🔍 Content strategists rejoice! Our proprietary S.A.I.L. Content Strategy Program will help you solidify a content direction that’s based on data, and truly moves the needle forward on your business goals.
This is the ultimate content planning guide for marketers, business owners, strategists, or content creators who need to solidify content strategy for the upcoming year or quarter.
We’ll break down S.A.I.L., our proprietary content strategy program. It’s flexible enough to meet the needs of a small business owner, or a multi-national corporation.
If you need help with your content planning, let Werner and Media take the wheel! Get in touch with our experienced team here.
So, you’re the person responsible for planning the year’s media campaigns after a global pandemic, slashed budgets, new social platform dominance, and just about everything in the lives of your target audience has changed — awesome! You’re in a position of huge opportunity.
Don’t sweat it, we’ve got this. And by we, we mean you — with the help of our S.A.I.L. content strategy program.
What You Need
The undivided attention of leadership or stakeholders to get their input
Creative thinking (or help from someone on your team who is creative)
🔍⚖️⏱🔑 A Quick Overview
S.A.I.L. is a four part planning and execution strategy for the people who need to create content on a regular basis. Here’s an overview of each section:
As a whole, S.A.I.L. is top-heavy: the vast majority of this strategic planning program takes place in the first section, SPECIFY. It’s here we will define your brand values, (if you haven’t already,) and use those as a spring board to define the rest of your content plans.
During SPECIFY, we’ll also pull from numerous data sources, conduct any market research, archive and organize the data, conduct leadership interviews, brainstorm with team members, identify success metrics, and come out the other side with a few ideas for media campaigns, both annual and quarterly.
Once we get the info-heavy SPECIFY section completed, it’s time to ALIGN our resources accordingly. The first part of this section is about clarifying the budget: what’s available financially, what influencers need to paid, which quarters of the year require more spending, and more.
Understanding the budget thoroughly allows us to move through the rest of the ALIGN section with clarity, which includes defining the media channels we’ll use to distribute the campaign, defining the assets needed to produce the campaign, and finally, solidifying which KPIs we’re going to focus on to measure success.
INTEGRATE is all about identifying the influencers, from local blogger to A-Lister, that will be used in the campaign, selecting which technologies and services will be critical, defining the Production Timeline, and defining the Promotional Timeline. We will also identify your campaign’s target Launch Day here.
Lastly, but not leastly, LEVERAGE considers what happens after your campaign goes live. There’s a focus on PR and external media: who are the media outlets and journalists who will want to know about this campaign? We’ll also look at other media relations activities that are critical like writing press releases or arranging media tours, and consider opportunities for PR on social media, like user-generated content.
After S.A.I.L. is completed, you will have a solid media plan for your Annual and Quarterly Campaigns, and will be able to articulate to leadership how these plans will benefit the business’ overall goals.
Got it? No? That’s OK! We’ll walk you through all of this and leave your team in awe of your skills.
Let’s Break It Down
This strategic content plan is top-heavy: you’ll do most of your data weighing, research finding, interviewing, and information organization in the SPECIFY first stage.
Starting off on the right foot by using market research, as well as your own internal data, is your greatest weapon in strategic content planning. Without a solid understanding of your business based on such data, you’ll struggle to create content that truly resonates with your target audience.
Keep in mind, this guide is meant to apply to many different businesses. You know your own data better than anyone else, and if something feels relevant or important, make note of it.
#1: SPECIFY Your Content: Step-by-Step 🔍
🔍 The first step is to conduct a leadership exercise to evaluate and define brand values. Obviously startups need the most help in this area, and it’s possible your brand values haven’t changed much if you’re an older organization. Even so, it’s a good idea to refresh them given the post-Coronavirus environment, and the new media needs of your consumers.
Some suggestions on how to do this, and considerations to make:
🔍 You can kickoff a group brand values discussion by pulling some great media campaigns from your industry in the last year. Consider campaigns that really resonated within your sector, or that won awards, (like an Effie or a Shorty Award.) The idea is to get the conversation flowing about media ideas your leadership likes and doesn’t like.
🔍 Define your brand values. If you’re an established brand, these are probably already written into a brand standards document. Pull those out and discuss them one-by-one, especially if it’s a new year or if this is to create an annual plan.
🔍 One method people use to define core brand values is to consider your brand eulogy: if this was your brand’s funeral and it was being put to rest, what would you want people to say about it? How did your brand change the world?
🔍 You can ask each team member to sum up the brand in three words. Look for repeated patterns, related items, and for now, keep everything written down on a whiteboard or brainstorming space for everyone to see. You can take pictures of it at the end of the session to store for reference.
🔍 Look at a list of competitive brands. What makes you similar? What makes you different? Why do you stand out above the rest?
🔍 When finished discussing this information, identify your top three brand values, and summarize them into 1 sentence. For example, for each brand value, you should write 1 sentence summarizing it, giving you a total of 3 Brand Values Sentences when you are finished — ranked most important to least.
🔍 Next, at the same leadership meeting, take the opportunity to align these brand values with business objectives. Living your truth as a brand while being authentic to your customers comes down to aligning your values to your actions.
🔍 Now that you have three Brand Values Sentences that summarize who your brand is at the core, consider your objectives as a business. What are the most pressing business goals for the upcoming year, (annual?) What are the most pressing business goals for the upcoming quarter?
🔍 How do each of your brand values sentences align to each business goal? Just discuss this conversationally to start, and in the next step we’ll formulate these insights into sentences. This is where you’ll have to flex your creative muscles a bit — if you get stuck, the Werner and Media team is here to save the day.
🔍 Finally, write your Brand Objective Statements — by aligning your Brand Value Sentences with your business goals, (example: This quarter, Beats by Dre aims to increase awareness among ages 13–23 as the top brand for stylish audio equipment to take back to school.) Consider key demographics, key business stakeholders, and anyone with the power to make or break your business. Do this for both your annual business goals and your quarterly business goals.
At the end of this meeting, you should have at least one Brand Objective Statement (and preferably 2–3,) for both your Annual Campaigns and Quarterly Campaigns. You can simply draw a chart with two columns and label one “Annual Campaigns” and the other “Quarterly Campaigns,” with your Brand Objective Statements below it. These will be the jump off point for the rest of your media planning efforts.
(To prepare for conducting a leadership meeting like this, gather the content you need going into it: pull interesting media campaigns in your industry that you admire, create a brainstorming whitespace, and pull a list of competitive brands. You’ll also want to prep attendees by telling them this meeting is about aligning your brand values to upcoming business goals for the sake of media planning. Summarize in an email your final Brand Objective Statements and make sure everyone is onboard with them.)
SPECIFY, PART ONE COMPLETED: Brand values and business goals defined and aligned into Brand Objective Statements.
🔍 Next, we’ll move onto the data-gathering portion of SPECIFY. This is one of the most daunting tasks in this entire program, however we don’t say that to scare you — it’s totally manageable! This is just to make you aware that once you get past this step, the rest of this content planning strategy is easy, breezy and beautiful.
🔍 Gather internal company data. You’re probably sitting on a wealth of information without even knowing it. A few of the places you should start looking for useful, media campaign-planning data include: any information about customer paths-to-purchase, website and app user data, social media data, stakeholder interviews (get your leadership, employees, and customer takes,) and sales cycle analysis/seasonality. Don’t get overwhelmed with data or worry about pulling insights just yet. Just look at everything you currently have, categorize it, and be able to reference it in future steps.
🔍 Gather external research, (secondary data). This is where you take to the internet to find leading market research data from other sources. In regards to your specific industry, Google some of the following stuff: demographic attitude and behavior reports, media consumption patterns of your demographic, web/app/media content usage behavior, existing industry or sector trends and conversations (what are the top media outlets saying?), top influencers and their best performing content, competitor media activity and messaging. Again, the idea isn’t to drown in data and pull everything you can. Remember your Brand Objective Statements. Look for things that are relevant and save them for now.
🔍 Gather market research, (primary data.) If you have a budget to conduct your own research on your target market, you really should, (and you can Google many low-cost ways to go about this if you’re a startup.) Some ideas to get you started include conducting focus groups/customer surveys/feedback sessions, going on a self-directed customer journey (“If I were going to buy…”), having a store observation/l period, conducting shop-alongs or shopper discussions, holding post-sale interviews, gathering product reviews, and conducting competitive research. Again, keep your Brand Objective Statements in mind throughout all of this to get to the root of what your brand wants to achieve.
🔍 The goal is to clarify brand market opportunities. With all of this data, keep your Brand Objective Statements from the first exercise at the forefront. Uncovering which data is useful that directly relates to these sentences is a way to build a campaign with a guiding North Star, that still relies on hard metrics to prove it works.
🔍 Now, let’s organize this data dump into something useful with the help of creative thinking, and strategic thinking. By taking the wealth of raw data generated and putting it through a “creative” or “strategic” lens, you’ll be able to architect your campaign vision, and have an easier time defining campaign KPIs later on.
🔍 Put the data you pulled up for discussion in a creative brainstorming session first. Bring as many team members on as would be relevant in a conversation about brand strategy, (or from the first meeting.) Sometimes interesting ideas come from unlikely sources. During this session, don’t be self critical. Just get as many ideas on paper (or on the cloud,) as possible.
🔍 Some good questions to ask in order to get the creative conversation flowing: what are the biggest times of the year for your business? What are the slowest? What are some recent trends or cultural events that affect your business? What holidays are important?
🔍 To start putting creative thinking into order, try organizing information into buckets. In the next step, we are going to take these creative buckets and see how they strategically relate to our Brand Objective Statements. As an example, you can begin to sort and file things by CUSTOMER, BRAND, INDUSTRY, LOCATION, DEMOGRAPHIC #1, DEMOGRAPHIC #2, INFLUENCERS, AESTHETICS, or whatever else is pertinent to your business domain or goals.
🔍 Look at your Brand Objective Statements from earlier. How does each bucket from the last step relate to each Brand Objective Statement? You can draw each Brand Objective Statement at the top of a column, and list the relationship to the creative thinking buckets below it, for example.
🔍 Finally, you can take this information back to your own desk to summarize and digest it. You’ll want to eventually synthesize this information into your Campaign Cores, which is just your Brand Objective Statements fused with the creative thinking outcomes. Your Campaign Cores are going to be the basis of what you build your media messaging around. You can write a Campaign Core like this: “The data shows that Beats by Dre has an opportunity to reach incoming Freshmen during the summer through TikTok as a media channel.” We just want to add some structure to all of our data research as it pertains to our Brand Objective Statements.
🔍Which of these Campaign Cores, decide which one is an evergreen message for Annual Campaigns, and which one would be a better fit during a certain quarter of the year for Quarterly Campaigns. An ideal media-mix would be 1 over-arching Annual Campaign, and 4 Quarterly Campaigns, (1 each quarter that aligns with trends, holidays, and seasons.) Using creative thinking, try to sum up your Campaign Cores into a definitive strategic direction.
🔍You should now have all of the campaign insights you need to define an Annual Campaign and your Quarterly Campaigns. You might want to put these into a database to start your editorial calendar off later on. Your Annual and Quarterly Campaigns can be summed up into a single sentence that fuses together your original Brand Objective Statements and your Campaign Cores, (an example of an Annual Campaign: Beats by Dre will grow brand awarness among ages 13–23 preparing for college by using TikTok to highlight study methods that require audio equipment, during key times throughout the school year.)
SPECIFY, PART TWO COMPLETED: Brand Objective Statements aligned to raw data, and considered creatively, in order to create your Annual Campaigns and your Quarterly Campaigns.
Hello? Mission Control to Major Tom? Congrats! That was the most difficult portion of this entire strategy planning exercise.
It Only Gets Easier From Here
Defining your campaigns through raw data, talking with other people, thinking creatively, and conducting brainstorming sessions sounds exhausting because it is, and the next section ALIGN will be much easier to tackle.
This next section, and the final two sections of INTEGRATE and LEVERAGE, can be carried out on your own, needing only the approval from leadership to get started when you’re finished planning.
#2: ALIGN Your Content: Step-by-Step ⚖️
⚖️ Next, we want to align our budget and resources to realistically get a picture of how we are going to make this thing happen. We will also identify media channels that the campaign will be distributed on and associated costs, and define the KPIs that will be used to measure success.
This ALIGN section can be completed as a Question-and-Answer document where you ask yourself these questions and then record your answers. We’ll compile everything into a solidified document you can present to leadership at the end.
⚖️ Let’s get the hairiest part out of the way first and focus on the budget, (see? We’re working most difficult to least difficult to make this less stressful for you.)
⚖️ Let’s define the overall media budget we have. To figure this out, you’ll first want to define the marketing budget. Typically, for many companies, the marketing budget is somewhere between 15–25% of revenue. If you’re a newer company still trying to drive customer acquisition, you’ll want to spend closer to 25% revenue on marketing, (and sometimes up to 50%.) If you’re an established brand you can spend less.
⚖️ From the marketing budget identified, break down your media spending like this: 70% on paid media (advertising, influencers, media buying, event sponsorships,) 20% on owned media, (your blog, your social media, your Youtube channel, your podcast,) and 10% on earned media, (PR outreach, media relations, event speaking, guest blogging.)
⚖️ With this information in mind, roughly work out how much you’ll spend on your Annual Campaign, and how much to spend on each Quarterly Campaign. Keep in mind things like influencer talent fees, media production costs, and advertising the campaign post-launch.
⚖️ How will your campaigns be distributed? Let’s figure that out which media channels will be used for distributing each campaign in this step.
⚖️ Understanding which media channel(s) to distribute your campaigns on will be the first step to bringing your campaign to life and allowing creative production to happen. Identify which media channel(s) you’ll use for each campaign, with consideration for your paid media, owned media, and earned media. Also consider any media buying costs on the channel you want if you plan to do paid promotion. It’s ok if you don’t know this exactly; just get a rough idea of the costs of the media needed for the campaign.
⚖️ What assets are needed to produce the campaign? This is where you will define assets you have, align internal and external teams, and decide who is responsible for what. Consider this for each campaign.
⚖️ What technical production is needed for the campaign? We’ll identify technology and services in the next section. For now, just consider the overall logistics of bringing the campaign to life.
⚖️ Who are the internal resources, including team members? What are they normally responsible for and what is their workload?