How To Create A Bank Of Content (And Plan Ahead) With Janna Maron From Smart Passive Income [ACM 001]
Wouldn’t it be great to be weeks or months ahead of schedule when it comes to your content marketing? Having all of your projects done ahead of time allows you more flexibility and less stress in work and in other areas of your life.
Janna Maron, the managing editor at Smart Passive Income, is an expert at doing just that. She manages all of the content production at Smart Passive Income, handles the planning and production schedule, assigns tasks to the team members, and develops deadlines. She has experience working at newspapers and magazines and is now with an agency called Winning Edits.
Today Janna talks to us about her process for setting deadlines and publishing on time, every time. Some of the topics that you’ll hear about include:
- Why trial and error, or learning as you go, can work.
- How to start planning your content way ahead of schedule.
- How banking content can allow you to have more flexibility in the rest of your life.
- How establishing systems and workflow can allow even a small team to stay on track seamlessly.
- Tips on managing many different projects at once.
- Why consistency is so important in content marketing.
- Janna’s best advice to new content managers to get ahead of schedule.
Quotes by Janna:
- “Managing an organized plan requires some strategic thinking.”
- “Planning allows you to let your content relate to each other across multiple channels.”
- “If you can do three months, you can probably do six months.”
Nathan: What if you could have every project on your marketing calendar 100% complete for an entire month? To top that off, imagine you have project ideas planned for months from now. You would know exactly what you’d be working on, you’d eliminate some of that pressure of those immediate due dates, and you’d just be an all around marketing rockstar, go you.
There’s an editorial management strategy that Janna Maron uses at Smart Passive Income to do exactly that. She’s sharing how you can do it too in this episode of The Actionable Content Marketing podcast.
Hey, I’m Nathan from Co-Schedule and you’re about to learn how to get an entire month ahead with every single marketing project on your to do list. Janna’s going to share a couple of interesting frameworks including banking content way ahead of schedule. She’s sharing her process behind the scenes of Smart Passive Income to set deadlines, work backward, and publish on time every time. Let’s check it out.
Hey Janna, thanks so much for chatting with me today. I’m super excited about how far you’ve worked to head at Smart Passive Income with content planning, content creation, and how you have just figured it out how to crush your deadlines and publish super consistently.
Janna: Thanks Nathan. I’m super happy to be here and chat about what all of that entails.
Nathan: Awesome. Janna, a few of our listeners may not know who Pat Flynn is or Smart Passive Income are. Could you just share a bit more about the vision behind Smart Passive Income?
Janna: Sure. Pat Flynn calls himself the crash test dummy of online business. He really looks at what he does as— he kind of experiments and tries things, learns and shares what he learns with his audience as he’s doing them and implementing them. Kind of trial and error is the way that he teaches his audience to also learn how to create a passive income through Automated Online Business Systems.
Nathan: It sounds like a pretty big goal.
Janna: His brand has grown over the years when he started it was I believed 2008 with a blog only. Now he has a blog, he has two podcasts, a web TV show and multiple newsletters.
Nathan: That’s just a lot of content and I think that relates directly to what you’re doing there. Could you share with me just a little bit about how you make that vision a reality?
Janna: Absolutely. I am the content manager or a managing editor. That means that I am in charge of managing all of content production and the team that is producing the content. I’m implementing the production schedule, the planning schedule, and assigning the individual production tasks to the team members with a deadline so that we’re always meeting our publish deadline on time.
Nathan: Yes. That’s really impressive. I know that’s exactly what I wanted to talk to you to get into the weeds of how you figure out your deadlines and work backwards. Before we get there though, I was wondering what were some of the projects that you worked on before you became this managing editor at Smart Passive Income?
Janna: My professional experience has always been in the print publishing world. I have experienced working at newspapers and magazines. After I did that for a couple of years, I was freelancing as an editor and primarily doing copy editing, developmental editing for one time clients, book projects, that type of thing. I’m now with an agency called Winning Edits and we are Pat’s content management team. That connection came to me via my freelance work.
What I’ve been doing now with online publishing is really applying the way that I would manage content in print publishing. That’s what I’m finding is because online publishing is still a very relatively new industry. People are getting into it for the first time really with no publishing experience. There’s a lot of room for learning from the traditional print publishing world in terms of systems for what we’re talking about projects production management essentially.
Nathan: That’s a ton of experience. I think it’s Joe who says, “Every company is a publisher.” The idea that you come from this editorial management background for traditional publication translates really well.
Janna: It’s still new to people in online publishing because most of these online publishers are figuring things out as they go. They don’t come to it with this knowledge of implementing systems and processes that really allow for a seamless workflow with all the moving parts involved, especially when you start adding multiple publication channels. It just can get hairy really quickly.
Nathan: I’ve been there. When you started at Smart Passive Income, you kind of eluted to this that some of us marketers may be new, the idea of getting out a publishing schedule is just kind of odd. What did you do right away to help the team at Smart Passive Income to help the team plan that content way ahead of schedule?
Janna: This is something that comes from the print publishing world and magazine world specifically because magazines are lower frequency than newspapers. Newspapers are typically published weekly or daily. Magazines being published on usually more like a monthly frequency. They typically plan following monthly themes or focuses. That’s way when you go to the grocery store and you look at the newsstand, you’ll see in December all of the magazines on the newsstand are doing their 12 tips for holiday entertaining or whatever. That’s what they do every December because that’s their focus. They’re doing a holiday theme focus for that month.
Translating that to the Online Publishing World, when I came onto Smart Passive Income team, it was almost exactly a year ago, you and I are talking in the beginning of August. I’ve been with the team for about a year now. The team had just finished a really huge audience survey which was really informative to us in terms of what types of content the audience wanted more of. It was easy for me to say, “Okay, there’s these three main topics that people are asking for more information on on a very consistent basis. Let’s just take those three topics and dedicate one month to each one of those topics as a starting point.”
We did email marketing in the month of October. We did affiliate marketing in the month of November and then we did information products in the month of December. This is 2015. We were starting to work on October content in August so that by the end of September all of our October content was done and scheduled, and queued up ready to publish on the publish date in October.
Nathan: I love the idea of working ahead. When you mentioned that you were working in August on the content that was publishing October, how did you figure out those couple months in between? What were you publishing in those months?
Janna: For the months of August and September, that was basically before our editorial plan kicked into gear so I didn’t make any changes for those months. The podcasts maintained their regular production schedule so we were effectively doubling up in the months of August and September where we were producing content for two months at a time until we got ahead of ourselves and we had implemented the new production schedule. Then, we didn’t have to worry about maintaining our current production. Does that makes sense?
Nathan: Yap. A little bit more work in one month to get way ahead and feel like that cushion.
Janna: Exactly. That’s probably the way it would happen for anyone who’s implementing a new content management plan. There would have to be a little more work on the frontend until you’re able to get ahead and have the cushion in place.
Nathan: You’ve mentioned to me before, and maybe this is something that you’ve just kind of chatted through but I just want to elaborate or dig a little deeper into it, could you explain your idea of banking content ahead of schedule?
Janna: Banking content, by that I mean exactly what I was explaining where at the end of the month… We just started the month of August when we’re recording this interview. At last week of July, all of my August content is 100% done and finalized, and queued up for the month of August. That to me is all of August content is banked and done in the queue scheduled. It’s going to publish on its own automated publishing schedule now that we’ve already done all the production work.
What Pat does for us is a couple of things. First of all for Pat, who is the main content creator, he’s a huge proponent of his passive income lifestyle which gives him the flexibility to it’s summer time, he wants to be able to go to his swim lessons with his kid everyday or taking vacation with his family over the summer while his kids are out of school.
With the content being done ahead of schedule, he can go off and do what he wants to do without worrying about making sure that he still has a blog post for the week that he’s gone or to make sure that he has a podcast for the week that he’s gone. That alleviates a lot of pressure for him as a content creator. It also alleviates a lot of pressure for the production team. I’ll give you an example for that.
In the month of August, Pat has a product announcement that he wanted to make. We weren’t quite sure when that product was going to be finalized and ready to announce. He’s going to announce it in a blog post. We had it scheduled for a specific day but we had all of August blog posts already done and ready to go. We knew that if that product launch date had to get pushed back, oh no problem, we’ll just move that blog post down a week or two. We have those other weeks already done and ready to go, we can move them up and plug them in in the week that was originally planned for the product announcement. We don’t have to scramble to come up with something to fill that hole, should that post needs to get pushed back.
Nathan: Yeah. Love it. It’s super organized process. If you have things done ahead of time, you can kind of just drag things and drop them around. Since you have so much done, that makes that process extremely easy.
Nathan:That makes me curious. How big is the team that creates content at Smart Passive Income?
Janna:There is seven of us on the team altogether. There’s four or five of us touching any given piece of content depending on what it is. I’ll give you a quick rundown of our workflow on blog posts.
Once Pat has a draft written, I’m the first one to read it for overall development, organization structure. Then, it goes to another person for copy editing. Then, it goes to another person for formatting in WordPress and creating the image that goes with it. Then, another person does the social media images. Then, another person does the QA. That’s four people on blog posts.
In podcast episodes, it’s roughly a very similar workflow but we have an additional person who touches it because we have an audio engineer who does the editing for the audio.
Nathan:That’s extremely interesting to me because you have multiple different projects in the works at any given time. I know on Mondays you publish blog posts, Wednesday it’s podcasts, Fridays it’s TV episodes and every weekday Monday through Friday you have Ask Pat.
I’m curious. Four to five people, it’s a relatively small team. How does that team of yours produce so much?
Janna: Really, I cannot tell you how important establishing systems and workflow is. Using a tool like CoSchedule, we are able to stay on track fairly seamlessly. For example with that workflow that I just kind of talked through on the blog posts, the post is written on one day, the next day is when the developmental review is due. The day after that is when there is any revision done if necessary to the post. The next day is the copy editing, the next day is formatting and image creation, the next day is the social media creation and the last day is the QA and scheduling.
Each one of those steps is a task assigned to the person who’s responsible for the task in CoSchedule. It’s in that sequence on the day that it’s due. Each person checks their task off as soon as it’s completed which is essentially the signal for the person who follows behind them now that they can come and do their part.
Just looking at our schedule in CoSchedule on the calendar, I can have a glance see what’s done, what’s not been done. You’re right, our content is being worked on in different stages at any given moment. We can be doing copy editing on a blog post at the same time another post is finalized, QA’d and scheduled. All of that is just really beautifully keep organized in the CoSchedule calendar. Just like I said, I can look at a glance and see what’s done, what’s not been done and check in and see if there’s any problems with a delay and where that delay is happening.
Nathan: It sounds like with so many projects in the works in a given week that you’re working through a lot of them at any given time. One of the things I wanted to know a little bit more from you is, if you can go just a little bit more into detail on that, how do you manage all these multiple projects in the works at once?
Janna: Perhaps a good way to explain it is managing a really organized plan like this does require some strategic thinking. The strategic thinking means, “Okay, in the month of August I want all of my content done and finalized by the last week of July.” What are all of those publish date as you said, every Monday blog post, every Wednesday podcast episode, every other Friday TV episode, Monday through Friday Ask Pat episodes.
I’m looking at the publish month considering all of those dates and then working backwards from there. If I want all my blog posts to be done and finalized by the last week of July, that means Pat has to start writing them in June. I start planning out the dates like that accordingly.
Once I do it once, the template is pretty much there. The template for when Pat needs to start writing a blog post is the same days in advance of the publish date for every blog post.
Nathan: You had mentioned something about specific days of the week that you publish these certain types of content. Just to dive a little deeper into that, why is consistency important for editorial management and the projects that you do for Smart Passive Income?
Janna:I feel like there’s two sides to that answer because there’s consistency. The consistency is important for publishing the content and that is sort of content marketing one on one like everyone in the industry will say, “Consistency is key because you have to let your audience know what to expect from you. That’s what keeps in coming back because they know when they’re going to be getting new content from you on a regular basis.”
If you’re going to maintain consistency in your publishing schedule, it first has to start in your editorial management because there’s no way to maintain all of those publish dates on a consistent basis unless you have the behind the scenes planning and management that’s going to support that consistent publishing schedule.
In terms of management, consistency is really the only way to keep track of so many moving parts. If the same thing is happening on the same day every week, then everyone on the team knows what’s supposed to happen, when it’s supposed to happen, and it keeps everything moving in the way it’s supposed to. Managing content really is like a sweet spot for someone who thrives on consistency and that’s typically where more type A personality comes into play with a job like this.
Nathan: I get that because I’m kind of there too. I’m with you.
Janna: Sure. Yeah.
Nathan: You had mentioned details, process, and system. I’m sure all of that helps with consistency too. I’m going to throw it out there, you’re a pro.
Nathan: There’s so much that we can all learn from this.
One other question I want to ask you, you have the bank of content that’s done for an entire month. How far ahead are you planning ideas on your calendar?
Janna: That is usually six to twelve months. We are currently planned through the end of 2016 for Smart Passive Income. It will be some time in September where we start looking at the first six months of 2017.
Nathan: That is great. That’s way ahead. Proactive is really great advice. I think that it helps a lot with that problem of the blinking cursor.
Janna: Absolutely. That whole idea of starting with a monthly theme or focus really allows for content creators to have a framework to start with instead of just having random content that doesn’t relate to each other.
That’s another big part of editorial management, especially when you have multiple channels. Planning allows you to let your content relate to each other or across multiple channels.
For example with the example that I was talking about starting with Smart Passive Income plan for email marketing one month, affiliate marketing the next month, etc. If you go back and look at October 2015, we did a blog post on how to get your subscribers to open your email every time you send. At that time, Pat had also switched his email service provider to Convert Kit. He did this huge long epic blog post on, “Why I switched from AWeber to InfusionSoft to Convert Kit.” Then, he had Nathan Barry as a podcast guest the same month. He also did a Convert Kit demo for an SPI TV Episode the same month.
The planning is really what allows you to be strategic like that across multiple channels instead of just having stuff that doesn’t relate to each other. That’s a much more robust experience for your audience.
Nathan: I think that’s just a different answer for that consistency. Having the theme match each other, your content is consistent together.
Nathan: With that in mind and all of the other advice that you just kind of given me, what would be some of your best advice for someone new to editorial management that would really help them plan ahead to get ahead of their schedule?
Janna: Start by just coming up with your monthly themes or focus. Do three months at a time. If you can do three months, you can probably do six months. You’d be surprise how quickly it’s easy to get to twelve months. Before you know it, you have the whole year.
From there, you can think about, okay, what’s my frequency? My publishing frequency? Am I publishing a blog post once a week? Am I publishing podcast once a week? In that case, you would need four blog post topics for each theme, four podcast topics or guests for each theme. You just kind of break it down into more manageable chunks in that way.
Nathan: That’s great advice. I absolutely love it. Planning ahead, breaking down large ideas into more manageable things. I want to ask you one last question as we wrap up this podcast, what’s your next big project at Smart Passive Income?
Janna: We are currently working on and probably by the time this episode goes live it will hopefully have been announced on Smart Passive Income but we’re working on a course.
Nathan: Oh, that’s great.
Nathan: I bet there’s some supplementary content to help other people launch their own course too.
Nathan: Awesome, Janna. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today. I know I learned a lot. I absolutely love that bank idea and how far out ahead you plan. The themes really help the idea of starting with something big and breaking it down into manageable chunks of tasks to complete, all that is really great advice. Thanks again for being on the podcast.
Janna: You’re so welcome. Thank you for having me. I love it.