How to Plan Your Content Calendar for the Holiday Season

The phrase “Holiday Season” brings to mind the sign on the side of a bus years ago with the name of a local bagel bakery and the words, “In order to avoid capitalizing on a religious holiday the rest of this sign will be blank.”

Of course, Brackman Bros. were not the only people to associate bagels with the holidays. The Super Healthy Kids blog posted this suggestion:

But there’s a lot more happening during the holiday season than just major religious holidays, and the principles you use to plan your content marketing calendar the rest of the year can help with your holiday content marketing.

Or if you’re just getting started, learn some principles of content marketing you can use for the holidays, then year-round.

Who Celebrates a Holiday?

Religious holidays are not the only holidays between October and January. Consider this list of possible holidays:

  • Halloween
  • Veterans Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Black Friday
  • Cyber Monday
  • Hanukkah
  • Shortest Day of the Year
  • Festivus
  • Christmas Eve
  • Christmas Day
  • Boxing Day
  • Kwanzaa
  • New Years Eve
  • New Years Day
  • Three Kings Day
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

You probably can’t create a marketing campaign around every one of these holidays, so the first thing to do is to decide which holidays you want to emphasize with your marketing. The major holidays are a clear choice for holiday content marketing—so people are likely to neglect the minor holidays, creating opportunity for others to speak and be heard.

Ditch Christmas, you ask, forget about Hanukkah and Thanksgiving, and concentrate on minor holidays and novelty celebrations? You crazy? No, but is there any reason you can’t do both, can’t set aside some room on your holiday content marketing calendar for smaller holidays, for a Halloween tricky tweet, say?

What Holidays Do You Want to Mark on Your Calendar?

Think about who your customers are, or who you would like to reach.

  • What are their interests?
  • How do those interests relate to a particular holiday?
  • How can you address the holiday?

Note the holiday on your content marketing calendar, and note other important dates as well. As you talk to your customers you may find events and holidays you weren’t aware of.

When the city of Lindon, Utah was renovating its veterans hall and preparing to dedicate it as Veterans Memorial Hall several years ago, one of the veterans told the city council how he and some others had brought it to the city park decades earlier as a surplus building from Hill Air Force Base near Ogden, about 70 miles away. It took two days to bring the building down, and as they neared Lindon a police officer stopped them. “I won’t give you a ticket,” he said. “But I could. It’s illegal to move a building on a holiday, and today is the start of fishing season.”

A reporter at the meeting put the story on his content calendar and wrote a feature for the local paper, reworking it for a blog post years later. Good content will come to you if you are open to it and looking for it. So the first step in planning your holiday content marketing calendar is making room on your calendar, being open to opportunities.

What Do You Want to Say About the Holiday?

Remember, the purpose of content marketing is not necessarily to sell. Consider purposes like these:

  • Generate leads
  • Attract subscribers
  • Drive conversions
  • Drive traffic to your site
  • Create trust
  • Create goodwill
  • Introduce a new idea

In Down the tube: or, Making television commercials is such a dog-eat-dog business it’s no wonder they’re called spots, former adman Terry Galanoy tells about an international commercial competition where one of the judges said it looked like a Japanese commercial was trying to convince people to sleep in beds, rather than trying sell anything. He didn’t realize western-style beds were a new concept in Japan.

Along with introducing new ideas or products, another purpose of content marketing can be to establish yourself as a thought leader in a field, as an authority other people will cite and link to.

So as you’re thinking about what you want your content marketing to do, give some thought to what else content marketing can do.

Where Do You Want to Publish Your Holiday Content?

Do you want to host the material on your website, or do you want to drive traffic to your site? Try doing both. If you publish it as a guest blog you can link to the post from your site and link to your site in the post. Embed something from your YouTube channel on your site, and link from YouTube back to your site.

Research your niche.

  • Where do the people you want to address hang out?
  • What formats are they used to? What content can you put in formats like these:
    • Infographic
    • Blog post
    • White paper
    • Ebook
    • Webinar
    • Video
    • Podcast
    • Streaming
  • What content do you have suited to a particular hangout?
    • SlideShare – Started as a place for professionals to exchange info and documents, works well for hosting documents, slideshows and graphics.
    • YouTube – More than just a place for cute pets or embarrassing home videos, it hosts many instructional videos and a huge amount of audio. A great place to post instructional videos for your products.
    • Pinterest – Primarily visual, but allows captions as well and could serve as a product catalog.
    • Twitter – Not just for short messages. Consider Jana Riess’s Twible, tweeting her way through the Bible, 140 characters a day.
    • Goodreads – A great place to establish yourself as an authority in a particular subject. As you write short reviews of good reads in your field you’ll build up a resource for other people, and a way for them to contact you.

Of course, there are many more places you can publish. The important thing to remember is to post content that gives people value, that rewards the time and effort they spend finding your content—and the time you take to create it.

When Should You Publish Holiday Content?

One value of a content calendar is to decide when you want to publish.

  • How far ahead of the holiday do you want to publish?
  • Do you want to publish a short series leading up to the holiday, one large piece, a series leading up to a large piece?

Answers will depend on how much content you have, how much time you have, how many resources you want to devote to a particular campaign, and what you want to accomplish.

One way to evaluate how much time you want to spend on particular projects is to list important dates, including:

  • Holidays
  • Novelty holidays, like Pi day
  • Industry events
  • Launches for new products or services
  • Events that may bring out a lot of people—even if they’re not directly related to your business.
    • Festival of Trees
    • Outdoors Show
    • Trade shows
    • Conventions

It may not be feasible to participate in every event, but you could post something relevant.

Why Use a Content Marketing Calendar, Though?

If you’re a terrible procrastinator (like a certain reporter) a calendar can remind you that it’s time to get to work. You can set up reminders in an electronic calendar to notify you of an event for days or weeks in advance every time you login to your computer, tablet, smartphone or other device.

Of course, you have to heed the reminder, but a good calendar will help hold you accountable to the things you want to get done. And if you’re not a terrible procrastinator a calendar can help you organize your projects so they don’t get lost or forgotten.

How Do I Get Started with My Content Marketing Calendar?

Though an electronic calendar can be a useful place to start, it probably doesn’t have room for the level of detail you need to plan your marketing.  It’s easy to find free content marketing calendar templates, some fairly complex, but your calendar can be as simple as a spreadsheet with a column for each element:

  • Title
  • Holiday or event
  • When to start working
  • When to have a draft done
  • Date to publish
  • Type: Long-form, short-form, infographic, blog post, ebook, slideshow, webinar, audio, video, podcast, streaming from a live event, and more
  • Status: Record the stages, including when the project is completed
  • Type of publisher: Your own website or social media channel, guest blog or press release, paid media
  • Where it will appear: Put the URL here
  • Content Creator: The person or group who will write the post, make the music, or create the infographic
  • Byline: Whose name it will it appear under, the creator’s, the company’s, a client’s
  • Owner: The person in charge of the project
  • Where it fits in your company’s marketing plans

Another column several template makers use is Persona. Lilach Bullock suggests dividing your customers into different groups, creating a persona for each type of customer you want to target, and putting the persona’s name in this column. For more about creating a persona see our post, “How to Define What Your Target Market is for Content.”

If this all sounds a bit overwhelming, step away from the computer, go make yourself a great holiday bagel, take a walk, then come back and create some content, any content, make it good, then see how you can fit it into your holiday content marketing.

Ryan Skidmore
Digital Marketing Director
Ryan is a Digital Marketing Director at Big Leap. He is a master of quizzes and all things SEO.
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