How To Create Monthly Content Themes [Worksheet]
I love using the 12 days of Christmas as a monthly content theme for a series of related content such as blog posts.
Done well—the 12 Days of Christmas content is like an advent calendar that pulls you back the next day to find the surprise behind the next flap.
Spin Sucks’s Gini Dietrich uses the 12 Days of Christmas to talk about marketing and PR, her core blog topics. She extends the 12 Days of Christmas theme with a consistent visual.
Put on your content marketing glasses to see what Dietrich’s doing:
She’s made the 12 Days of Christmas into an annual blog content offering focused on giving her reader useful marketing stuff. Here’s what she did last year.
What does this mean?
- Next year’s Spin Sucks December blog editorial calendar will include 12 Days of Christmas starting the first Monday in December.
- Spin Sucks’s December blog content is already structured (if it wasn’t published 6 days a week!) As an annual feature, it just needs fresh content and a new visual. This reduces amount of work significantly.
- Will use a visual but change the specifics. Dietrich modifies the visual. While you can save time and money by using the same visual and just change the number. Don’t! You risk your readers become blind to it!
Even better, it performs well! (Because she keeps doing it.)
So what does this mean for your blog?
Streamline your blog content creation process with monthly content themes like the 12 days of Christmas.
Why use monthly content themes?
Monthly content themes form hooks. They keep readers coming back to your blog or seeking the other related posts.
Specifically, a content hook is the idea or story that lures readers into your content. To maximize the impact, integrate it into your headline, subtitle and keyword phrase focus.
“A [content] hook is, quite simply, a unique content concept that is designed to ensnare and trap your unsuspecting audience into consuming and sharing your content.”
A content hook is sticky in the Chip and Dan Heath Made-To-Stick sense of the word.
Adapting the term more broadly to your monthly blog content yields themes. The use of monthly themes is grounded in traditional magazine publishing to supports editorial creation and related advertising.
Use monthly content themes to fill your blog editorial calendar for a year. Duct Tape’s John Jantsch is a proponent of content themes. He compares them to a book’s table of contents. Like Jantsch, I believe your themes should be associated with your keyword phrases to support your organic search efforts.
3 Ways monthly content themes support your blog content creation:
- Reduce content ideation. The monthly content themes focus the process of brainstorming blog post ideas. (BTW—Here are 125 free blog post ideas to inspire you.)
- Create easy-to-replicate content frameworks. Content doesn’t need to be created from scratch each time. You have a blog post architecture.
- Ensure you revise and repromote evergreen content when appropriate. This long-playing content is low cost and helps provide time for longer new content.
The 12 Days of Christmas Content is a prime example of a monthly content theme. It contains 12 blog posts. Each post implicitly promises a gift for the reader. While this sounds limiting, it’s not. It provides a framework for your creativity.
For example, on the fourth day of Christmas 2014, Dietrich selected the best 4 Spin Sucks webinars for time-strapped readers. They got to view the best free webinars and she got more views.
3 Steps to create monthly content themes
Use monthly content themes to vary your blog content through out the year. They keep your blog and content seasonally fresh and consistent.
1. Gather your content planning information
Examine the following strategies and plans to ensure that your blog doesn’t exist in a vacuum.
- Blog or content marketing mission statement and/or goals. Ensure your content is aligned with your business needs.
- Marketing persona. Meet your audience’s information needs, when where and how they want it. At a minimum, answer these questions:
- WHO needs information (role)?
- WHAT information do they need?
- WHY do they need information?
- WHEN do they need information?
- WHERE do they seek information?
- Product offering by month. Give prospects and customers product information they actively seek and answer their pre-purchase questions.
- Marketing promotions by month. While your blog posts should be promotion-free, help prospects and customers with how-to information.
- Other conferences and/or business events. Assess the content needed by other areas of your business (not just marketing). Where appropriate create related content for your blog.
2. Select your monthly content themes
Ideally, select a theme for each month. Before creating monthly content themes from scratch, review the past year’s content.
- Do you already have monthly content themes? It may be masquerading as holiday content. If so, does the holiday make sense for your business?
- Do you have long-playing content you update and/or repromote? If so, schedule it. Long playing content requires less resources than new posts. (Here’s an explanation of the 5 core types of content your blog and business need. It explains long-playing content.)
- Do you have content related to monthly content themes elsewhere in your organization? It may be unused in another department like sales or customer service. Like long playing content it needs to be updated or repromotion to be effective.
Select your monthly content themes. A good rule of thumb is one theme per month. Give your blog calendar structure while allowing for other types of content.
Let your marketing promotions, product offerings and events be a guide. People within your business will need content for these efforts. Therefore, why not create all related content at the same time to reduce resource use and to maintain consistent branding.
Monthly content themes Here are some suggested monthly content themes most businesses can use. They’re based on seasonal or monthly events.
- January: Fresh Start or Get In Shape (Think beyond weight!)
- February: Goundhog’s Day (February 2), 14 Days of Love (Valentine’s Day) or President’s Day.
- March: Patrick’s Day Green (March 17), Spring Cleaning, or Plan Your Garden (Use the image of “seeds”).
- April: April Fool’s Day (April 1-Show Your Fun Side), Taxes (April 15 –Don’t worry–We’ve got you covered with 99 Titles that don’t tax you) or April Showers (Consider the things that can rain on your customers’ life.)
- May: Mother’s Day, May Flowers, Graduation or Memorial Day (The Unofficial Summer Kickoff)—Here are 50 Summer blog post ideas.
- June: Father’s Day and School’s Out
- July: Independence Day (July 4), On The Beach, or Summer Vacation
- August: Back-to-School (Educate your audience)
- September: Fall
- October: Fall foliage or Halloween
- November: Thanksgiving
- December: Holidays (12 Days of Christmas) or Winter
For example, I attend Social Media Marketing World (March), Content Marketing World (September) and MarketingProfs B2B Forum (October). I include related conference content in my monthly content themes. (BTW—Here’s how to create conference content before, during and after. You can apply these ideas to any company event.)
3. Schedule weekly blog posts aligned with your monthly content themes
Once you have a set of monthly content themes, brainstorm a set of blog post ideas for each theme. These blog posts can be individual content servings or a related series.
Roger Parker has a very useful methodology for creating a blog post series (or any content for that matter). Once you have your monthly content themes, you can adapt it to brainstorm weekly articles or a related series of content. In a nutshell, the 3 key points are:
- Focus on one of your audience’s unmet needs. Examine your marketing persona and your mission statement to find areas of overlap.
- Determine the result you want. What do you want your reader to do as a consequence reading your series?
- Structure the blog post series. Think beginning, middle and end. Introduce your idea in as a problem-solution and outline each core idea with a brief summary. Craft a separate post for each idea using the same post structure. Conclude with a summary post and your call-to-action.
Depending on your business and current content offering, determine your blog or content frequency.
- Small businesses, not-for-profits or solopreneurs and/or slow business periods: Publish fresh content weekly since resources are at a premium.
- Larger businesses and/or busy business periods (like the holidays): Publish more frequently. One advantage of monthly content themes: They provide an unstated rational for breaking with your regular content scheduling.
The Monthly Content Themes Bottom Line:
Monthly content themes give structure to your blog content and keep your blog looking visually fresh.
Even better using monthly content themes enables you to batch your content creation. This can reduce content costs while allowing for broader distribution through the use of related content.
Monthly content themes also reduce redundant work.
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