​​​​​​​​​By: Megan McKoy-Noe, CCC
Brand Storyteller at ​Pioneer Utility Resources​​​​​​

As a community of certified cooperative communicators, we've each taken extra measures to broaden our knowledge base. Want a drawing of how power distribution works? Done. Need help prioritizing content for a press release? On it. Plan content months ahead of time? What a novel idea.

Content has value. Planning ahead keeps key messages from being lost. It also gives you a clear view of what you need to tackle without letting tasks overwhelm you. I don't know about you, but after the last year I need a looooooooong vacation. Content planning makes that possible.

A content planner brings all of your communication channel planning into one place (website, social media, magazine, newsletter, on-hold message, bill insert, etc.).

While it's important to be able to adapt to shifting communication needs (hello, 2020), a content plan gives your channels a solid foundation. We all need something to lean on.

For Ways to Prepare Yourself for 2021

My communications co-op wrote Prepare Yourself, a 2021 content planning guide for public power and broadband communicators (here's our webinar about the tool). Use this planning tool to stay ahead, focus on topics that matter to your leadership and improve message cohesion across your communication channels.

We recommend four areas to kick-start content planning: key messages, local pages, bill inserts and a calendar to help you spot 2021 engagement opportunities.

1. List Key Messages
Start planning by listing up to six key messages you need to cover in 2021. These messages can come from a strategic plan or directives from your utility leadership. Maybe you're launching a program, or you want to increase participation in a service. These messages are your communication goals for the year. Pick a month (or two) to showcase each message, then check off which channels you can use to engage consumers.

2. Plan Local Pages
Once you know what you must talk about in 2021, use our local pages worksheet to brainstorm ideas for your magazine or newsletter content. If you don't already use an editorial calendar, this can be a great tool to help you plan stories in advance. We listed a ​few content types (news, feature, testimonial, editorial) to get you started. If you like this approach and want to expand it into a full editorial planning spreadsheet, you can get a spreadsheet version of the tool here.

3. Work Ahead on Bill Inserts
When I worked at an electric distribution co-op, we had up to three inserts mailed with each bill. I remember months when we were scrambling to design a new insert and would fall back on what was easily available.

Bill inserts are not like features, requiring interviews and photography. If you think about them in advance and align the content with your key messages, you can create most (if not all) of your bill inserts for the year at once.

With that goal in mind, use your key messages to brainstorm what type of bill inserts you'll need throughout 2021. We suggest four kinds of content (news, rebate/promotion, testimonial and event). Pencil in what you can promote throughout the year, then get a head start on designing the content.

4. Track Engagement Opportunities
The last (but best) part of our planning guide is a calendar for 2021, complete with a list of monthlong observances and celebrations related to our industry. Use the dates to plan local page content, staff celebrations and social media posts.

There are more hashtag holidays than days in the year. Instead of listing all of them (go to www.daysoftheyear.com for holiday overload), we curated a list of dates and engagement ideas for broadband and public power utilities.

As you look ahead, remember to add important local dates to your content planner:

  • Utility Meetings
  • Parades and Fairs
  • Consumer Appreciation Days
  • Community Festivals and Events
  • Regional Back to School Dates
  • Community Sporting Events

Feel Better?

If you're like me, having a plan (fueled by lots of caffeine) makes the future feel more manageable. Is this all there is to content planning? Heavens, no. We didn't touch on measuring your success and building a responsive communication plan, though I've written and presented about the importance of measuring results in the past.

But before you can measure and change communication tactics, you need a solid content foundation. That's where our planning guide helps. The guide will evolve as we learn more about ways we can support you. Have a holiday or event we should add? ​Please let us kno​w​.

We all win when we work together to strengthen our community!

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