In simplest terms, an editorial calendar is a plan for executing your content strategy. It’s a schedule for building and publishing the content that you and your team believe will support business goals.
It contains information about the title and type of project to be completed, assigns ownership, announces creation, internal review and publication dates, lists keywords, tracks URLs and expected updates/refreshes. Of course, these are just a few of the items tracked in an editorial calendar. The exact fields you choose depends on your business and metrics.
If you’re just beginning to create a strategy for your company, keep it simple and grow your calendar as your need67l.s and team expand.
Without a plan, editorial work gets lost in the shuffle. Think about it – how many times have you had an idea and thought, “Oh, we need to create that!” and the project dies when the next thought begins?
An editorial calendar makes content creation real and actionable. It also creates a level of transparency for the entire process. Plus, when you assign ownership of project and announce publication dates, it creates accountability for both individuals and your organization.
Ultimately, is an editorial calendar an absolute must? No. You can create content and blast it out without a plan. However, I don’t recommend it. I’ve tried both approaches to content and accomplish much more when there’s a thoughtful plan in place.
The editorial calendar helps you meet your goals around releasing timely, consistent, high-quality content. I say “high-quality” because, managed correctly, the calendar, allows ample time for editing, revisions and buy-in from your team.
The person who oversees your content and strategy has ownership of the editorial calendar. Depending on the size of your business, the title of this person could be Chief Marketing Officer or Sr. Strategist.
Regardless of who owns the calendar, the entire content team should be granted access to make changes and edit. As a working document, content contributors will update statuses, make notes and add keywords regularly.
NOW! If you don’t have a content strategy and editorial calendar in place, it’s time to get started. I recommend you review your business goals and find the connection points with business trends. Take those pieces and overlap them with the pieces of your business that answer actual consumer/customer/client need. Use that information to brainstorm relevant pieces of content you want to develop. Then, put them on the calendar. I have additional tools or content brainstorming resources on my blog, Copy Cues.
The amount of time you plan for depends on your business and bandwidth. Some like to plan a quarter at a time, others prefer to plan for 6-months or a year.
Likewise, your publishing cadence, goals and team availability determine the size and scope of your editorial calendar.
There is no hard and fast rule about where your editorial calendar should live – only that your content creation team be able to access it easily. Easily is the key point in that sentence.
Some people choose online calendars, like those on Co Schedule. Others choose an Excel spreadsheet on the company’s network. I prefer a spreadsheet on Google Drive – mostly because it’s a simple format that everyone already knows how to use, in a place that doesn’t require VPN access.
When selecting your editorial calendar’s home, consider the level of privacy your line of business demands, the ease-of-access afforded to your content team and whether or not it’s in a format that’s easy to use or has a short learning curve. (A complex system won’t be used.)
Now that you know the location of the document or program you’ll use, it’s time to populate your calendar. You’ll find several variations of calendar set ups online, so take some time and find the one that resonates with you. I like a basic set up with weeks down the left side and projects across the top.
Assign larger and smaller pieces of content individually. For example, creating the training video gets its own line, as does the :30 snippets you’ll use for email blasts, as does the social media posts that announce all the videos under this theme.
As items are completed, users can fill in a progress note or use colors to indicate where they are in the process. This, of course, is based on personal preference and what works best for your team. I, personally, enjoy a variation of the standard red/yellow/green – fuchsia/yellow or orange/turquoise. To some, it doesn’t matter. To me, it’s a happier set of colors and makes minding the task a bit more enjoyable. Find what works for your team and run with it.
A Final Word on Editorial Calendars
Your editorial calendars can be as easy or complicated as you make them. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when creating massive amounts of content. An editorial calendar simply serves the purpose of making sure that contributors know their responsibilities and deadlines. It also helps managers and editors look in on the process – not only to see their own responsibilities – but to anticipate and accommodate upcoming work load.
At first glance, it may seem like the juice isn’t worth the squeeze. I can empathize – because I would much rather write and build than create an elaborate to-do list. But, I promise, what you gain in clarity and clear processes makes the effort 100% worthwhile. Just start small to fight the feelings of overwhelm. And, if you can’t create a calendar that resonates with your team, spend time exploring the many pre-built options online.
Eventually, you will light on an editorial system that creates an organized workflow and inspires action. Now, get going! You have planning to do.