So many ideas, so little time! How to prioritise your content pipeline

Sharon Tanton

What content should you produce now? What comes next? How do you prioritise? If your content pipeline is threatening to overwhelm you, here’s what to do to get back in control.

Too much content too little time copy 2

Most businesses are big on ideas, but short on time. Ideas fly in from all over the place – even in a two woman biz like ours we have way more ideas for blogs, videos, books, maps, guides than we’ll ever have the time or resources to produce.

So what content should you produce now? What comes next? How do you prioritise your content ideas?

There really isn’t time to write all of them, or even a quarter of them. How do you decide which to showcase and which to shelve?

What to do when content overwhelm strikes?

Too many wordsEven with an agreed schedule you can sometimes reach a point of content overwhelm. Suddenly ideas pour in from the team, or something happens in the news that feels too important not to write about, or the sales team has a great idea for a piece of evergreen sales collateral based on a conversation they just had with a new customer.

Should you turn your attention to these instead? What is the priority?

If you feel like you can’t see the wood for the trees, just stop.

Step back, and look at the big picture.

How to prioritise a big pile of content ideas

There’s no hard and fast rule for perfect prioritising, but here’s what we recommend.

1. Do a stocktake

This is a good exercise for your regular content planning meetings, but is equally useful if you’re facing content overwhelm.

Get all of the ideas down in one place, somewhere you can see them altogether. You can do this online – in a spreadsheet or Trello. We’re fans of doing it the old fashioned way. We favour writing them all down, ideally on cards so that we can move them around as we see patterns and links, and group similar ideas together. (We love Artefact cards for this.)

Get all the ideas out of your head and onto paper.

2. Is it valuable?

Valuable content sweet spot

Is it valuable to our customers?

See the swathe of ideas from your customer’s perspective. Which ones would they want to read? Which ones would they share with their networks? Focus in even tighter. Think of your favourite customer – are there any ideas on the table you know would speak directly to them?

If any immediately leap out at you put them in your priority pile.

Is it valuable to our business?

Check whether the content idea is in line with your business goals. Are you looking for more work in the same sector, or looking to make inroads into another market? Is your goal to secure and strengthen existing relationships or does your content have a clear new business development goal?

Weigh up an idea’s validity against your specific business goals. Discard those that don’t make the grade.

3. Apply this quality control test

Test each content idea in front of you against these criteria:

a) Helpful? Are our customers crying out for this? Usefulness is a great test to sort the wheat from the chaff. Does this solve a real challenge? Are we hearing this question from our customers? If its helpfulness is in doubt, put it in on hold.

b) Time limited? Great content is evergreen. It lives on your website delivering value for months, even years after you’ve written it. But sometimes it can have a shining window of opportunity if you time it just right. If, say, you know one of your favourite clients or an interesting prospect is wrestling with something right now – and you can supply some answers or perspective that would help – put it to the top of the pile.

c) X Factor? Excitement plays a big part in the posts we choose to write and those we shelve (sometimes indefinitely). If an idea looks like it ticks all the boxes, but makes you feel a bit ‘meh’, put it to the bottom of the pile. If you can’t summon up the enthusiasm to write it (or you can’t find a champion on the team who loves the idea) it’s safe to assume it won’t carry enough spark to keep a reader interested.

d) Light and shade? Sometimes it’s good to inject a shot of feel good lightness into your content, or deal with a serious subject with more gravity than usual. If you’ve published a run of belt and braces guides, it might be time for something that looks at your subject from a less serious perspective.

e) Realistic? Some content ideas take more work than others. Yes, the Game of Thrones parody video on managing difficult relationships is a surefire winner. But do you have the time, budget, and resources to create it right now?

Apply this test to the content pile in front of you and see which ones shake to the top of the priority list.

4. Get the content planning habit

Regular content planning meetings will make all the difference. They’ll help you prioritise consistently, and reduce the chances of overwhelm striking again.

Content planning meetings involving the wider team are where you set your rhythm. You make decisions on the key bits of content you’ll create in the next three months – targeting those that are slam bang right in your sweet spot – helping your customers and furthering your business goals. Get people working on them, and publish and share them according to your agreed schedule.

(Here’s how to run a good content planning meeting – and have some fun in the process)

5. Give yourself some wriggle room

You don’t have to set everything in stone at your content planning meetings. During the early days when the team is getting to grips with writing blogs or making videos it’s good to have an unequivocal plan and follow it to the letter. But once people are more confident with content creation, and start to see the benefit of sending that ‘saw this and wrote it for you’ blog at just the right moment, you can reign back on the rigidity.

Of course, stick to your content strategy and make sure the key sweet spot content is safely in production as per the plan, but give yourself some wiggle room.

Build some gaps for ‘too good to miss’ opportunities. Weave flexibility into your schedule – it might be a serendipitous new business opportunity – write that blog today, send it to the prospect while to window of opportunity is still wide open. It might be news, politics, or a real life event that you know your customers are thinking about, and where your perspective would be helpful or interesting. If the ability to publish this kind of immediate content fits your sweet spot, give yourself the time to create it.

Permission to get off the hamster wheel

Overwhelm is stressful, but look on the bright side – it’s GREAT that you have so many ideas for content coming your way – better than no ideas at all.

Stop the hamster wheel for an hour and give yourself a breather.

If you can go somewhere else to think, do. Go for a walk. There’s something about the rhythm of walking that shakes ideas down so that the important ones become clearer and louder.

Get that mess of ideas out of your head and onto paper – look at them through the lens first of your customers, then of your business. Apply the quality control test. Your unmanageable pile will now be a shortlist of a few clear content winners. So get cracking, and continue with confidence.

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