By Kath Walters

The volume of “helpful tools” for content marketing is getting to tsumani proportions. I used to be touched; now I am overwhelmed.

Today, I have just one criterion for choosing templates: will this tool help me get my job done faster?

Marketers everywhere are struggling with under-resourced content marketing programs, according to the latest survey by marketing peak body, ADMA.

Producing engaging content is the most pressing problem that marketers face (50%), closely followed by lack of budget (48%), the survey found.

Time-saving strategies make limited budgets go further.

While some marketers are busy cutting their budget for editors and writers (not a good idea if engaging content is a big problem), the smartest marketers are taking another tack.

They are streamlining their publishing, editing and briefing processes, and focusing on strategy and quality.

For smart marketers, there are only three indipensible tools. These are:

Content strategy template

Want more money and a better return on investment for your content marketing program? Document your strategy. Organisations with a documented strategy allocate their programs more resources (31% of their marketing budget compared to 25% for those with a verbal strategy). Documenting your strategy brings a higher ROI, too. Only 20% of marketers believe their content marketing strategy is successful, compared to 33% of those who have a written strategy.

I love this one by Skyword, but if you’d like it all on one page (which is faster), this one by Uncommonly Social is very similar. By the way, don’t forget to include a content calendar in your strategy – the simpler the better. This one by HubSpot is great, and you can always simplify it because it’s an Excel doc.

Persona template

Content marketing is all about reader-focussed content, so detailed, well-thought out personas are a must for each audience in your content marketing program. Journalists are skilled at writing customer-focussed content for your program because media outlets are specialists in building audiences (and selling access to them). If you include a detailed persona when briefing writers and editors, you’ll get better results, faster.

Limit your audiences to three: two in your existing group of customers, and one in an aspirational (target) group. Name your persona after a customer who you actually know, or a person you would love to work with. The best persona template I have found was behind the paywall of the company Marketing Ai, a company with an online editorial calendar that integrates with your strategy. They give you a free trial.

There’s actually a Buyer Persona Institute, with an interesting model supporting their ideas, and also an impressive (if detailed) example. I think it is worth spending time on buyer personas. Unfortunately, when I downloaded the BPI templates, I didn’t get them.

Story brief template

This last is most certainly not the least. A good story brief is the foundation of every brilliant story. I never write a story without developing my own story brief, and if you are commissioning writers, or briefing editors, a story brief is an essential tool to get clarity, to save time and avoid mistakes that can lead to missed deadlines.

The only problem is that I can’t find any online that I think are good. This one from ArticulateMarketing is OK, if a bit long and overdone. I much prefer you to get inspiration from sites that tell you about pitching a story. Why? Because they are focussed on story quality. Quality must be at the centre of our content marketing program.

Here’s nice one from Generation Process. Public radio broadcast, This American Life, has a good guide. I love this story in The Guardian about pitching. You can make up your own template from it.

I use a story brief that I received in a training course decades ago. It is ace. I’m happy to share it with you if you email me.