Editorial calendars can be an invaluable tool when built and maintained correctly. They are:
Sanity-saving: There are a lot of demands on a marketer to produce content and produce it fast. Having an editorial calendar gives you a place to point to and explain that a particular content piece either does or doesn’t fit in the articulated plan for the year.
Cost-conserving: Planning ahead of time for various content types, as well as allocating staff or freelancers to write those pieces, can save an incredible amount of money over time. It can also prevent over-spending later in the year.
Audience-capturing: Having a honed-in editorial calendar can help you identify the target audiences you want for different pieces of content and allow you to capture them at the right times.
Brand-enhancing: Without consistent touchpoints across a year, your brand equity will not be very effective. Being on top of your own events, industry events, other yearly occurrences and understanding how your content fits within all of this activity gives your brand further relevancy.
Before we get started, let’s cover a few fundamentals that will influence how we build our calendar:
A Balance of Objectives
It’s important to consider the balance of human-centered content and brand-centered content. Balancing the topics your organization wants to highlight with the topics your key audiences are looking for will help your organization maintain a cohesive message and focus on the content that benefits everyone.
CORE or Create Once Repurpose Everywhere
CORE is a great way to make your content work harder. Focus on one or two big thought leadership pieces and consider how you can splice up that content into a variety of different mediums and then share it all across social.
Tone and Voice
It’s essential to determine your brand’s tone and voice before you start thinking about how your content can work within an editorial calendar. Establishing a strong and identifiable tone and voice for your organization will allow your content to be shared across channels and be consistently tied back to you and your organization.
Visual Data or Graphics
Be sure to have lots of visual data and graphics in your arsenal of content as well as written pieces to make your content more engaging. In fact, Hubspot reports, “People remember 80% of what they see…and only 20% of what they read.”
Identifying your audience is an essential step to creating an editorial calendar. If the content you create is targeted toward the people who want to read it, you have a greater chance of seeing that content shared across social media and other channels.
Now it’s time to start building. In a perfect world, you’d be doing two things at once in this phase of the process: establishing what events are on your calendar and determining the major themes and goals for your content. Doing this at the same time prevents having to retroactively fit one into the other. Since it’s not always realistic to do two things at once, let’s start with the piece that is usually a little more concrete: the calendar year.
Step 1: Start with whatever standard year format you follow, be that quarters, trimesters or something else.
Step 2: Layer in all the events and announcements your organization has planned for the year.
Step 3: Add in events relevant to your industry.
Step 4: Add in relevant yearly occurrences (holidays, tax season, etc.).
Step 5: Remove any nonessential items. These are things you may have added to the calendar, but that don’t actually fit in your yearly goals and themes.
Step 6: Start grouping things together that hit at similar times in the year. This allows you to identify potential “ramp up” and “ramp down” periods when you can build up excitement or post follow-up materials. This also shows when you might be able to incorporate some CORE strategies. Lastly, these are great opportunities to make sure these groupings align with your business goals and themes.
Step 7: Once you’ve grouped these things together, you’ll be able to identify any gaps in your calendar and add CORE items within these areas of “downtime.”
In the end, you’ll have something that might look similar to this:
A few things to remember moving forward to ensure ongoing management of your calendar:
Now that we’ve realized all the bits of content we need, you’re going to need to identify people to write it. This is a good time to consider what writers internally and externally might be able to contribute.
Consider an Article Series
Breaking larger pieces of content up into 4-5 blog posts as part of a series is a great way to stretch a budget and also help to fill in any gaps in your calendar.
As the year progresses, you may need to shift items around on your calendar. This can happen if a conference is rescheduled, if a writer needs more time or if you determine an article is better suited for later in the year. Whenever items shift on the calendar, though, double check to ensure you aren’t leaving any gaps.
Check-ins and Brainstorming
Since things are likely to shift in your calendar, it’s a good idea to schedule weekly check-ins. You can either do these alone or with your team. Use this time to evaluate the current state of the calendar and determine if any changes are needed.