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May 4, 2017 (Updated: February 28, 2020)
Your editorial calendar is at the heart of your content marketing strategy. It determines the what, when, and where of everything you’re planning to publish. It’s important to put smart practices in place for designing and implementing an editorial calendar so you can utilize this tool to its full potential. With the right approach, you can organize and optimize all your content marketing with this application.
The modern editorial calendar isn’t just about producing content. It’s also a tool for organized marketing and promotion across various media. It’s important for your content calendar to align with your overall campaign goals. As you select and schedule content, you should ask yourself these questions:
As you tailor each item to better answer these questions, you may find the overall scope of your campaign changing. It’s not enough to fill your calendar with regular posts. You need to make sure that each one serves a purpose.
Image via Flickr by Marco Arment
Once you’ve identified your goals, you can begin ideating around them. Keep timeliness in mind as you develop ideas for your content. Looking at your calendar, you can see how long it typically takes for a piece to progress from the ideation stage to final publication. If this process takes about a month, you shouldn’t ideate for tax topics in April — by the time you publish these pieces, the relevant season will be past. Ideate early so you can get pieces published in a timely manner.
Keep a shared document for ideating around each marketing campaign. While you’ll need to order a specific number of ideas each month to fill out your calendar, it’s also helpful to have a general bullpen of ideas where your team can toss topics as they occur to them. In the future, you can turn to this document for inspiration on new campaigns.
If your team is working with more than one content or marketing calendar, you’re overcomplicating matters for the entire department. Stick to a single calendar for all your content marketing, including these items:
Keeping all these items on a single editorial calendar will help you spot smart opportunities for cross promotion and coordinated marketing efforts. For example, your newsletters should advertise your latest white paper. Social media posts should point followers back to your blog topics. Important events like conferences where you have a booth offer prime opportunities for you to tie your editorial items in with event promotion.
While a simple Excel spreadsheet can certainly do the job, you’ll find a wealth of apps and software programs designed exclusively for editorial calendars. WordPress has its own free editorial calendar extension that lets you click through for instant access to your drafts. Trello is ideal for tasks with a long series of steps, thanks to features designed to help you map processes more efficiently. Select the program that best fits your needs and stick with it for all your editorial scheduling.
Once you’ve chosen an editorial calendar tool, you must train your team on implementation strategies. Make sure all team members are granted the proper access and permissions to get their jobs done. Develop a clear chain of command and streamlined scheduling practices that will keep everything organized. Your team members should be familiar with the editorial process, with a clear understanding of what their responsibilities are every step of the way. This process will typically include the following:
You may have additional marketing practices in place for each piece, such as promotion on social media channels or follow-up with commenters. Make sure your system is set up with proper notifications and a clear timeline, so your writers don’t slow down the editorial process and social media managers are on top of the latest pieces as soon as they’re published.
While a solid editorial calendar will probably look several months into the future, it’s never written in stone. Smart content marketing always includes a thorough review of each piece’s performance. Keep up with analytics so you know what’s generating the most traffic and what’s falling flat with your followers.
Use the goals you set at the beginning of the process to create benchmarks for success. While some things, like traffic, are always important for your content, others will vary depending on the piece. Some might generate more conversation than direct conversions. Make sure you’re judging pieces based on your initial goals for them. Make timely adjustments as needed to keep your editorial calendar fresh and intriguing. If your readers aren’t responding to a series, consider cutting it short and trying a new tactic. Maintain enough flexibility to follow trends in a timely manner.
A well-managed editorial calendar will keep your content moving at a steady pace. When everyone is trained in the best practices for your system, you can move pieces down the pipeline quickly and efficiently. Operating without an editorial calendar can spell disaster for your business, while professional content marketing practices will quickly net you the results you’re looking for. Don’t hesitate to outsource some of your editorial and content production needs to keep your content flowing as it should.