At this point, brands should have a clear idea of their goals for the new year. In terms of content marketing, its usage might be more obvious than its strategic goals, which makes cross-company brainstorming and conceptualization all the more important. Of course, these sessions can produce great ideas about what to write and what goals to set, but the entire process is a waste of time if there’s no organized, actionable game plan for execution.

Editorial Calendar StatsA new study from I Make News reveals the industries that allocate time to construct editorial calendars – documents that plan every aspect of content creation and distribution – also have the highest percentage of brands with the most content ROI. Data shows that financial services, insurance and software sectors had highly advanced content strategies for each channel, and their efforts paid off in the long run – thanks, in part, to their editorial due diligence.

At Contentlead, we understand the value of editorial strategy as evidenced by our expert in-house Content Writer team. But we understand that not every company has the time or resources to craft editorial concepts, so we’ve put together a guide for 2013. Broken down into three steps – Accountability, Diversity and Audience Targeting – our step-by-step system will help you make the most of content marketing in the new year.

Accountability: Who and When?

Before a content strategy, let alone an editorial calendar, can develop, brands must organize a dedicated team with the ability to craft original writing and stay true to their word. A company may have an impeccable staff of expert content writers, but if these professionals fail to meet strict deadlines, the entire production will come to a halt, delaying timely coverage of important industry news or new product information.

Effective Content MarketingThe sure-fire way to create an unsuccessful content strategy is by hiring an inconsistent team of writers. If a business doesn’t have the in-house resource to confidently tackle content creation and distribution across various channels, outsourcing remains the most cost-effective solution. According to two reports from the Content Marketing Institute, 46 percent of B2C and 44 percent of B2B brands outsource their blog marketing efforts. These percentages may not seem high, but with the studies also showing that only 32 percent of B2C and 36 of B2B businesses say they have effective strategies, the volume of companies consulting experts may increase next year.

When brands have the human resource to craft well-written and consistent content, they can draft their editorial calendars.

Diversity: What and Where?

Search engines like Google and Bing have become highly adept at ranking various types of media. In fact, both engines might prefer if brands used several channels to reach prospective and new customers, as diverse brand representations help paint clearer and more transparent pictures of companies.

Infographic CTRsBut when it comes to editorial calendars, how does diversity come into play?

Brands must publish content for lead generation and nurturing across a multitude of platforms, and different formats can achieve different business goals. While text-only media can grab consumers’ attention, prospects look for interactive sites, and pages that only feature words on blank screens don’t provide well-rounded experiences. Therefore, editorial calendars must include various visual production strategies. When businesses plan these tasks well in advance, they’ll find producing high-quality media can be both rewarding and easy. Begin by planning infographic marketing – studies show people are 30 times more likely to read content with a graphic than a text-only article.

Audience targeting: How and Why?

By now, business owners understand the basic concept of SEO – the practice builds exposure through search. However, the dynamic world of SEO changes by the minute and, in 2012, Experian Marketing Services discovered a 16 percent increase in one-term queries in the United States. Long story short, internet users know what they want before they search, which puts additional pressure on organic lead generation.

Top Searches of 2012To reach searching prospects through content, brands must have clear audience targeting goals, and establish calls to action. A List Apart contributor Corey Vilhauer wrote a story recently entitled “Audiences, Outcomes, and Determining User Needs.” While Vilhauer is a web developer – sort of – he has exceptional advice on how to reach new markets. He states, “just stating a goal is not enough. Outcomes must be measurable, otherwise they’re not goals – they’re aspirations.” Therefore, brands must do everything in their power to understand their audiences in order for editorial calendars to make any sense.

Taking a second to ask internal questions about why the brand wants to reach certain demographics, and how it plans to engage with those people – the channels, the language, the delivery method, so on, helps define the avenue for which any given campaign will take. The more information you have about the individuals you want to influence, the easier it will be to plan content topics, formats, publication times, distribution channels and seasonal headlines that will engage them.

These three steps won’t write editorial calendars for brands, but the advice will guide business owners toward greater content marketing. Without human resource, diverse media offers or clearly identified audiences, brands can’t organize content topics, due dates and delivery channels into a successful editorial calendar.