Annual Content Planning: How To Fill Your Calendar Like A Pro

Annual Content PlanningAnnual Content Planning isn’t about filling your editorial calendar!


You shouldn’t be.

Because content marketing continues to grow at an exponential rate. 90+% of marketers use content marketing.

As a result, the marketing landscape continues to grow and change. In the process, if you don’t adapt, you’re left behind.

As BuzzSumo’s Steve Rayson has said, “What worked for you last year, probably won’t work for you this year.” This isn’t finger in the air thinking but rather analysis based on 1+ million articles.

In fact, Rayson initially said this in 2015 when 50% of content got 8 or less shares. When he repeated this content trends research in 2018, those statistics declined to 4. (BTW, here’s the full content saturation analysis.)

Histogram of social shares

What does this mean for your business and your marketing?

Regardless of size or category, focus on the content that achieves the fundamental goals of your organization.


Create and maintain valuable content in exchange for your core audience’s permission to communicate and engage with them. As a result, you ultimately gain share of audience attention.

Instead of creating content just to publish something, act like a pro and use annual content planning.

Annual Content Planning Defined

Annual content planning supplies a strategy to implement your content marketing more resource-effectively. Specifically, it structures your content creation and distribution for the next 12 months to support your organization and employees while providing real value to your audience.

In the process, you create, optimize and maintain content based on testing and tracking results in business terms.

To maximize business results, expand the reach of road tested content by transforming it into other content formats and spreading it across additional platforms and devices.

By scheduling and structuring the related content improvements and distribution presentations, you focus resource use and increase content life.

As a result, you increase your best content’s to yield business results while keeping it visible and viable.  

Apply the Marie Kondo approach to annual content planning:

Ask whether each piece of content brings “joy” to your addressable audience and business.

Okay–in business we don’t talk about “joy” but maybe we should.

What Marie Kondo content marketing joy looks like:

  • Focuses on keeping your road tested content up-to-date and easy-to-find to act as entryways to reader action.
  • Provides information your external and internal addressable audiences want and need in the formats they like as well as when and how they want it.
  • Drives sales and supports customers before, during and after purchase.

Instead audit all of your organization’s content to update and improve useful content or get rid of unused, unread and expired content.  Note: This doesn’t mean that it all needs the full content marketing monty!

By planning ahead, you streamline your content creation process and reduce stress. Further, you can lower costs by creating related distribution presentations at the same time.

Annual Content Planning: 5 Types Of Content You Need

Annual content planning succeeds by creating LESS content.


By focusing on the content that your core audience(s) want and providing it in formats they prefer and delivered on the platforms and devices they use when and where they want it.  

Annual Content Planning

1. Annual Content Planning: Yearly Content

Yearly Content positions your organization in your category. As a major piece of foundational content, original research or new analysis, yearly content requires resources and budget for creation, reuse for other formats and channels, and on-going distribution.

Publication timing: Once per year

Key content planning objective:
Yearly Content positions your organization, builds authority and attract backlinks.

Annual Content Planning Example of Yearly Content:
Orbit Media’s Annual Blogger Survey answered the question, “How long does it take to write a blog post?” In its 5th year, the Blogger Survey attracts links and gets referenced widely.

Time to create a blog post by category – Chart via Orbit Media Studios

Actionable Content Planning Tips:

  • Include branded visuals. Add the URL to the original content to the image since it may be viewed out of context.
  • Get input from influencers. Ask thought leaders to contribute to your research.
  • Uses PR outreach. Ask key bloggers to cover your work
  • Develop additional owned and guest blog posts. At a minimum, create 2 to 4 owned posts and at least one for another blog.
  • Plan and create different content formats. Include images, video and audio to reach non-text first audiences.
  • Schedule updates. Once you have a piece of foundational content that supports your business, schedule the next version.


2. Annual Content Planning: Event-driven Content

Create Event-Driven Content around core industry or location events to tap into focused audience attention.


By spotlighting the year’s topics and thought leaders, they determine where  you and your audience distribute your resources.

Additionally, they provide content hooks, encourage non-text content, and attract social media attention.


  • Industry and category conferences.
  • Major cultural, sports and local events.
  • Business-related events.

Publication timing: Before, during and/or after event. Also provide for creating content for later publication.

Conference and Event Content Options:

  • Make a live presentation or training.
  • Liveblog presentations. Include curation and other insights.
  • Develop roundup posts. Get influencer and attendee input.
  • Give attendees event-related or location specific information. Help attendees by spotlighting sessions, sponsors and local sights. Top Rank’s Joshua Nite spotlighted 10 sessions worth seeing at Content Marketing World. Help your audience find the best sessions at a conference
  • Interview attendees and presenters. Create content for later use.

Key content planning objective:
Take advantage of focused attention reducing cost and friction of attracting non-audience attention! Also amplifies your message to a broader or new audience.

Annual Content Planning Example of Yearly Content:
Top Rank and Content Marketing Institute’s award winning pre-conference ebooks continue to evolve while tapping into thought leader wisdom.

The Ultimate Guide to Conquering Content Marketing
from Content Marketing Institute

Also partners to develop “Top Category Influencers”. Annually updated analysis-based content that drives on-going distribution.

Further, Top Rank extends its content investment with related live presentations and blog posts.

Actionable Content Planning Tips:

  • Incorporate connected content to capture new audience. Focus your call-to-action.
  • Extend the life of conference content. Transform content into webinars and videos.
  • Leverage event-related social media.



3. Annual Content Planning: Quarterly Content and/or Seasonal Content

Use quarterly mega-content or themes to support and highlight major business and/or sales efforts. Focus on key business initiatives or seasonal themes.

This content offers top and middle of the purchase funnel opportunities. So spotlight educational and product-specific content.

Use product-focused quarterly content to learn more about unknown visitors and provide targeted content upgrades. For example, Yale Appliances does this with product-specific buying guides.

Quarterly themes provide hooks not only for a major piece of content, but also for blog posts, social media and other content formats.

Use quarterly and seasonal content to develop and improve content that matters to your audience based on timing.

Publication timing: Once per quarter for mega-content as well as related smaller content throughout the quarter.

Key content planning objective:

To attract people from outside of your addressable audience.

Quarterly and Seasonal Content Options:

  • Offer seasonal checklists. Create a comprehensive list related to your business that your audience can download and use. Where appropriate get help from internal experts in non-marketing departments.
  • Produce ebook, webinar or other form of educational content.

Annual Content Planning Example of Quarterly Content:

Gini Dietrich’s “30 Day Challenge” exemplifies quarterly content since it focuses their first quarter business activity. It provides useful content aligned with Spin Sucks’ other content and leads prospects further into their purchase process!

Started as a set of monthly content, Dietrich updated and expanded the 30 Day Challenge into a paid e-book and related Slack group. Further, participants become the target segment for another product.

Actionable Content Planning Tips:

  • Update and upgrade Quarterly Content.
  • Partner with companies targeting similar audiences to expand reach. 
  • Offer content in different formats and schedules to maximize engagement.


4. Annual Content Planning: Monthly Content

Unlike the other content you create on a regular basis, use monthly content to attract attention beyond your addressable audience. I call this “Crowd Pleaser Content”.

As part of your content planning and creation, develop related content distribution presentations and outreach to keep your content visible over time. Where appropriate tap into holidays and other monthly trends.

Ideally, coordinate your monthly content with your marketing and sales promotions to maximize your distribution investment and to drive readers to a measurable specific action.

For higher publishing frequency organizations, set the theme for a series of shorter content offerings during a given month.

Alternatively develop an annual content theme for a related piece of content you publish each month to add continuity. This helps direct your content ideation.

Publication timing: Once per month

Key content planning objective:

To attract people from outside of your addressable audience.

Annual Content Planning Example of Monthly Content:

For example, Unbounce’s Oli Gardner took over their blog for 30 posts in 2018 dubbed Product Marketing Month.

Actionable Content Planning Tips:

  • Tap into the power of roundup posts.
  • Road test a larger piece of content by dripping it out over a month. Gini Dietrich initially did this with her 30 Day Challenge.
  • Invite an internal expert or influencer to take over your blog. In addition to covering for vacations, it can support a product launch.


5. Annual Content Planning: Internal Content

Beyond marketing, many areas of your organization need information and communications to connect with internal and external audiences.

With budget and resources allocated outside of marketing this internal content can benefit from your best-in-class content practices. Further you can gain by working with your internal peers to expand your reach and budget.

For many marketers, internal content requires listening to what your colleagues need.

In most cases, they know what information needs to be conveyed. But it doesn’t achieve its objectives. Even worse, it talks robotic corporate-speak. As a result, no one reads.

By giving internal content a content marketing makeover, you create better internal content that actually gets consumed and achieves its measurable goals.

Further, by working with sales, product, customer service, human resources and management, you overcome the problem of getting your internal experts to help you develop content.

Even better, your content has trust built into it by coming from trusted authorities. (Check: Content Marketing Trust.)

Publication timing: Once per year to quarterly per department

Internal Content Planning Example:
LinkedIn created a set of “Read Me” guides to support their sales team by delivering the straight facts about LinkedIn Advertising. According to Jason Miller, this content has become their most successful content asset ever.

The key to their success:
Listening to their internal client, sales.

Annual Content Planning- Internal Content Example

Include Internal Content in your annual content planning like LinkedIn’s “Read Me If You Want” series.

Actionable Content Planning Tips:

  • Proactively talk with internal departments that create content. Don’t assume that they know that you exist or what you do!
  • Treat internal departments like clients. LISTEN! Like Miller don’t rush in with your full content marketing monty. Win them over slowly by doing what they ask.


Annual Content Planning Conclusion

The bottom line:
Annual content planning provides the structure and content you need to guide your content marketing over the course of the next year and beyond.

It’s not about filling your editorial calendar with easy-to-write content.

Rather annual content planning enables you to laser-focus on the content your organization needs to build your addressable audience and ultimately to purchase from you.

Done well, annual content planning aligns your measurable content objectives with those of your organization to produce trackable results over time.

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
You can find Heidi on FacebookTwitter and Google+.

Article initially published on January 4, 2018
Photo Credit: cc zero

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