Create, Distribute, and Share: 15 Essential Content Marketing Templates

December 27, 2016 Jodi Harris

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Will 2017 finally be the year your business reaches its full content marketing potential?

If you aren’t thinking about how you can gain ground in the upcoming year, you might end up losing some to your competition given that 63% of the B2B marketers in our annual Benchmarks, Budgets & Trends research report said their content marketing programs are more successful than they were the previous year.


63% B2B marketers say their #contentmarketing programs are more successful than previous year via @cmicontent.
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As we always say, a sound strategy should be at the center of your content efforts. But even the best-laid plans can’t drive your progress if you have trouble executing them. That’s why the CMI editorial team has gathered some of our most popular templates to help you manage the more tactical considerations involved in quality content marketing: content creation, distribution, and social amplification. If your New Year’s resolutions include amping up your creativity and productivity, increasing your brand’s reach and influence, or building a more loyal, engaged audience through social media, the following tools will help you keep your resolve.

Content creation

Though the creative process is unique to every business, plenty of tools can help with the specific tasks that every content marketer must work through – generating new creative ideas, organizing them into resonant content pieces, and ensuring that the best light shines on your business with every effort you produce.

Learn about your audience

Your content can’t reflect your audience’s needs and interests if you don’t know what they are. Some simple research can go a long way toward closing that knowledge gap. One of the most direct ways to gather invaluable insights is to survey your existing customer base. Sending a customized outreach letter – like the one shared by Tom Whatley below – is one way to approach this task.

customer-outreach-email

Generate creative ideas

Team brainstorming (like the process described in this post from Jay Acunzo) is a great technique for getting the creative juices flowing to come up with new content ideas and angles. But you also need to filter the ideas that don’t fit your brand voice or won’t bring you closer to your business goals. For more focused brainstorms, follow Rand Fishkin’s lead by using a whiteboard to outline creative ideas as they emerge and then connect the dots until you have the framework for a compelling yet relevant story.

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Outline creative ideas as they emerge; connect dots until you have framework for relevant story. @RandFishkin
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Connect with consumers

Audiences crave content that they can relate to on a personal level. By building your stories around the kinds of feelings and experiences people commonly identify with – like emotions they’ve felt, ideas that inspired or encouraged them, or life goals they may be pursuing – the content you share will be more resonant and engaging.


Audiences crave #content that they can relate to on a personal level says @joderama.
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Post Scott Aughtmon’s infographic near your desk to help you keep some of the most crave-worthy characteristics in mind as you craft your chosen topics into compelling stories.

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Focus on providing value

What makes content ideas worthy of being produced? As Ahava Liebtag explains, good content needs to provide value to the audience, which means it must be findable, readable, understandable, actionable, and shareable. Use her checklist below as a guide for ensuring that your content efforts hit these key targets for achieving success.


Good #content needs to provide value to the audience says @ahaval.
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Deliver on audience expectations

With such a diverse range of content formats available to today’s content creators – each with its own strengths and limitations – it’s not always easy to decide which ones to use. Since consistency is key, one way to narrow the field is to focus only on those formats that you have sufficient resources to produce on a predictable schedule over the long term. The checklist below outlines which formats require a strict output schedule and which ones might be a bit more flexible.

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Craft compelling, useful headlines

Headline writing is not as simple as it seems. Not only do you need a strong headline to grab your audience’s attention, it should be clear, relevant, and descriptive so readers find exactly what they expect when they click through to your content. This checklist, from our guide on cooking up a killer headline, outlines the rules every content creator should follow, along with some suggestions for spicing up your efforts once you master the basics.

killer-headlines

Find your strength in content length

Various formats have different standards for how much detail and dialogue your content marketing should provide. Consider following the best practices outlined in Orbit Media’s chart below to determine the ideal length for each of your conversations.

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Putting it all together

For additional inspiration and guidance on how content can be brought to life in creative, valuable, and actionable ways, check out our 2016 Content Marketing Playbook: Shoot, Score, and Win With 24 Epic Content Ideas.

Distribution

Creating stellar content is only the first step in achieving success. If you aren’t distributing your efforts on the most appropriate channels, publishing them at the right velocity, or optimizing their ability to get discovered by the right audience, you are missing valuable marketing and customer engagement opportunities.

Document your channel plan

A channel plan will help your entire team understand how, when, and on what specific platforms you publish content, as well as the rules of engagement they are expected to follow when interacting on those channels. Get started by filling in the cheat sheet below for each channel you plan to leverage in your content marketing initiatives.

channel-plan-cheat-sheet

Build a subscribed audience

As our 2017 content marketing framework details, building an engaged audience of subscribers is critical if you want your content efforts to provide multiple lines of value for your business. Since a robust email list is a key component of achieving this goal, download the complete checklist shared by Aaron Orendorff to guide you through all the steps for building your own.


Building an engaged audience of subscribers is critical to provide value for your business via @Joderama.
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Leverage the power of influencers

In terms of visibility, credibility, and impact, few content distribution techniques rival the power of influencer marketing. As you conduct your research on potential influencers to engage, you will want to track your efforts, so you know who you’ve contacted, who has agreed to participate, and what terms they’ve agreed to. CMI’s PR and media manager, Amanda Subler, uses a template like the one below, which you can download and customize to your needs (Go to “File > Download As >” and select the format you would like).

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Make it search-friendly

A sound SEO strategy is essential if you want your blog content efforts to rank well on search engines and get found by the right audience. Though search algorithms and techniques are constantly evolving, the checklist below, which outlines Mike Murray’s nine top SEO tips, will give you a solid search foundation that you can build on over time.


An #SEO strategy is essential if you want your blog content to rank well on search engines says @joderama.
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seo_checklist-01

Social media

Social media is an essential tool for getting your content in front of your target consumers; it also can serve as a powerful engagement platform in its own right, enabling brands to conduct meaningful, two-way conversations that are more timely and relevant than other content formats might allow. Because it serves a dual purpose, working with social media often requires a distinct set of content marketing processes and procedures. The tools and templates below can help you manage some of the unique considerations involved.

Familiarize yourself with the social landscape

Every social network has its own benefits, challenges, and communication styles, so which ones will work best for your business will depend on the audience you want to target, the types and topics of your content, and the goals you are looking to achieve. Our latest Social Media Survival Guide outlines the key characteristics of the top networks and offers guidelines for making the most of every social interaction you initiate.

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Listen and learn

Consumers can be protective of the social communities they’ve cultivated. If your brand forces its way into the conversation without first learning the rules and customs, you will never earn their trust or respect. Use this content review template created by James Prideaux to track relevant conversations happening on social networks and document any analysis you extract from your listening activities that can help you become a valuable contributor to the right groups. (Go to “File > Download As >” and select the format you would like).


Use a #content review template to track relevant conversations on social networks says @Joderama.
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Click to enlarge

Design for engagement

Audiences rely heavily on visual imagery in their social media conversations – particularly on sites like Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. Not only do you need to know the right tone and voice to use in your content, but you also need to understand the appropriate design specifications. Matt Banner’s cheat sheet below can help you keep track of all the technical details.

Social Media Cheat Sheet

Credit: On Blast Blog

Host a Twitter chat

Another great way to create meaningful discussions on social media is to conduct regular Twitter chats on relevant topics. You’ll want to plan your topics, schedules, starter questions, and guest tweeters. The template used by the CMI team (which you can download and customize) is a great way to start that process. (Go to “File > Download As >” and select the format you would like).

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Final word

No matter what your content marketing goals are, you need to master content creation, distribution, and social amplification if you expect to succeed. The various templates and guides shared here will get you started in the right direction. But if there are additional templates you would like to see us provide in the future, jot down your suggestions in the comments.

Are you really commiting to content marketing success in 2017? Enroll in Content Marketing University’s winter session by the Dec. 31.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

The post Create, Distribute, and Share: 15 Essential Content Marketing Templates appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.

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