To create content that your audience will keep coming back for, it’s important to ensure that it’s consistent, relevant, and valuable. There are a lot of moving parts to your business, though, and it can be tough to decide on what content will help your company reach its goals. It will take some work, but an editorial calendar is a great place to start.
At its most basic, an editorial calendar addresses two concerns: what content are you producing and when are you publishing it. However, there’s much more to it than that. Your editorial calendar will allow you get a better idea of what kind of content you should be publishing because you can see it in relation to your other content and your company’s goals as a whole.
“An editorial calendar is a key strategic and organizational tool for content marketers and bloggers and the best ones are flexible,” says content writer Sharon Hurley Hall. “For me, a good editorial calendar makes it easy to shift content around without breaking anything (especially when integrated with a blogging system) and allows you to manage a wide range of content types from the same space.”
With an effective editorial calendar you’ll be able to plan for the entire year while breaking it down to have a steady stream of content.
The Big Picture
Your content strategy is only one part of your business – an important part to be sure but still one that has to work in conjunction with the rest of the company. You have timelines, goals, resources, and more that need to be considered when you’re developing content to communicate with your audience. This is the first place that you’ll recognize the value of an editorial calendar.
To give yourself a bird’s-eye view of everything that needs to be kept in mind you should start out with a full-year calendar. Break up the year into months and quarters, as both are beneficial. Your company likely has quarterly goals and it’s important that your content works toward meeting those goals.
Knowing what you’re aiming for – revenue, customer action, and so on – will help you determine what actions you need to take to make sure you’re headed down the right path. Dividing the year into months will let you see what’s coming up on the horizon. You might know of an event, like a conference or presentation, that’s scheduled for later in the year; with that in mind you can plan relevant content to capitalize on the anticipation of the event, to provide your audience with topical information, or to reflect on a previous or similar event. You’ll also know ahead of time that you will want to prepare something for after the event: summarize it, comment on a particular speaker, or expand on a specific topic that was brought up that will be of interest to your audience.
Knowing what you’re aiming for – revenue, customer action, and so on – will help you determine what actions you need to take to make sure you’re headed down the right path.
Your content will be planned on a day-by-day basis but your overall strategy has a much further reach that spans days, weeks, or even months. Knowing in advance what you can capitalize on and plan around makes creating individual pieces of content a much smoother process.
Part of your editorial calendar is a macro view of your content strategy, but the other part requires you to dig deeper into what you’ll actually produce.
Luckily, now that you’ve outlined broader goals and benchmarks it will be easier to reach them. If you know, for instance, that you have a certain marketing campaign running in March and an industry expo in June, all you need to do is plan the content that will go around them. You can create a calendar for every month, or use individual tabs on your yearly calendar for each month. You can then add an entry for each day to lay out the content you want to publish. It should be straightforward enough that everyone on your team can access it and know who is expected to do what, and when it needs to be completed. This is where you get into the real nitty-gritty of your calendar:
- What is the topic?
- Who is working on a particular piece of content?
- When will it be published?
- What about the larger timeline – when a draft needs to be completed, when it needs to be edited or reviewed, and so on?
- What keywords will you be targeting?
- How will you track the success of content based on your goals for it, and what metrics will you use to determine success or failure?
- Is the content related to a particular product, event, or promotion?
- In which channels will it be published?
- What is its current status?
You can use this view to not only look into the future, but also to reflect on the past. Knowing when, where, and how you previously published content is a great way to figure out what to do going forward. If something was well-received you might do a series on similar topics or repurpose the content for future use. A blog post can be turned into a Slideshare presentation, for example, to reach a whole new audience. Conversely, you might find that something didn’t resonate as well as you’d hoped it would and you need to pivot your upcoming marketing plans. Seeing everything at once can also make errors jump out at you. Are you writing too much on a particular topic, or are you not giving enough attention to, say, your Instagram audience? With all of your content laid out, knowing which changes to make and updating your calendar is simple.
Putting It All Together
You should be able to lay a monthly calendar on top of your year-long calendar and see the symmetry between them.
If you aren’t working toward your larger goals on a month-by-month and week-by-week basis, it’s time to rethink your marketing strategy. Remember all of those details you added to your individual pieces of content? They’re crucial in making sure everything is headed in the right direction.
If a quarter has a specific goal – like an X% increase in customer acquisition – you’ll know at a glance which pieces of content are working toward that goal and how well they’re doing it. Does that blog post you wrote contain a call to action to encourage customers to sign up for a service? How well did a topic or channel work in converting a consumer of the content to a customer based on set criteria?
Similarly, by looking at the whole year you’ll have planned for seasonal content, such as for holidays. You’ll be ready when your company starts its Christmas marketing push and when you need to have content in order to support it, and you’ll know when to wrap it up and start on the next campaign.
Think of your editorial calendar as a puzzle: having a yearly calendar is like looking at the picture on the box, and breaking it down by month and individual content gives you the pieces you need to complete the puzzle.
Think of your editorial calendar as a puzzle: having a yearly calendar is like looking at the picture on the box, and breaking it down by month and individual content gives you the pieces you need to complete the puzzle. You will learn what worked and what didn’t, ultimately giving you the power to craft content that’s valuable to your audience.
Programs to Use
Once you know what you should be doing, the next step is figuring out how to do it. What software works best when creating your own calendar? A simple spreadsheet is a great place to start: Microsoft Excel or Google Drive provide spreadsheets in an easy-to-read layout; you can create tabs for each month and use color coded rows and columns to mark author, channel, status, or anything else you’d like. You can also use an actual calendar for your editorial calendar.
With Google Calendar, for example, you can create tasks on specific days and, again, color-code them as needed. You won’t be able to add as many details as you can with the rows and columns of a spreadsheet but a calendar can give you a very clear picture of exactly when tasks will be completed in relation to each other.
Finally, there are free and paid programs specifically designed for your editorial needs. Certain publishing platforms like WordPress have editorial calendar plugins that integrate your calendar right into your blog. DivvyHQ, Kapost, and Brightpod are just a few popular software services. Hurley Hall recommends CoSchedule, which allows her to “schedule multiple social media posts as well as blog posts.” When deciding on a dedicated tool, keep in mind things like cost, complexity, and any extra features you may or may not want that can help or hinder the process.
When it comes to creating an editorial calendar there isn’t any one-size-fits-all solution, so don’t be afraid to experiment with different programs, layouts, and methods. The most important thing to remember is to craft a calendar for your specific needs that does what you need it to do; it should work for you, not against you.
A little organizing and some planning ahead can go a long way in ensuring a reliable, consistent stream of content to keep your audience coming back for more!