It’s happened to all of us at one point or another. You’re going by your regular routine when you’re struck by an idea for a great blog post. You promise yourself that you’ll write it down later, but get lost in your tasks and eventually forget. Days pass, and you’re sitting at your desk desperately trying to recall that idea, with nothing in front of you but a blank screen and a looming deadline.
With a variety of ideas and not enough time to put them to paper, it’s so easy to get sidetracked and fall behind in your content marketing. But rest assured knowing that it takes just a little strategic planning and a simple editorial calendar to get you into the flow of things.
An editorial calendar can help you manage your daily to-do list for blogs, newsletters, websites and social media. It not only helps reduce the stress of coming up with a fresh idea on the spot, but it also helps you think about your content marketing efforts from a big picture standpoint, maximising your chances of attracting new customers, building better relationships with them, and achieving your overall business objectives.
So how does one go about creating an editorial calendar? And what tools can you use to make the process simpler? Keep reading to find out.
Think about the bigger picture. The first step to planning your editorial calendar is defining the main objective for your blog/website/social media accounts. Are you trying to position yourself as an expert in your field? Are you trying to offer insights for a specific audience? Are you trying to better connect with your customers by keeping them up-to-date with organisational news? Knowing your main goal will help you determine what type of content you need.
Set your blogging schedule. Determine how often you are going to post on your blog/social media accounts, but be realistic in terms of your limits. The first step of creating an editorial calendar that you’ll actually use is to get a feel for what is achievable for you. If you over-commit, your content will suffer. On the other hand, if you under-commit, you won’t get a lot of value from your calendar. To figure out what’s possible, start by planning content a week at a time. Set specific goals and see if you can reach them. After a few weeks you should have a better idea of your capabilities. Note: Consistency is key. It is better for you to consistently post once a month than to post every day for one week, and have no posts for the next six.
Know your audience. Ask yourself, “who am I writing for?” This will help you pinpoint stories, articles or other content that your audience may find interesting and topical. The majority of the time you’ll be aiming to communicate with your customers, both current and prospective.
Identify your main content categories. Brainstorm a list of categories based on your target audience, their interests and needs, and your overall objective. For example, if you are in the tourism industry, your categories may include destinations, types of holidays, itineraries, events and activities. While these are still fairly broad categories, they are specific to your audience and your business.
Note down any holidays or special events. Write down any upcoming holidays or events (such as industry trade shows, product launches, sales etc.) that might influence your target audience and content topics. Preparing these months in advance will help you craft topical, seasonal posts.
Brainstorm post ideas. List between 5-10 post ideas for each of your content categories. Write down everything that pops into your head – no idea is a bad idea. These posts should provide interesting and useful information for your target audience. They can include videos or images, as well as text. You can also compile a list of resources or find photos and videos from other websites. As long as you have permission to link to the material, you’re good to go.
Create your calendar. You can use an online calendar, wall calendar, spreadsheet, yearly planner, colourful post-it notes arranged in rows – whatever works for you. Start by writing down holidays, business events and their related content, and then fill in posts from your list of ideas. To add variety, mix up the content categories and types of posts.
Use online tools. There are a number of online tools available to help you streamline your editorial calendar and editing process, without having to send a single email. One of our favourites is Trello, which gives all team members a bird’s eye view of every item in an editorial calendar. Users can drag and drop ideas into different lists and organise content by assigning checklists and due dates and categorising them using coloured labels. Users can also add comments to each individual task, and sync their editorial plans across all devices, making it easier to track progress.
Start writing. With your content creation divided up into activities, you can now begin writing. While word processors like Microsoft Word are definitely more robust, relying on emailed files can be a surefire way to lose/forget/duplicate efforts. Google Docs provides a great alternative, allowing teams to collaborate on an article in real time. The comment function provides an easy way for team members to communicate without having to go back and forth with edits and rewrites.
Review. Set aside an hour or two each week to study your content and see which types of posts get the most traction. Revising your editorial calendar enables you to review the flow of content, plan your writing and editing, and see if you have gaps in your content that you need to fill.
Last, but not least, remember that a great editorial calendar takes time. So take small steps to build yours out in a way that works well for you.
About the author:
This article was written by Jo Scard, Managing Director, Fifty Acres Communications Agency. With over 20 years’ experience in communications, political advisory roles and journalism, Jo Scard is Australia’s foremost strategic adviser to Not-For-Profits, entrepreneurs and government.