Content planning illustration

Like content creation, content planning is part art and part science. To plan effective content, marketers must align audience needs with resources – a task often easier said than done. Organizations of all sizes struggle with content planning. Small teams battle against limited resources. And larger teams can find it difficult to keep track of all the content projects they have in flight.

To learn more about the state of content planning today, WriterGirl set out to uncover how organizations tackle planning, who they involve in planning and what challenges they face. In our first State of Content Planning survey, almost 170 respondents shared a glimpse into how their teams plan for content. Here are the highlights.

How organizations plan their content

Organizations plan content initiatives in several ways. The two most popular methods include:

  • Editorial calendars, typically visual workflows, help marketing teams schedule content work daily, weekly or monthly.
  • Editorial meetings bring stakeholders with different points of view together to brainstorm content topics.

Surprisingly, 38% of respondents indicated they don’t use either method. Instead, they plan content “ad-hoc” or as needed.

Image: Chart illustrating survey responses to: “How does your organization primarily plan for content initiatives?”

 

Chart illustrating survey responses to: “How does your organization primarily plan for content initiatives?”

Why ad-hoc isn’t advantageous

Whether you’re a small organization or just a small marketing team, planning for your content as needed can work for a while. But inevitably, it will stress out your content creators and make it hard to scale your content operations. Having an editorial calendar will help you:

  • Prioritize content: Instead of scrambling to get a last-minute blog across the finish line, an editorial calendar will help you prioritize the content you need in advance. While planning at least a quarter out is always best practice, be sure to allow for some flexibility in your calendar to address unexpected needs such as the announcement of a new award, new regulations, or even a pandemic.
  • Plan for resources: Whether you’re working with internal or external writers, editors, designers and social media managers, an editorial calendar will help everyone stay on the same page. And it ensures everyone understands their roles and deadlines.
  • Improve transparency: A robust editorial calendar allows you to share your editorial plan with stakeholders and bring transparency to your efforts.
  • Track performance: If you go a step further and add key performance indicators (KPIs) to your calendar, you can track your content and performance all in one place.

Get more tips on how to create a robust blog editorial calendar.

Top challenges in content planning

The top-rated challenge for all respondents was getting subject matter experts (SMEs) involved in creating content (39%). This was followed by interviewing SMEs and getting approval from SMEs, which tied with 34%. Selecting topics and proving the value of content were also top challenges.

Top challenges in content planning

Chart illustrating survey responses to: “What are your organization’s top challenges with content development.”

Outsourcing content

For many organizations, content needs far outweigh internal resources. Enter outsourcing. Over 40% of respondents indicated they outsource all or almost all of their content writing. In total, 85% of respondents outsource at least some of their content writing. These trends make sense, as outsourcing content creation allows an organization to scale production while still ensuring high-quality content.

Image: Chart illustrating survey responses to: “How much content writing do you outsource?”

Chart illustrating survey responses to: “How much content writing do you outsource?”

Setting writers up for success

With so many organizations outsourcing at least some of their content production, the next question becomes how do you set up those outsourced writers for success? Most organizations share brand and style guides (68%) and keywords (65%) with writers, followed by personas (43%) and tone and voice guidelines (39%).

The role of AI in content planning

More than half of the respondents (55%) indicate they use artificial intelligence (AI) for content planning, while 45% do not use AI. For those using AI, the top use cases include writing first drafts (56%), generating topic ideas (53%), and creating outlines and fast-tracking content research (tied at 50%).

Image: Chart illustrating survey responses to ”How is your organization using AI for content planning?”

Chart illustrating survey responses to: “How is your organization using AI for content planning?”

Use AI with caution

In general, AI can help speed up content operations. Think: creating an outline, researching content and writing alternative headlines.

But when you rely on AI to actually draft content for you, you’re taking a risk. Remember, if you want your content to rank for specific keywords and secure organic traffic, Google uses the quality of content as an important ranking signal.

AI-generated content can’t achieve those quality measurements out of the gate.

Dig into more on why AI writing tools won’t replace human writers.

Get the full report

Want to get more insight into how organizations tackle content planning today?  Download our 2024 State of Content Planning white paper and benchmark your efforts against others. The report contains additional information, including how others align business strategy with content and analyze performance.

Need help keeping your content machine running at full steam? Contact WriterGirl today. From supplementing your team with high-quality writers and editors to helping you create a robust editorial strategy, we’re ready to help!