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Content planning with spreadsheets: why you shouldn't

We see it a lot: content marketers and content managers using spreadsheets to plan and organize content items. And, yes, it makes sense. Or does it?

We all love Excel. We love how we can use spreadsheets to sort and find, automatically format cells based on their content and we love that everything is really, really organized. Or is it? 

Here's the problem of mapping your content marketing efforts in spreadsheets: there's just too many dimensions to keep track of. 

The many dimensions of a content item

Think about it. A content item is aimed at a certain audience, to bring a certain message across at a certain time. If you break this down a bit more, you'll see that the message is based on the informational need of your audience, which depends on the stage of the customer journey your audience currently is in. 

And, right, there's also the matter of the content type: the channels you use. Almost forgot: if you're working in a team, you'd want to keep track of deadlines and who is currently working on the content item right?

To sum up, a Content Item can (or should!) be described in terms of:

  • Title
  • Publish date
  • Involved persons
  • Target audience (in terms of personas)
  • Buyer stage (to determine the information needs)
  • Content type / channel
  • Your own categories, tags, stories and themes

Why spreadsheets can't handle this

Most people who use spreadsheets usually focus on the time-dimension: the publish date. This might work for you, if your content is really straightforward. But, most of the times you will find that it's not. 

You will want to make sure you are servicing all of your audiences with the right content.

Because, content marketing is not about publishing a certain number of content items each month. No, it is about publishing the content items that fit your audience' informational needs.

So you'll need an overview. An overview to show you if you are not neglecting one of your audiences and their informational needs as they move along their customer journey. 

Sure, spreadsheets can do this, to a certain degree. You can filter, you can sort. But as you filter or sort one column, another one will disappear, so you can't really compare anymore. 

No overview. 

So I need to try Content Mapping Tool, right?

Well, of course I'd like you to. But really, it is up to you to find a system that works. 

If you are comfortable working with spreadsheets and found yourself a way to maintain an overview, then that's just fine. Actually, if you are willing to share your system with us and our readers, that would be great. 

The main point I want to make here, is not that you should absolutely not use spreadsheets to organize your content. The main point is, that you should be aware of the many dimensions of a content item and the importance of keeping an overview. 

Jeroen Huynen

About author

Jeroen is the CEO of Content Mapping Tool and an experienced content marketeer.