printed the first black blocks onto their white fabric, the tension dropped. Creativity flowed and by the end of the workshop, we all left with a colourful selection of beautifully printed fabrics and papers.

Learn from the Creative Process

So many people hold back from creative activities because we’ve become so results focused. If you’re worried about making mistakes and what people will think, it’s difficult to really open up to new possibilities.

Our early attempts may not be fantastic, but we learn from the creative process. Experience and feedback help us to improve. The more we break down the barriers to creative thinking, the easier it becomes. As a result, we open ourselves up to fresh ideas and new approaches.

Blog Writing

If you are keen to write your own blogs, it’s time to get some ideas down on paper. Don’t expect to write the perfect piece on your first attempt, just start by:

  • Writing a few ideas on paper
  • Considering what related points your customers would find interesting or useful to know
  • Researching information that relates to the idea and see where this leads you
  • Building on the formative thoughts to develop the idea
  • Writing a draft blog
  • Re-reading and editing
  • Finding or taking a suitable picture
  • Posting!

The minute you click ‘Publish’, expect to feel both panic and excitement. Your blog is live.

People can read it and form their opinions about it. Some may not be favourable, but which is worse; giving it a go or having an empty blog page? It’s time to get creative!

If you need a little more assistance, I offer content planning packages. We’ll consider relevant subject matter, key events and frequency of posting before a final blog plan is prepared. Simply email me to arrange a content planning meeting: catherine@write-it.co.uk