Planning Makes Perfect: The Nuts and Bolts of Editorial Calendars and Why You Need One
"I think someone wrote about that recently. A few months ago. Can you ask around?"
Organizations that develop content without first implementing a content strategy run the risk of duplication, time management inefficiencies and even appearing unorganized to their audience.
Engaging content fuels all communication channels, including your blog, newsletter, website and social media-and a well-planned editorial calendar helps ensure you're sharing the right content with the right audience at the right time.
Editorial calendars are no longer limited to publishers and news outlets as a way to sell ad space in future issues. Organizations, large and small, can successfully drive their content marketing strategy with this simple planning resource.
Here, we answer some frequently asked questions about the basics of developing and managing an editorial calendar.
What is an editorial calendar?
In the simplest terms, it's a planning document that helps you define what to publish, where to publish and when to publish.
Why do I need an editorial calendar?
These days, nearly all companies have several owned media channels for sharing content, which may include newsletters, a company blog and website, podcasts and/or multiple social media channels.
An editorial calendar helps you create a plan for leveraging all of your content across each of these channels. For example, when you invest research, time and funding to develop a comprehensive white paper, you can use the resulting content as inspiration for crafting multiple blog and newsletter articles, launching a podcast series or publishing a number of social media posts. Ideally, all of the above!
What should my editorial calendar look like?
Format is an important consideration. Paid solutions, like custom software and online applications, are available. But, in many cases, Word or Excel documents that are organized into various categories of importance (see below) will meet your basic needs when you're getting started.
What information should I track?
The fields for your editorial calendar will vary by need, but you can get started with a few basic fields such as:
- Content themes or "buckets"
Choose from themes like company announcements, industry news, tutorials, customer testimonials or service-line overviews.
Develop specific content that aligns with your themes, like awards your company recently received, a shift in your industry with an overview of how your company is responding or a deep dive into a service you offer and how it benefits your clients.
Determine who is responsible for tracking, collecting, editing, approving and publishing the content. If you have a large team, these roles may be assigned to different team members.
Choose the person who is responsible for developing the actual piece of content.
Decide where your resulting content should be published.
Keep track of where your content is in the authoring, editing, approval and publishing process so you know what has been shared and what is pending.
Track audience engagement so you can tweak your themes and sub-topics to align with what your audience is most interested in receiving.
How do I decide what content to create?
To develop topics, start by thinking about your industry as a whole. Are there significant events or seasons around which you should plan? Then think about your company. Consider developing content about your products and services, issues or topics relevant to your audience and information about your company's values and leadership.
Where should I share my content?
Once you establish your content, think about where that information should be made available. When choosing communication channels, keep your audience and the unique channel platforms in mind. For instance, if you write a long-form blog article, you may want to publish that same article on LinkedIn, and then pull a short quote from the article to publish on Instagram or Twitter.
How often should we push out content?
Publishing frequency will be determined largely by your own capacity and where your audience spends their time. For example, if the majority of your audience is on Facebook, you might want to publish five Facebook posts per week, but only one video per month to YouTube. You don't need to be on all channels all the time-it's more important to spend your time creating and publishing compelling content on the channels where you see the most engagement.
What is the best way to share and edit the calendar?
Version control is real. Most of us have received a document from someone, laboriously tracked our edits and sent it back to find out we were unknowingly working from an old version. If multiple people will have editing rights to your calendar, consider hosting it on a shared server with editing control like Box, DropBox or SharePoint so it can be a "living" document with real-time updates from all owners.
As part of our PR, Marketing and Communications services, Approach Marketing often develops custom editorial calendars for clients across industries. With dozens under our belts, here are a few of our top tips and tricks for bringing life to your content through this planning process:
- Keep the purpose in mind. As multiple authors will likely be necessary, keep the target audience, content focus and company goals in mind for all writing to stay on-topic and aligned to the brand.
- Incorporate visuals. When people hear information, they're likely to remember only 10 percent of that information three days later. However, if a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retained 65% of the information three days later. (Source)
- Include a call to action. Having clear next steps for your audience will ensure you are aligning your content strategy to company goals.
- Be flexible. Don't be afraid to make changes or switch topics to provide better value to your audience.
There are many different approaches to developing an editorial calendar. We hope these tips will help you find a format that works best for you and your organization.
Need help getting started with your content marketing strategy and developing an editorial calendar? We can help. Approach us anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.