Somebody asked me what an editorial plan is. She’s been told she needs one to help her with an e-zine she’s starting, but she wasn’t clear whether that was a business plan or not; and what the difference might be. This is my answer.
An editorial plan isn’t really the same thing as a business plan. It’s probably not a matter of formats or structure, but rather getting three important things straight:
- Target audience. Try to define your target as narrowly as possible. Think about standard factors like age, gender, occupation, interests, and go from there, if you can, to other factors such as where they browse, what searcher, what kind of links are attractive, etc. What are the needs involved, and the benefits.
- Content. What are you going to offer to that target audience? Short articles, long pieces, blog posts, online tools, profiles and social media hooks, or what? What are they looking for, and what are you providing? Here too, the narrower the focus, the better.
- Fulfillment. Where do you get the content? Do you hire writers and reporters? Editors? Pay freelancers? Aggregate content already available? Where does it come from? How much will it cost?
If you have these three elements straight, you have the heart of a plan done. However, even with your editorial plan in place, you still don’t have the heart of the business plan done until you also add the sales and marketing plans. To make this a business plan, you have to add some more content, such as what are the key messages and how are you going to get them to the target audience.
Then, with the heart done, add the flesh and bones, and add specifics and concrete details, such as:
- When are how are you going to meet, and with whom, to review results?
- What are your most important assumptions?
- Who does what, when, and how much will that cost?
- Some basic numbers: estimate sales, cost of sales, and expenses, and pull those estimates together into a cash plan. Do you need financing? Are you borrowing money?
The need for some additional information, like company legal formation and history, and management team backgrounds, depends on your specific business situation: if you have to show this plan to others who have a say on whether or not you get the money, then you produce a plan document that gives those others this additional information. Or, if you’re developing the plan just to manage the company and reduce uncertainty, then you don’t waste your time writing explanations nobody but you will read. Form follows function.
For more information, I’m going to give you links to my latest book, the Plan-As-You-Go Business Plan, which you can read entirely on line for free if you want; plus my previous book, Hurdle: the Book on Business Planning, which you can also read online for free if you want; plus Bplans.com, which has hundreds of complete sample business plans so you can see what others have done. Use them just as examples, the format and the kind of information contained, because you won’t find any that describe your business.