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Ten steps to planning perfection

Published Jun 29, 2020 – By Wardour


The client’s bought into the big idea, you’ve talked about the key messages and when this should all be launched into the world. You’ve even got some incredible editors, designers, writers and illustrators lined up and ready to go. The project’s as good as delivered… isn’t it?

There are two missing ingredients and they’re crucial in the successful delivery of any content programme: planning and process. If you don’t get these right, you could become lost in a project that struggles to complete and loses sight of the big idea it started with. To help you avoid that, here’s our guide to content planning and process.


Start with a client planning meeting. It can be in person or done remotely via a video call. Make sure all the key players are there, both within your client’s organisation and your own. It’s the moment when everyone looks each other in the eye, works through the brief and lays out their expectations. You’ll need to plan more of these at regular intervals throughout the content programme.


Go on a fact-finding mission with a smaller group, perhaps just the client lead and a couple of your creatives, to explore the story behind the campaign – the history of the brand, the key messages, the competitors, the stakeholders and politics that led to the work being commissioned. Blend these insights with external research about the brand by looking at annual reports, product launches or news stories.


You should have enough information to create a planning document that details a proposed structure for the content programme and sets out the deliverables. This document drills down into the costs and includes a project schedule that sets out the launch content and when the rest will follow; it defines the amends process and key moments when stakeholders need to engage; and details the channel and distribution strategy.


It’s time to enter Wardour’s content matrix! It continuously maps all content, audience groups, content themes and formats. We use it as a living document for ongoing publication planning and tracking the status of each project. The matrix allows us to plan hero pieces in advance but also to be nimble and reactive to changes in the market. We can plot in calendar events to ensure content delivers at the right time, and detail its format (from listicles to long form) and how it’s going to be distributed. The matrix can also show which audience segment the content is relevant to and how we’re going to measure its effectiveness.


Start getting creative with each piece of content, but don’t rush the process. While creatives may feel they have all the information they need to create the finished piece, remember you’re on a journey with the client. Offer two or three different routes, which can be presented at a face-to-face meeting or video call, so your client gets a sense of direction and is part of the creative decision-making process.


With content production underway, you need to make sure you keep communicating. Consider introducing a traffic light system. A red traffic light indicates problems, amber means there are potential issues and green means things are going well. These can appear as a column on your content matrix and are useful in quickly showing where there are holdups – for example, if your client’s marketing team hasn’t supplied a logo, this could be amber, but if a newly requested video can’t progress because budget hasn’t been signed off, this could be red.


To help you collaborate more closely with clients on individual pieces of content, use a project management tool like Basecamp, Microsoft Teams or Trello. These offer a portal for everyone to communicate and view tasks, as well as a centralised place to share files and documents. They’re an efficient way of sharing versions of content and taking in client amends as you move towards launch.


While content matrix updates, traffic lights and Basecamp conversations are part of the daily communication process, you also need to talk at a more strategic level. Introduce a weekly phone or video call between the lead creatives and the lead client to discuss how the project is progressing and any ‘tiny’ problems they didn’t think were worth mentioning (but can be quite significant). As you approach launch date, increase the frequency of these calls.


The content programme has gone live! You worked through the amends process, you did it all on time and within budget. But before you run headlong into the next stage of the content programme, take a moment to regroup with the client. How effective has the launch content been against the measurement criteria? Do you need to review the metrics for success because the world has changed since the project began? Do you need to tweak the balance of reactive versus planned content? Are the project management tools streamlining the process or hindering it?


While you don’t want to reinvent the wheel in the review process, understanding how client priorities may have shifted since the initial brief can be a critical stage in avoiding bumps further down the road. It’s also a great way to help build a long-term relationship with the client, one in which they see you as an extension of their organisation – a partner rather than a service provider.

If you would like to discuss any of the ideas raised in this blog post, pop us an email at hello@wardour.co.uk – we’d love to have a chat with you.

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