How to Make a Content Calendar for Addiction Treatment Marketing
You wouldn’t plan a hike without a map, right?
I wouldn’t—that’d be crazy! There’s so many ways you can get lost!
Without a map, you wouldn’t know what to expect. Will there be trees? A desert? A lake? A river? Do you need to plan for snow? How fast do you need to go in order to get to your destination in time?
Without a map, you can’t answer any of these questions.
Crap. This hike doesn’t sound so fun, after all.
Think of a content calendar as your “map” in the wilderness of content marketing.
You already know how important it is to create content. A content calendar plots out the course of your content—the features, the pace, and the overall game plan—so that you can enjoy the journey in peace. Now you know exactly how and when you’ll get to your destination, which means you have the tools you need to make the trip a success.
What exactly is a content calendar?
A content calendar is simply a calendar that reflects what you plan on posting to your social media (or blog) and when.
Have you ever wondered how some of your favorite bloggers and Instagram mavens have the time to sit on social media all day and come up with all of this wonderful, timely content? It’s magic, right?
It’s not. It’s just that these people are pros.
You’re witnessing the power of a content calendar at work.
Imagine what your content marketing strategy could be with a decent gameplan like that. It all starts with a content calendar.
Before we go any further, let’s get clear about our terms. A “social media content calendar” or “social media calendar” generally refers to a multichannel social media plan. A “content calendar” traditionally refers to a blogging plan. Sometimes, brands will combine all online planning efforts together into one calendar, in which case they’ll usually just call it a “content calendar.”
Whatever channel we’re talking about the purpose is the same: to organize your content marketing ideas and put a timeline to all that inbound marketing goodness.
How Do I Make a Content Calendar?
Making a content calendar—the actual document—is easy.
I’m a firm believer that a content calendar doesn’t need to be fancy.
There are lots of expensive programs that people use to make content calendars, but I like Google Calendar for this purpose because a) it’s free and b) it’s easy to use and share with my team. Anyone with a Google account has access to Google calendar.
In Google calendar, I can switch between daily, weekly, and monthly views depending on the level of detail I need.
I drop the title or topic of the blog post into the appropriate calendar day. Then I color code the calendar so that I can see: what posts have been written and copyedited (light green), what posts still need to be written (unshaded), and what posts have gone live (dark green).
You could go further with this color coding and develop colors for posts that need approval, posts in the research phase, or posts pending copyediting. It’s all about whatever works for your process and the size of your team.
What should I put on my content calendar besides post topics?
Wait—it’s not just all about the post topics?
Your content calendar is all about the context of your posts, too. You want to know what will be going on in the world around the time you’ve chosen for those posts to go live so that you can plan out what you want to say at that momentous occasion.
This makes your posts seem more timely. This timeliness makes them more likely to be shared!
I filled out my content calendar with standard holidays and—this is really important—every relevant date to the addiction treatment industry I could find.
You’re going to do the same.
Think about who your leads are and make a calendar that’s all about what they care about.
You want relevant days of awareness, professional days, industry events, and anything else you think might be important to your leads.
Leverage your knowledge about your niche and the rhythm of your local news. If the neighboring college town has a big night of debauchery every year and it leads to a lot of DUIIs and alcohol poisoning hospitalizations, put that doozy on the calendar. If your center caters to women, make sure you mark International Women’s Day and Breast Cancer Awareness Day on your calendar.
There are particular days of note for African Americans, Native Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, and so on. Whatever the demographic makeup of your clientele—make sure days and events that might be important to your leads are reflected on your calendar.
Some days all addiction treatment professionals should pay particular attention to:
1/1 - New Year’s Day
3/17 - St. Patrick’s Day
4/10 - The day the Big Book was first published
4/20 - Unofficial marijuana holiday
5/13 - Mother’s Day
5/17 - International Anti-Homophobia Day
5/31 - World No Tobacco Day
6/17 - Father’s Day
8/8 - Dr. Bob’s birthday
8/31 - Overdose Awareness Day
9/9–9/15 - National Suicide Prevention Week
9/20 - Addiction Professionals Day
11/26 - Bill W.’s birthday
There are some cases where you should mark off a whole month for special treatment. A few come to mind:
April - Alcohol Awareness Month
June - LGBTQ Pride Month
September - Recovery Month
October - National Substance Abuse Awareness Month
For a more complete list of awareness days, months, and weeks, check out this handy list.
There are also just plain goofy days you can add to your list if you feel like it. Do tread with caution here. “Goofy days” are a more obvious fit for light-hearted industries, but if you get creative you can make it work for an addiction treatment content calendar. If you feel inspired and you can tie them in to relevant and appropriate content, I say go for it.
I mean, part of recovery is re-discovering your sense of humor and learning how to have fun without drugs and alcohol, right?
You could use a “goofy day” as a starting point for a blog post about regaining your sense of wonder, joy, or silliness in recovery. Let your brand’s personality shine through with posts that reflect your brand’s values.
Not every post needs to be another hand-wringing missive about the horribleness of the opioid epidemic. That’s important stuff but it’s OK to mix it up occasionally.
How Do I Come Up With Topics For My Content Calendar?
So, you’ve got your calendar all set up and you’ve got the special days you think your leads will care about all marked.
Well, here comes the hard part: coming up with what you want to say. There are a few ways to approach this problem.
First, look back at all those juicy days/weeks/months you’ve marked and see if you can craft a topic or two around any of those.
For example, a post inspired by St. Patrick’s Day could go in a lot of different directions. You could do a deep dive into the genetics of addiction, take a hard look at the unsafe rates of drinking and driving around St. Patrick’s Day, or do a how-to post on celebrating St. Patrick’s Day sober.
Write all of your ideas down—we’ll worry about organizing them later.
Still don’t have enough ideas?
Ask your admissions team to write down every question they encounter on the phone or in chat sessions. Use those questions as jumping-off points for future posts.
If you haven’t generated enough questions in-house, take it to the Google machine. Keyword research isn’t just for SEO. You can also use keyword research to find popular topics and questions related to your keywords. I recommend using Google Search Console for this.
Remember, too, that you can find questions people are asking online by searching a question and answer site like Quora. Even Google’s autocomplete function in search bars can be a source of ideas, as they pull from the same data as Google Search Console. Throw in some keywords and see what pops up. Write those ideas down, too.
Bringing it all Together
Now that you’ve got all your blog post topics brainstormed, it’s time to start filling in your calendar.
For the addiction treatment industry, I recommend not planning any farther than six months in advance because otherwise unforeseen changes may throw your entire plan out of whack.
Decide how many posts you can realistically swing per week or per month. Make sure you keep to a regular schedule.
Frequency and timing of blog posts and social media posts is an entire topic unto itself, so I’ll leave that discussion for a later time. The short answer is: post as often as humanly possible and time your posts to go live at a time when your leads are most likely to be online. There are a few tips and tricks that can help. I’ll write more about those soon in a later blog post, so stay tuned.
That’s Not So Hard, Was It?
Content calendars turn a wild, unplanned hike in the woods….
where you die of starvation in an abandoned school bus…
and get torn apart by coyotes…
into a walk in the park.
(Ok, it might not be that bad to try to create content without a calendar.)
(But it’s close!)
It’s all about getting some context for the journey and making a plan of attack around that context.
As long as you can identify dates that are important to your leads, make a commitment to post a certain number of times a month, and deliver timely, relevant content consistently, you’ll be on your way to increasing conversion in no time.
P.S. If you need help with creating your content calendar, I'm glad to help.