Does it ever feel as if you need a crystal ball when you’re planning content, something to forecast what’s going to be most relevant when the words and images reach readers? You’re not alone. Crafting a strategic publishing schedule brings challenges and lots of questions:
- Are the stories engaging?
- Does the messaging fit with broader communications plans?
- Will the reader care?
Without question, effective planning can take some work. However, designing a great publication does not need to be daunting. It can even be fun, if you think of it as a chance to tap into your creativity.
1. Look back to plan ahead
One of the missed opportunities when planning editorial content is ignoring the chance to revisit a previous story. Particularly for companies that have rolled out broadband internet service, contrasting the present against the past is ideal. Remind the reader what it was like trying to watch a streaming movie just a few years ago, with stops, starts and glitches galore. Then, describe the smooth experience of today.
On occasion, you might subtly remind customers about the investment made into the network and how that time, money and effort has changed lives. But this concept isn’t limited solely to broadband services. For utilities, having a decades-long customer reminisce about days gone by can achieve the same effect.
Similarly, reflecting on weather events that left residents without power or other services can also spark reader interest. These storms become historical markers for communities, and stories about them can not only spur interest but also offer an opportunity to describe all the modern systems and infrastructure designed to limit disruptions.
2. Think seasonally — there’s always a fresh angle
Planning stories for the holiday season is relatively straightforward, but what about the rest of the year? Thinking seasonally is always a great starting point.
For example, if you live in a community where agriculture is vital, consider building stories around that. Maybe a farmer uses internet-connected services to develop planting schedules or to monitor watering. Those tasks are all seasonal, and this approach can provide a good way to spark creative ideas.
Also, don’t ignore recurring events. If there’s something such as an annual festival, remember there’s always a fresh way of telling those stories. Rather than an overview, consider a profile of a performer or an artist. Maybe a food vendor could provide a favorite recipe. Or, if it’s a long-running event, take a look at the greatest moments in its history.
3. Creatively answer common member questions
Your customer service representatives are likely the primary link to your readers, and they’re a great planning resource. Just ask, “So, what is the most common question you get?” Then, answer that question.
One utility providing broadband found that some would-be customers confused an internet provider with content streaming services like Netflix or Hulu. The solution was to do a one-page graphic illustrating the differences.
Every resident who might have a similar question now had an answer. And the tone of the graphic was informative, not lecturing.
4. Solve a problem
Along similar lines, you can use a story or graphic to solve a problem many of your customers experience. Sadly, the reality is that scammers may target your customers, often posing as a representative from your team.
Consider this problem from the perspective of someone at home minding their own business. They receive a call, an email or some other method of contact that appears to be from your company, but instead it’s a malicious attempt to capture personal information. What does that customer need to know to avoid trouble? How can you explain what not to do? And, just as importantly, what guidance can you offer if it’s too late and they’ve already given out their personal information?
Now, you wouldn’t want to have this type of information in every publication or communication. But sprinkled throughout the year, you can solve problems before they happen.
5. Have fun
When developing a content plan for the year, leave a little room for lighter, fun items. It’s easy to plan to always be on-brand and mission-focused. Those are wonderful goals. Remember, though, that engaging a reader can also mean providing entertaining content, too.
For example, some utilities have annual arts or writing contests for local students. They even run some of the submissions in their magazine. It’s a way to bring the reader into the publication, making them part of the story. Plus, it’s fun. That’s never a bad thing.
Looking for more story-sparking ideas?
Get Pioneer’s 2022 Content Planner: