Right now I have at least 40 blog post ideas sitting in my queue. The potential topics include:
- Is LinkedIn’s premium for-pay service worth the money?
- How to market a blog post
- How to make your public relations and marketing efforts useful
- Better email subject lines
- Basic online tasks all marketers and PR professionals should be able to do
- And many more.
Given my non-blogging commitments and my focus on generating unique, high quality content, rather than just cranking out copy, there is no way I’m going to get all 40 written anytime soon. One of my biggest challenges is deciding which one to tackle next.
If you’ve ever finished up a brainstorming session with a whiteboard covered with ideas, you’ve probably faced this problem, too. Since coming up with ideas is pretty easy, this can be a huge obstacle to actually executing an effective content marketing campaign.
So what do you do?
Which ideas do you choose to execute on and which do you discard?
Are there some you should do sooner because they have higher value?
How do you resolve conflicts between internal decision makers about what content to focus on first?
Given the time and budget constraints we all face, answering these questions quickly and effectively is critical.
Fortunately, there’s a solution. Content marketers, bloggers and writers can take a tactic from sales professionals and “score” their ideas to figure out which ones are most valuable and worth focusing on. By scoring, I mean using a system to rate and quantify the value of these ideas, and then using the resulting score to prioritize your efforts.
Here’s how it works.
1. Establish a small number of key criteria that you can rate numerically from 1-5.
Your criteria could include things like:
- Would your target audience find this useful?
- Would your target audience email this to someone or share it on a social site?
- Do you have the expertise (or can you get it) to create this content? If not, can you obtain that expertise in a reasonable time frame (research) or can someone else write this?
- How unique is this topic? Is there a lot of similar competing content online, or can you offer something that helps you stand out?
Your criteria may be different. Depending on your marketing strategy, things like “likelihood to lead to conversion” and other factors may be important. If you’re not sure what your criteria should be, look at your marketing metrics or web analytics to figure it out. (Jay Baer has a great guide to content marketing analytics here, by the way.)
Note that if you are working for a large company or doing this for a client, it’s important to get buy-in on these criteria up front.
For me, spreading ideas and gaining audience are critical, so my criteria reflect that.
2. For each idea, rate these criteria on a 1-5 scale, from least likely to most likely.
- Probably not
- Possible, but not likely
- Probably so
- Yes — absolutely.
If you find this rating process difficult because you’re having trouble getting inside the heads of your target audience, than you may need to do some work on brand personas.
3. Enter all this into a spreadsheet.
Put the ideas and scoring for each metric in columns — the idea, a rating for each of these metrics (or alternative metrics if something different works better for you).
Then add an additional column to take the median of these numbers (you can use the average or sum or something else if you like; you just need a way to translate this into a single number). This number is your score for that particular idea.
(Not sure how to do that? Here’s instructions on how to sort in Excel.)
That sorted spreadsheet tells you which content is potentially the most valuable for you, and you can make decisions about how to allocate your time and resources based on that. Now you’ve taken a bunch of ideas and turned them into an action plan.
5. Bonus step once you’ve implemented this method.
Let’s say you’ve been using content scoring for a while to guide your efforts. Do you know how realistic your criteria were? For instance, if “shareability” was a criteria you ranked, did those pieces of content that you thought were going to have high shareability actually get shared a lot?
This is a great way to go back and check your own assumptions and methods. You may find that, in fact, despite brand personas and other insights, you still have some work to do to get your estimates to match up with your audience’s behavior.
Need help executing against a content plan? I provide freelance writing, public relations, social media and content marketing consulting services. Please contact me if you think I might be able to help.