You have decided to get into content marketing. You’ve got your strategy in place, you’ve got your resources aligned, and you’ve got this burning motivation to get started.
Now what? To keep you and your content producers on track, and senior management on track, you’ll want to develop a content calendar. This document can actually be quite complex, but it is an extremely effective model.
Whether you call it a blog calendar, an editorial calendar, or a content production calendar, a major goal is to establish a cadence for your content marketing publication efforts. This is important, because without producing in a coherent way, supported content over several months, you are unlikely to see results.
An editorial calendar will also help you set clear expectations with everyone in your organization embarking on this content journey with you. Help them see the path you are creating – by month, by quarter, or even by full year.
By planning ahead and providing structure, you demonstrate
commitment, and you begin to develop a clearer long-term vision. This will help build consensus, and internal buy-in from multiple departments will help set the bar high for quality content.
DNA: the blueprint of your calendar
To bring your content calendar to life, you will need building blocks in the form of a template. No need to worry about creating this type of plan from scratch. There are many examples, including this free one editorial calendar template from vertical measurements. Make sure you look at all of the tabs in both worksheets.
Depending on the number of content creators who will be working with you (remember they can be from any department in your organization), you might want to actively share your calendar through a cloud-based tool, which is also numerous. We use a combination of Basecamp and Google Drive which has great live collaboration features. Google Calendar or an Excel spreadsheet may be simpler for you and better meet your needs.
You can also consider sharing the calendar with data analysts, marketers, designers, or your manager, so they can visualize and understand how they fit into the process.
The skeleton: the features of your calendar
With your plan in place, let’s now develop a structure and framework for your timeline. It might not have 206 bones like the human body, but an extremely effective content calendar will have a lot of moving parts, and could include the following:
- Subjects or titles
- Brief summaries
- Contributors: authors, editors, designers
- Due dates, associated milestones and approval process
- Part formats (article, blog post, free guide, white paper, case study, infographic, video, quiz, interview, FAQ, etc.)
- Publication dates
- Live url
- Distribution channels (blog, email newsletter, other industry website, etc.)
- Social media effort and budget
- Promotion efforts and budget
- Moderation of comments
- Metrics / KPI
- Content ideas and brainstorming results
Does the above sound intimidating? As with almost all projects, there is nothing wrong with starting small and then iterating. You can use your content calendar for a variety of purposes, but I encourage you to think beyond just using it as a headline and date checklist. Why? Because the content doesn’t stop when you publish it on your website. Consider how and when you are going to promote and distribute the content. How and when will you measure it?
The heart: the content of your calendar
A thoughtful content calendar will reflect the heart of your organization. You should see the personality, the warmth, the creativity, the leadership – whatever you want to share with the world. You can use your content calendar to continually remind, motivate, and inspire others around you.
To fill your calendar with these kinds of ideas, consider implementing monthly or seasonal themes, or content types that come up on certain days of the week (i.e., “Friday Featured Employee” ). The pieces that collectively form a series of content allow your team to explore certain topics in depth and build authority and trust with your niche audience.
Right brain: creativity and vision
You know you have to “think like an editor”. By embracing this mindset, you will find that you are constantly thinking about your content.
As you set that cadence for the content you produce week after week, you’ll also want to schedule consistent hours to think about future content, so you can define your vision.
Keep in mind that there are many factors (shifting business priorities, new product lines, or customer feedback) that will likely cause you to shift gears when planning your schedule.
Being flexible is part of the content game, and if you really listen to your customers and pay attention to the information, it can actually lead to some of your most timely and effective content.
According to Pawan Deshpande, CEO of Curata, â[about] 25% of your content marketing output should be produced more sporadically with a less strategic focus. Â»This also offers a greater possibility of experimentation, he says.
So don’t be afraid to stray from the plan and introduce topics at the last minute. Your content calendar isn’t set in stone, it’s a living, breathing document.
Image source: UCMAS Mental Math Schools
Left brain: analysis and measurement
Note that your timeline shouldn’t just be forward looking. Take the time to reflect by using the calendar as a measurement and reporting tool, in conjunction with your other analysis programs. When you or your team are ready to take this holistic approach to your content calendar, you can use the template and features outlined above to guide you.
Make a concerted effort to save current results in your content calendar, such as:
- Seen pages
- Traffic trends
- Time on page
- Social media engagement
You’ll want to measure these key data points at regular intervals, to give the content items enough time to run. You don’t want to suffer from crawl paralysis, but measuring content over time can help you paint a picture of what works, what doesn’t, and how long it takes your parts to reach. the business goals you set for yourself.
Consistent measurement will allow you to recognize patterns. Are some themes performing better? Is your content driving more social media shares on Wednesdays instead of Fridays? Are your audience engaging more with longer or shorter articles, videos, or infographics? Which writers or content producers tend to perform better?
All parts of the body work together
A content calendar is your opportunity to advance your content marketing efforts. Essentially, you can unify all of your content, social media, promotion, and distribution efforts into one dashboard. Remember that without a consistent structure and vision that is continually applied by content marketing evangelists in your organization, your content efforts will likely be insufficient. Even if you’re starting out small, you can prepare yourself and your organization for success by launching a content calendar today.