Content marketing is exploding. People talk a lot about trends, but one of the most fundamental shifts taking place in marketing right now is the ever greater emphasis on touchpoints that are not only interactive and participative, but long-term and always-on. And always-on, content-hungry platforms need feeding. So content becomes the currency and brands are increasingly becoming publishers in their own right.

Yet whilst we now have some great examples of smart content-based thinking (including from the likes of AMEX, Coca-Cola, Nike, Red Bull, P & G, Intel and ASOS amongst others) the challenge here of-course is that brands aren't set up to be publishers, and as Josh Sternberg once noted: "They don't necessarily understand the editorial process or have the stomach for the length of time it takes to build an audience". 

In order to act like a publisher you need to not only think like a publisher, but plan like publisher. I've talked before about the 70,20,10 model in reference to content strategy and as a route in to becoming more agile. It's a model that has applications in learning and development, and has been more famously applied by Google as a model for resourcing and innovation. More recently, Coca Cola have talked about applying a 70/20/10 investment principle to content creation:

  • 70% of the content should be low risk, bread and butter marketing
  • 20% should innovate off what works
  • 10% should be high risk ideas that will be tomorrow's 70% or 20%

I think the usefulness of this model does not stop at content strategy, but stretches further into content planning, and enables us to draw a parallel between the kind of content planning a brand increasingly requires, and the kind of approaches that are second nature to a publisher. Let me explain. The analogy I will use here is that of a magazine publisher (since that is also familiar to me) so with that comparison in mind, here's what a 70,20,10 content plan looks like for a brand:

  • 70% of the content should be 'core' content - the kind of bread and butter stuff that is central to what the brand is all about: it's positioning, proposition, reason to believe. For a brand community for example, this would equate to the purpose of that community, the reason people are there in the first place. Too many brands attempt to establish communities with no clear purpose to that community, or plan for what they're going to talk about not just over the next few weeks, but long-term. So they soon find that they can only talk about themselves for so long and they start to run out of interesting things to say. If we use our publishing analogy, this equates to the editorial franchises of our magazine, the key areas of our flatplan that are central to the editorial proposition and which comprise the bulk of the pagination in each issue. If it was a women's monthly fashion or lifestyle title, these franchises would relate to core subject areas such as fashion, food, travel, health, beauty, celebrity.
  • 20% should optimise and innovate off what is really working within the 70%. Part of this is about more responsively upweighting core subject areas to take account of events or seasonality (in the magazine this might be fashion in spring and autumn, Summer foods, Christmas, diets in January and June and so on). Whilst planned content around things such as product launches and campaigns might sit in your 70%, maximising the opportunity created by short-term peaks in activity focused around what already you're doing (reactively putting more resource into content that is proving particularly popular/engaging for example) is what the 20% is all about. With the 20%, there is always a link to the 70%.
  • 10% is completely new - the kind of stuff you can't possibly plan for but is driven either by a reactive desire to take advantage of a short-term situation (e.g. a news story or event) or a more pro-active desire to experiment and test. Either way it's new activity, not directly tied to the rest of what you're doing, but something from which you can develop learnings. As with the content strategy model, this 10% could well become tomorrow's 20% or 70%.

So there you have it. A simple content planning model based on solid publishing principles. Feedback, as always, welcome.

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