Developing a sound content strategy is difficult for any organization, and the responsibility almost always falls on the heads of communication teams. You want to create a messaging plan for your target demographic that allows room for alterations and actually provides quantifiable improvements to your KPIs.
Producing, publishing, and analyzing content is a long process, with many stakeholders involved. So how do you keep track of all this? Many have asked that question before, so various tools with different purposes have come up in the market. What tools are there to plan, organize or reflect your strategy and who is their ideal user?
We provide an overview of tools and a detailed look at the types of tools that teams can use as content calendars to improve their content marketing processes:
- Dedicated content strategy tools: Desk-Net
- Generic tools: Asana, Monday, Airtable, Trello, Quip, Notion
- Plugins for CMS: WordPress (CoSchedule, Desk-Net, Editorial Calendar, Edit Flow), Drupal (Content Planner by Netnode, Desk-Net), and Joomla (Shack)
- Custom solutions: Project M from the New York Times
Dedicated content strategy tools
These are specialist tools developed with the sole purpose of making your content workflows clear and efficient. While these tools might be less intuitive than generic planning tools, they are perfect for teams with high planning complexities, publishing frequencies, platforms, and other complex needs.
- Feature set: Moderate to an extensive collection of more advanced features.
- Usability: Often moderate due to the higher complexity of the tool compared to simple generic task management tools.
- Costs: Moderate to high pricing compared to the alternatives.
- Deployment time: Typically very short as these are often Software-as-a-service products.
- Integration: Little to moderate effort. Plugins for popular content management systems such as Drupal may be available.
- Vendor lock-in: Low as these tools are not part of a larger software suite.
Often drawn into content marketing planning, the capabilities of generic tools are better suited for task or project management. Some offer features that can be used as a content calendar but cannot handle the tactical and operational levels of your content marketing strategy. That said, some teams may find tools like Asana, Monday, and others sufficient.
- Feature set: Typically limited functionality; mostly related to task management; few publishing-specific features.
- Usability: Often very good usability.
- Costs: Usually low as these are B2B mass-market tools with lots of customers and strong competition.
- Deployment time: Very short unless you plan to integrate them with publishing-specific tools.
- Integration: Either complex or not possible with very little data being exchanged with specialized systems
- Vendor lock-in: Low to easy to switch to other tools.
Plugins for CMS
These are either small tools that become part of the CMS or they are external tools with a very deep bi-directional integration with the CMS. Check out the plug-ins your CMS offers. Drupal and WordPress for example offer plugins that provide a content strategy feature.
- Feature set: The small tools that become part of the content management system’s user interface are typically rather bare-bone planning tools.
- Usability: As the overall complexity of these tools is low, usability is at least “good enough” if not good.
- Costs: Free of charge or low cost. Deployment time: Typically very short and usually without the need of (external) IT staff since plugins can be installed easily even by non-technical persons.
- Integration: By definition, there is tight integration with the CMS. Depending on the tool there may be an issue with integrating with other content management systems.
- Vendor lock-in: The modules have little lock-in with the plugin vendor (however, there is, of course, quite a lock-in with the CMS vendor). The stand-alone tools that connect via a plugin have a low degree of vendor lock-in.
If you have particular needs or are a large organization, you might want to look into custom solutions. Despite requiring a large budget, they will also require constant maintenance work and updates. Custom solutions are better suited for companies with very specific needs and a proven track record of successfully implementing and maintaining such tools for years.
- Feature set: Varies depending on who implements such a tool. Typically few in number but very company-specific features.
- Usability: Moderate or higher due to the reduced feature set and complexity of the application. May degrade over time compared to other tools as such custom-tools are often not maintained and improved at the same pace as solutions out in the market.
- Costs: Costs are usually (significantly) higher. This aspect is often overlooked as cost estimates often focus on the initial implementation and do not follow a Total Cost of Ownership approach which would provide a more comprehensive and realistic picture of the overall costs.
- Deployment time: Long as the tool has to be implemented either from scratch or be built on top of a generic tool such as MS Sharepoint.
- Integration with CMS: To be custom-coded as part of the implementation project.
- Vendor lock-in: By definition no lock-in with a vendor, though there may be a lock-in with a third party if the tool is developed by an external IT company.