How to Create an Effective Editorial Calendar
Not just for publishers, but for SEO, content & digital marketing
These days, for most of us that are involved with digital publishing, in whatever form, it pays to be organised. However, there still seems to exist some notion that the creation of an editorial calendar is strictly limited to editors of magazines and newspapers, whether they be in print or digital form.
However, that’s not the case and it’s true to say that most businesses can benefit from having an editorial calendar, especially those involved with marketing. Bearing this in mind, here’s some great tips on how to create an editorial calendar that will have your content production purring like a well-oiled machine.
The point of an editorial calendar is not just to give an overview of what you’re publishing and when, but also who you’re publishing to and the best ways of gaining engagement by doing so.
Make a list
The first thing to do is to make a comprehensive list of what you publish, when and where. Include guest posting, social, press releases, anything in fact that involves you publishing content online and off.
You may be surprised at this point just how much material you have to get through each month and wonder how you ever got it all done.
Then look at repeats and frequency, what times you have to post social updates based on each industry/demographic you’re working with and so on. This is different for various age groups, global locations, but use your own analytics findings to help with this too.
Once you have all of the information to hand, you can begin to bring the calendar together.
Start with repetitive work
Do you know exactly who deals with what and what they are expected to deliver and when? If not then you really should and you should further breakdown the list by making assignations. You can use a different colour for each member of staff and provide a key, so everyone knows what’s expected of them.
Then it’s a case of breaking down the work you have that is published regularly. So, if you have to publish a blog a day, then this needs to be assigned to the relevant person, ensuring that the deadline and publishing date is clear.
Get your priorities right
You should of course already have a content strategy worked out that looks at existing content, including what comes from outsourcing and guest posts. The channels that you are going to target and sharing the content should also be included.
Content strategy should take into account your goals, including the target audience and why it’s being included. This means that you will have a good overview of how the calendar should be balanced in terms of what you want to achieve.
It’s also your job to ensure that your content producers work to your rules, house style, legalities and so on. To this end, it’s good practice to develop a ‘house style’ if you haven’t already done, which can be used alongside your brand persona guidelines to ensure that colleagues keep within its boundaries.
The house style should match your persona in terms of style. For example, is the tone of voice that’s required friendly and informal, or does it take a more corporate tone. This is dictated by your target audience and should be uniform so that the message is carried across platform and media.
It’s a very good idea to develop a style and ensure that everyone who works on content has a copy of it.
Keeping it simple
Do try not to overcomplicate things, the simpler the calendar, the better, as the aim is to streamline the process, not create confusion. You can get editorial tools that can help with this, depending on the size of your organisation and scope of your content publishing.
However, in many cases a simple spreadsheet will do and also has the advantage that many people who share the calendar will already know how to use it. If using a spreadsheet, you can colour-code it according to content type and person responsible too.
Once you have all content and relevant personnel organised, it’s time to pull the calendar together. Firstly, decide the timescale, are you going to plan a whole year in advance, or will 3 months suffice?
Your content strategy should be able to dictate this to a certain extent, but you’ll also need to bear in mind specific times of the year when you’ll be publishing themed content, such as holiday or industry events.
By looking at what events are taking place over the course of the allocated editorial months, you will also be able to further streamline content ideas and even titles. For example, the Social Media Marketing Conference is due to take place in March/April of 2014, so this is something that can be covered by attendees. This immediately gives you a title and topic that you know will be relevant to your readers if you’re in the marketing industry.
You can really get to grips with content titles and ideas by using themes, such as events as mentioned above. Also consider the following:
• Launch of new products/services
• News about the company or its clients
• Sporting events such as the world cup or Wimbledon
• Holidays such as Christmas, Easter, bank holidays
• Industry and other award ceremonies
• Historical events, such as Remembrance day
• Industry exhibitions (especially if you’re attending – you could live tweet!)
• Company anniversary
As you can see, this helps to make it a simple affair to come up with relevant topics which can reduce writer’s block, for example. Sometimes, if a content producer is struggling to come up with fresh ideas as they are approaching it weekly, then an editorial calendar that looks at the above can really boost production.
It also ensures that everyone knows what they are responsible for and puts a stop to “but I thought Dave was doing it…” also giving you accountability when it comes to employees.
Next, it’s time to get the calendar together, including the following headings/information to fill in:
• Title or headline
• Type of content, such as blog, whitepaper, video, infographic
• Who it’s aimed at, or the buyer persona
• Who’s responsible for it
• Submission and print deadline
• Editor and publisher
• A space for notes
• Distribution channels
• Call to Action (engagement, traffic, conversions etc.)
• Meta data tags to track what keywords are associated with content
• A space for analysis so that you can measure effectiveness
• You can also include a separate tab area where those involved can jot down ideas etc. This is especially useful for suggested titles as often, it won’t be possible to come up with those too far in advance. Call it a brainstorming area!
Whatever you use, be it a spreadsheet or other tool, it’s a good idea to ensure that the calendar is shared so that it can be updated in real time. This will avoid confusion and duplicate entries and is simple enough these days with Office 365 or Google Docs, if you don’t have shared network or cloud available.
If you’re not sure where to start, you can find plenty of templates online which can be adapted to your needs, such as this one from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Michael Powers.
It will be down to what you do and the kind of content you produce that will dictate what information is included on the calendar, or if you need a separate one for different departments, along with a master document for the person in charge of each department.
For example, larger firms might have several departments doing different things, so you could create a calendar for each, such as:
• SEO/PPC – tracking all of the technical SEO elements including fresh content and when it needs to be produced and with the department from the producers
• Graphics/designers – will need to have deadlines for imagery and video
• Writers – will need to have deadlines and themes for content
• Social media – will have a different looking calendar as social updates don’t take up as much time and can be scheduled in order to be more productive
This is of course dependant on the size of your company and whether people with content responsibilities overlap, designers and writers for example may need to work together on a project at some stage of its life cycle, whilst marketing won’t get involved until later.
Whilst on the surface of it editorial calendars can look quite intimidating, it’s really just a case of already having a sound strategy in place and then breaking down the details. Once you’ve done this, it will come as a surprise that you ever managed without one.
Organisation is the key to most aspects of business, as is good planning and content is no different, especially if your company produces a lot of it.