One of the simplest content marketing tools is also the most powerful: It’s the editorial calendar.
Very successful content marketers are more than twice as likely than unsuccessful content marketers to use an editorial calendar (16% versus 7%). I can also tell you from my own experience as a news editor, it makes life a whole lot less stressful. The organizational skills I learned as an editor are applicable to content marketing too.
If you feel like you’re always behind schedule, it’s time to adopt one of the most effective ways to stay on track. Here’s what to consider as you set up your own editorial calendar.
1. Make the connection between your content and your goals.
The editorial or content calendar is often thought of as a tactical tool, best suited for day-to-day management of publishing. You can get more value out of your content – and drive better results – if you start thinking of the calendar as a strategic tool.
Every piece of content should support your business goals, yet it’s easy to lose sight of this once you’re managing the daily pressure of publication. Even if you’ve distilled your content strategy into your content plan, have you made the connection between today’s posts and your organizational goals?
If not, take a moment to compare your business goals to your list of planned content. How many campaigns will truly make a difference? Are there any gaps that need to be filled? When you align your content with your business goals, you’ll be more likely to see better results.
2. Build your calendar around themes.
Once you have a high-level map, you can finetune your calendar by identifying the key themes in your content strategy. I recommend building your content calendar by quarter and focusing on a particular theme for each. This theme should be big enough to cover the top priorities for that particular quarter.
For example, let’s say you have three separate products launching. Find the common thread among them – perhaps it’s a benefit like productivity. That then becomes your theme for the quarter. Most (though not all) content should address different aspects of that topic.
Organizing your content by quarterly themes makes planning your entire year significantly easier.
3. But…don’t plan too far in advance.
While it’s fine to identify themes for the full year, resist the temptation to look too far ahead. It’s not realistic to put detailed plans together more than a couple of months at a time.
We all know how rapidly things can change (hello, pandemic!). Use your time efficiently and plan no more than three months ahead. I recommend mapping out plans for the next quarter at least six weeks in advance of its start.
|Quarter||Begin planning in:|
|April – June||February|
|July – September||May|
|October – December||August|
4. Be ready to pivot.
The best-laid plans – never go to plan. Content ideas fall through. Opportunities arise – say one of your biggest clients wants to partner with you on some content marketing. Of course, you’ll adjust your calendar because it’s well worth doing.
Other times, you might have a product delayed or killed altogether. Any content plans built around that event have now evaporated. So, be flexible and ready to pivot.
To make sure your calendar stays on track, review it with your team once a month and adjust as necessary. (Quick tip: Create evergreen content you can have ready-to-go if a slot opens up in your calendar.)
5. Establish an editorial process.
How do you get it all done? That’s where the editorial process comes in. Here’s where you need to operate just like journalists and media outlets do. Before you even set a publication date, think through every step of content development. (Keep top of mind: Content development always takes longer than you think.)
At Version A, our steps include:
- Create a content brief
- Write draft
- Revise (perhaps several times)
When you leave sufficient time in your content calendar for the writing, copy editing, revising, proofreading, and approval process, you’ll have a much easier time hitting your deadlines and keeping the flow of content steady.
Tactical and Strategic
While editorial calendars are essential tactical tools for tracking your publishing schedule, they can also elevate your content strategy. Keeping your content strategy and editorial calendar tightly aligned will help you drive more leads and support organizational goals.