How to create an editorial calendar that works for you
What’s an editorial calendar, and why you need it
When talking about editorial calendars in the context of content marketing, the term refers to a scheduling tool that helps you plan for content creation and publishing across different promotional channels: corporate blog, newsletters, social media platforms etcetera.
Many solopreneurs and small business owners fear that planning for blogging and social media would result in a mechanisation of content distribution and come across as unnatural. However, this only happens when we forcibly opt for discussion topics, content formats and distribution platforms that don’t resonate with us.
Planning is just about devising actionable steps that will help you achieve the goals defined in your marketing plan. Deciding on how to “get there” – with podcasts, videos, blog posts or else – depends on your audience’s preferences as well as your own.
The point is: launching a corporate blog or a YouTube channel only takes a few minutes. Achieving results with content marketing is not as easy.
In Content Inc., Joe Pulizzi – founder of the Content Marketing Institute – estimates an average of 15-17 months of consistent content creation and distribution before monetization. AKA, tons of work.
An editorial calendar can help you:
- Be consistent and stay motivated;
- Develop a communication strategy that supports your business goals;
- Coordinate content distribution and promotion across different channels;
- Work smarter and reduce content-induced stress.
The difference between a plan and a calendar
People new to the content and social media marketing game find it hard to distinguish between an editorial calendar and an editorial calendar.
Long story short: the calendar stems from the plan. An editorial plan is a document that defines your overall content strategy based on your target audience: objectives, topics and formats, distribution channels & CO.
Publishing random content at random – yes, I wrote that on purpose – won’t translate into long-term benefits and results. The universe won’t magically inspire your blog readers to check out your e-shop (or get in touch to learn more about your services).
Your editorial plan should detail the goals you’d like to achieve with your content marketing – brand awareness, sales or else – as well as how you will use “content” to get there.
Once you know WHAT to publish and WHY, it’s time to define the timing. And that’s where the editorial calendar comes into play as the roadmap of your content marketing journey.
What should you include in your editorial calendar?
Most solopreneurs use their editorial calendar as a scheduling tool for blog posts. However, this approach limits the effectiveness of the tool, which could instead help you grasp a comprehensive overview of all the nice things you share with your audience.
So, consider all content formats you will use: texts, audio files, videos, online or offline events. This will make it easier for you to plan for content creation so that it fits your workload patterns nicely. Effective marketing takes time and patience – but you also need to keep up with regular work and all the rest of your (business) life.
With your general calendar in mind, you can also devise smaller calendars for everyday use. As an example, you could keep a separate calendar for social media updates and campaigns. If you find it easier to manage two Excel sheets rather than one, go for it. As long as you developed your editorial calendar as a whole, you’ll be fine.
What you need to know to create your calendar
Content marketing can be a powerful ally. When done right and consistently, it helps you extend the reach of your business whilst consolidating your market presence and credibility.
To get the most out of your editorial calendar, make it mid-term – covering six months to one year. Sounds too much to handle? Start small, at 3 or 4 months. With shorter time spans, reaping the benefits of planning would be more difficult.
Before you start populating your calendar, create an overview of product launches and offers scheduled over the period covered by the calendar. You can easily source this information from your marketing plan. This will help you align your content creation efforts to your overall marketing goals.
Also, prepare a list of events and dates which are relevant to your business. Festivities, seasonal events and occasions that usually have an impact on your sales volumes. This will provide you some guidance on topics you might want to cover – and will help you “connect the dots” between content and products more easily.
Finally, you need to decide on a publishing frequency. In the past, you probably stumbled upon a range of “success formulas” revolving around frequency of content distribution… but there’s no such thing as an all-purpose remedy. It all depends on your preferred distribution platforms and channels, content types, budget and readership (or audience).
Remember: quality and consistency are key. A realistic schedule and achievable goals trump dreamlike resolutions. All in all, your editorial calendar should be at your service.
Still struggling over “the best” publishing frequency for you?
Here’s a basic scheme you can tailor to your needs:
- 4 posts/month on your corporate blog
- 2 posts/month on non-owned platforms (e.g. LinkedIn or Medium)
- 1 newsletter/month
- 3-4 lead generation resources/year (e.g. eBooks, in-depth video tutorials or webinars)
- Frequent social media updates (as per your chosen platforms’ best practices).
To adjust this or other pre-set schemes, consider the importance of each channel/platform in the context of your overall communication strategy. Also, consider varying the frequency of content market activities based on time-limited offers, product launches etcetera.
How to populate your editorial calendar
OK, we’re almost there. You have devised your editorial calendar, decided on a sustainable publishing frequency, pondered all circumstances that might affect your content creation cycles.
Now it’s time to populate the calendar. How so?
Again: start with your objectives and important dates in mind. This will help you coordinate and optimise your activities across different channels. In the long run, this will naturally contribute to your long-term marketing goals.
Then, take it from there. Harmonise topics coverage and pay close attention to what your audience expects, wants or needs. Here are a few key aspects to weight in.
Seasonal relevance and trends
While seasonal trends have greater impact on product-based businesses, service providers shouldn’t forget about seasonality altogether. As an example, a photographer would probably get more request over the weddings season; similarly, graphic design studios and copywriters might get a workload peak during the trade fairs season.
Keeping an eye on seasonal trends can be a good way to publish relevant content at the right time. Just make sure you don’t overdo it, otherwise your marketing strategy will sound just like everybody else’s.
Each content marketing piece can (1) help solve a problem, (2) inform about how your products and services make your customers’ lives easier, or (3) entertain your audience whilst providing more insights about your brand identity and attitude.
Publishing content that is not strictly sales-related might sound counterintuitive. And yet, it provides meaningful long-term benefits. Entertainment-oriented content reinforce the perception of your (personal) brand and help you connect with your ideal clients on a different level.
Diversifying content types is also a good idea. Mix short reflection pieces and in-depth articles, audio and video content, eBooks, infographics and more. You’ll score extra points for content freshness whilst suiting the needs and preferences of different target segments.
I firmly believe in the power of coherent content strategies. However, this doesn’t mean that your publications should revolve around a single topic or point of view. That would be the tomb of spontaneity altogether.
A coherent editorial calendar is more about how your chosen topics support your overall business narrative. Micro-actions (such as a single blog post) should reflect your broader vision and provide guidance to your audience – i.e. help them understand, appreciate and desire the added value they can get from working with you (or buying from you).
Bonus: editorial calendar template
Ready to work on your content strategy? There’s a treat in store for you: an editorial calendar template (Excel) you can customise in just a few clicks.
Want to download it free? Sign up for Quicksilver, my newsletter. Quicksilver lands in your inbox once a month (or so). It brings you tips and resources to help you narrate your business story and reach your goals.