In content marketing, a term that’s often thrown around is the editorial calendar. It’s usually used in the context of “write a post, throw it on your editorial calendar, and move on to other aspects of your marketing.” When you go out to search, you find a few plugins and it all seems self-explanatory. It’s a calendar that you use to plan your content. Essentially, a readout of your upcoming scheduled posts. What’s so complicated about that?
Well, there’s more to an editorial calendar than just scheduling posts and letting it ride. You have to plan your content, you have to consider weekdays and weekends, timing and content type. You have to consider all of the different places you can post content. Plus, there’s the overall content planning aspect as well.
I’m going to go over some details, ranging from why you need a content calendar to how you should go about planning the content you’re going to create. By the time you’re done with this post, you should be able to adapt it into a solid business plan.
Picture a traditional desk calendar; you know, one of those big ones with plenty of space to write important meetings, deadlines, and timelines on. Got it?
Now use that calendar to plan out what content you want to post, and when. This is actually a lot more important than you might think. Have you ever realized at the last minute that Memorial Day is coming up, and that you can write a few special blog posts to put up during that week, to capitalize on the holiday? With an editorial calendar, you can see that coming up and you can plan where exactly that content goes, in the grand scheme of your overall marketing.
An editorial calendar can also double as a workflow management document (the one in the picture above, if you’re curious, is Kapost). For example, if you have a blog post you want written by August 15, you can write that deadline on the calendar. You can also write down who you assigned to write the article, and what their deadline is. You can assign deadlines for revisions, allowing space for unexpected issues, and have it all planned out in a visual format.
Beyond that, you know the post goes up on August 15th, and you can take things one step further. You can note down on the 15th which social media accounts you post the article to, and you can schedule out reposts in the future for additional coverage.
The primary benefit of having all of this information in one place, on a calendar, is to have one singular visual representation of your entire content marketing plan. You’ll be able to see at a glance how your articles are progressing, what needs to be shared on which day, and if you have any gaps in coverage. Even if all you do is the bare minimum, making sure you have one post every day, it helps keep you consistent and avoid missed days.
Warning: this is going to be a beefy section. If you’re already convinced of the value of a good, robust editorial calendar, you can skip to the next section. Otherwise, read on, and I’ll convince you.
The main variance from business to business is what they include in their editorial calendar. I’ve seen some blogs with nothing more than the schedules for uploading blog posts, and that’s fine; they keep the rest of their marketing organized in other ways. I’ve seen other businesses with deep, complex calendars with a dozen different types of content, posting locations and marketing channels listed. Here are some ideas of what you can include in your calendar. Keep in mind you don’t need to include all of them, and in fact might not even have all of them to include in the first place.
There are a few different types of editorial calendar you can use, and you’re going to have to choose which type you want.
First, there’s the basic textual editorial calendar. You can see some examples of these here. I don’t consider these to be very useful for content marketing or planning; they’re too basic and include too little. They’re also not laid out in a graphical calendar sense, which is ideal for visualization. They can be useful, however, to show your audience your schedule in broad strokes.
Next, we have the paper editorial calendar. You can see an example of that at the link above as well; a traditional desk calendar stuck with a bunch of different colored sticky notes. This can be good as a basic office decoration, but again, it’s not as useful for planning. A digital calendar works so much better and does all of the same work, just with more flexibility.
There’s also the spreadsheet-and-template ideal. A program like Excel works very well when you format it properly, but it can take a lot of work to create the macros and formulas necessary to get it really working for you. That’s why templates exist.
Most basic editorial calendar functionality can also be found through a WordPress plugin. There are several prominent editorial calendar plugins available; I recommend you research each of them and see if they can do the work you want them to do.
The most complex, robust, and useful editorial calendars are actually stand-alone apps or software. They hook into your social media, into your task management, into your CMS, and they monitor everything. You can use them to schedule everything from one central hub, complete with actual management of your content streams, rather than just imported data.
What process can you use to fill out your editorial calendar? In addition to actually creating content itself, you need to have a plan for creating more, as well as a plan for promoting it when you’ve made it.
It’s a lot of work setting up a calendar, and over time, you might falter with maintaining it. You might also cut corners along the way. Whether you have an old calendar or you’re setting up a new one, it’s possible you might make mistakes. Here are some common mistakes and methods to fixing the issues.
One mistake is using more than one editorial calendar for different aspects of your business. It’s okay to use one for content and one for PPC, but I wouldn’t recommend using any more than that unless you’re a very large company with a lot of different marketing campaigns running at once. Maybe if you’re multi-national and need to market to different geographic regions independently it can work. Consolidate your calendars so everything is available at a glance. If your current method of running a calendar doesn’t handle that much content at once, upgrade to a better calendar.
Another mistake is just not using the calendar enough. Any time something related to your content marketing is scheduled make sure it’s on the calendar. Forgetting to do so can lead to perceived holes in your content stream that you fill, only to find out other content was posted and you just forgot. You never need to “keep it in mind” if it’s there on your calendar.
If you’re including social media on your calendar – and you should be – it’s easy to forget that different sites have different ideal post frequencies. When you post a piece of content, you should also post on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ if you use them. You don’t necessarily need to immediately share on Reddit, LinkedIn, or another platform; those can wait. Twitter needs multiple posts per day, so you should make sure to have other content scheduled as well. Facebook benefits from 1-2 posts per day, so you don’t need the same concentration. Treat each social media site differently according to its utility.
Another mistake that many businesses make is just not looking back over your calendar and comparing it to your analytics. A calendar is by definition concerned with the future, with content scheduling, and so forth. Analytics, by contrast, focus on the past. Combine the two, though, and you have a powerful source of information.