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How to Create a Technical Content Plan

There are two mistakes that most companies make when they decide to pursue technical content marketing:

  1. They don’t have a content plan.
  2. They don’t know how they’re going to distribute their content.

I recently wrote about how I recommend starting with a checklist to promote your blog posts. While I could say more, I’m going to focus on the first problem: creating a technical content plan.

What is a Content Plan?

Most companies that start a blog have a higher-level strategy. They know why they want to start creating content but rarely dive into the specific article ideas and resources they want to create.

A content plan is a detailed outline of the content you want to produce for your blog.

If you’re building a technical blog aimed at developers, tailor your content plan to fit (1) your audience, (2) your product/service, and (3) your available writing resources.

Content plan venn diagram

I’ll add more about how you can create a content plan later, but let’s start by looking at an example:

Here’s the sample content plan I share with my clients at Draft.

Let’s take a look at the first article in the content plan: How to Deploy WordPress to a Kubernetes Cluster.

A sample content plan for a technical blog

The Title

While it may change, the working title tells us what each article’s main keywords are and the tone. Articles that start with “How to…” like this one are generally tutorials, but as you’ll see, we clarify that further down in the plan.

The Pitch

Freelance journalists typically write a “pitch” to sell an editor on their idea. The pitch in your content plan accomplishes a similar goal, giving others a high-level view of the article what readers will learn.

Assets Delivered

I like to be clear about what will be entailed in creating each piece of content I write. Include expectations for the article length, type, and supporting data or code samples that will be delivered.

Audience

If your writer assumes the article is directed at entry-level developers, but you meant it to be aimed at managers, you’re not going to be happy with the outcome. Having a clear audience attached to each piece will also help you think about how you’ll promote it after publication.

Outline

Finally, your content plan should include a brief outline. You can let the writer fill in details or adjust it as necessary, but having some detail shows that you’ve thought about the topic and know what it will entail before you pass it off to a writer. If you’re the writer, you really need an outline.

Why Do You Need a Content Plan?

You might think that creating a content plan with detailed pitches and brief outlines for each of your articles will be a considerable time investment…and you’d be right.

The truth is that if you don’t create a plan, your writing will suffer. You’ll get different levels of quality from various writers, you’ll have to return more work for a rewrite, and you won’t be able to let other stakeholders see what your team is working on.

Before I start working with a new client, I create a content plan for the first 3-6 months of our engagement. Having it is a massive benefit for both my clients and me, so while it’s an investment, it’s well worth making.

Here are just a few of the reasons you should create a content plan:

Aligns Content and Strategy

It’s easy to fall into the trap of publishing anything anyone wants to write on the blog. An unfocused approach like this might occasionally result in a home run, but most of your posts will add very little value. By explicitly defining each piece of content you want to create, you can make sure your posts serve your overarching strategy.

Helps Drive the Plan for Promotion

Having a defined audience for each post you write will help your marketing team decide on a promotional plan for each piece. That allows them to do research before the post goes live to give it the best chance of success the moment it’s published.

Enables You to Find the Right Writers

Whether you’ve got dedicated in-house resources or a large pool of community contributors, writers will struggle to come up with good topics consistently. By having a list of content ideas, you can control the content’s quality and topic choice. You can even start targeted outreach to find writers with specific experience for each post.

Minimizes Back-and-Forth

One of the most frustrating things as a writer is having unclear expectations for your work. Imagine spending 5-10 hours writing an in-depth, technical piece and then being told you missed the mark. I’ve done it; it sucks. A content plan will make sure writers don’t waste their time or yours.

How to Create a Content Plan

Once your team agrees that a content plan is necessary, it’s time to get to work. There are three phases to coming up with a content plan:

  1. Defining the content strategy
  2. Coming up with ideas
  3. Research and add details

Generally, step 1 is done at the top. Whether it’s the Head of Marketing, Community Manager, or Content Marketing Manager, someone familiar with the company’s overarching goals should be responsible for choosing and defining a content strategy. This strategy won’t go into specific article ideas, but rather set the target audience, the kind of content you’ll create, and how you’ll capture readers to turn them into leads.

Next, use the strategy to come up with a list of possible article ideas. At this stage, each idea will probably just be a title and maybe a couple of bullet points. If there are lots of ideas, you may need to rank them and pick the winners. If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, you might want to take a break and return to it later.

Finally, someone on the team needs to be responsible for researching each idea and adding details like the outline, pitch, and assets. After these details are added, the team should review and approve them before doling them out to writers.

Having Trouble?

If all that seems overwhelming, and you’re tempted to skip the content planning phase, you don’t have to go in alone. At Draft, we help software engineering blogs define and carry out content plans.

Draft helps software engineering blogs create and execute content plans

If you’re interested, send me an email or learn more at Draft.dev.

Karl Hughes

By Karl Hughes

Karl is a former startup CTO and the founder of Draft.dev. He writes about technical blogging and content management.