Randomness is the enemy of profitable content marketing. You need a content plan. And you need an editorial calendar, because that provides the foundation for your plan, helping you think through and execute your marketing tactics.
Newspaper and magazine publishers wouldn’t think of working without this tool, and content marketers have learned why. An editorial calendar is actually the first step in any successful publishing effort, regardless of whether the medium is traditional print or some online format.
What can an editorial calendar do for your clients?
Whether you’re managing only your client's website and a blog or your content plan calls for myriad formats and delivery channels, a calendar enables you to get organized and stay focused. It streamlines your content creation and distribution process and provides a coordinated, single-source matrix that significantly simplifies management.
An editorial calendar helps assure you’re reaching all your target audiences, at each of their various buying stages, and that you’re taking advantage of all the formats and channels you want to use. That ensures that your content has maximum value.
You can more easily integrate your entire marketing program and make better use of repurposing to get the most mileage from content you create – you’re creative and efficient, but never redundant.
A calendar saves time and improves collaboration among marketing team members. It helps you maintain a consistent publishing schedule and avoid missing marketing opportunities. It gives you a double-check to be sure you’re addressing your overall business and marketing goals as well as specific campaign goals.
Your editorial calendar will spark ideas. And it will force you to think in advance about how to most effectively implement your content plan.
Your content management software probably has a built-in editorial calendar. But there also are plenty of free templates online. Try one of these two.
What should you include?
Ultimately, that depends on the complexity of your content plan. A spreadsheet format lets you see everything at a glance, and it’s expandable. There are several essential elements to a successful editorial calendar – actions you need to take, things you need to think about. Five of these elements come from journalism.
- Target persona.
- Target buying stage (engagement cycle).
- Name of the person responsible for each action.
- Title/headline (or at least a working title, you can finalize it later).
- Call to action.
- Initial content due date
- Editing due date, if applicable
- Publication date.
- Format (type of content -- text, image, video, etc.).
- Delivery channels.
- “Notes” – reference citations, key talking points, links to include or other content highlights.
- “Think tank” – store ideas for future content all in one place, where everyone can see them and contribute as something comes to mind.
- Keep track of upcoming opportunities to tie content to your own, industry or community topics such as product introductions, events such as trade shows, specific campaigns, seasonal promotions and company achievements.
But a successful editorial calendar requires two more elements:
Your content plan is constantly evolving, as is the world around you. Be prepared to go off-schedule from time to time, as current events or new opportunities crop up.
Because content marketing never ends, it can feel overwhelming. Thankfully, we all know that celebrating small successes along the way creates a sense of accomplishment and boosts morale.
An editorial calendar builds accountability, because everyone can see who’s responsible for specific actions and whether things are being done on time. But here’s the best part: you can check off action items when they’re done. Good job! Color coding is a simple way to do this.
It’s a tool, not an end in itself.
Include everything important for your process – at your level of complexity – without cluttering with extraneous detail. But remember that it pays to be organized. If you have a large marketing team, an editorial calendar enables you to be better coordinated and collaborative. If you’re a marketing team of one, using the calendar will save you time and help you be more effective. No matter who you are, you’ll be more successful.
Your client's content plan requires quality and timeliness. An editorial calendar ensures you continue to offer both, systematically and effectively.