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Content Calendars for Busy Marketing Managers: Finding Great Topics

Keeping your blog populated with great content can be really tough. That’s because topic generation is super hard. I know–it sucks. Creating blog post topics used to be my least favorite part of my job. Maybe it’s your least favorite part of caring for your company’s blog. When I ask new blogging clients about their content calendar, I frequently get a bewildered look or hear a minute of silence on the line followed with a breathless explanation of why they don’t have a calendar or plan to do it later. It often has something to do with how much fun it is to come up with topics to fill said calendar.

When this starts to look like the best option, it’s time for a content strategy.

Spoiler alert: I’m now in love with topic generation. I had to learn that topic gen is a skill that can be learned. You can get there too, if you want. 

how to create great blog Post topics

(Before you jump in and start crafting blog post topics, please make sure you know your blog’s audience. Read about personas and start that process first, then come back here when you’re ready to go.)

Blog posts should serve the overall blog by serving the reader. If you’re planning the content for a blog, you undoubtedly have an agenda. If you’re reading THIS blog, you probably manage a blog for a technology company. So the purpose of your blog is probably related to increasing sales for your company, reinforcing your marketing messages, generating leads, building traffic to your website, or something of that nature. Before you can start making a calendar or planning out topics, it goes without saying that you’ll need to have the purpose and audience of your blog completely nailed down. 

Once you start a calendar, you’ll want to decide how to organize it and keep it populated. You may devise a straightforward formula to guide the basic structure of your calendar, then fill in gaps with evergreen content, ideas from contributors, and other posts.

Who really knows where he gets his ideas–they’re consistently great, and that’s all that matters.

Sometimes you’ll be truly stuck for ideas. In these situations, don’t be afraid to keep some topic generation formulas on hand. It may sound a little corny, but there are plenty of these ready-made formulas you can mix and match to create new topics, such as:

  • How-to posts: What do your readers want to know how to do?
  • Interview posts: “Get-to-know-so-and-so, our VP of Dev Ops” or “interview with our CEO” posts are popular and bring personality to your blog.
  • Behind-the-scenes: People love to see behind the curtain and learn company “secrets,” so why not make them feel like insiders?

As you’ve probably gathered by now, there’s a literal ton of these formulas out there. (By the way, I have a worksheet resource available with over 70 of these different formulas alongside some ways to further customize them. Let me know if you want this resource.)

Organizing Your Calendar

Assuming you know these things, you’re ready to start. Now, you’ll need to decide how you’ll organize your topics and plan them out–this might depend on your overall marketing strategy and who reads your blog. There’s really not a one-size-fits-all, right-or-wrong way to do this. 

These, in my experience, are the most popular ways to organize a blogging calendar:

  • Ad-hoc: You plan as you go with little organization at all. This isn’t always a good idea, although it is very flexible. Without some planning, you run the risk of failing your target personas.
  • Pitch-driven: Working with freelancers, a panel of in-house writers, or several topic planners, you work together to funnel some of the pitches from other people into a functional blog. You may or may not have overall, meta-topics guiding your month’s post priorities.
  • Marketing and corporate strategy: This is a format I frequently recommend. Looking ahead for the quarter, you outline a few priorities for each month that align with marketing events, trade shows, upcoming corporate announcements, etc. and leave some room for riffing on the news and covering evergreen topics.

Of course, many great calendars look a little like each of these formats. 

Finding balance

Having no plan makes the work of maintaining a blog seem more daunting. Of course, you probably also shouldn’t plan ALL of your topics out a year in advance. You want to leave some balance and flexibility in a great calendar. 

To accomplish this, I suggest sketching-out a few upcoming events you know into the blog calendar so you can post a report or see-you-at-the-tradeshow blog post. Add-in ideas that pair with upcoming marketing initiatives, new products, and other time-dependent topics. Have a list of evergreen, always-relevant topics ready for when you’re truly stumped for content. Enlist a few different contributors to help with their own fresh ideas for your blog (high-profile people like CEOs are great for this; if they’re too busy to write, have their posts ghostwritten and ask them to sign off on the work when it’s ready). 

Ready to fill that content calendar? I hope so. I’m happy to help if you’re looking for guidance–my blogging services include topic generation, so you don’t have to go it alone. Happy blogging!