When you’re in charge of content for a large corporate, the chances are that on a weekly basis, you will be tasked with creating content for multiple personas and channeling the requirements of several different teams, all at the same time. Added to that you may have some evergreen company content ‘pillars’ or themes for the year that you have to make a nod to with a regular drumbeat of messages.

This is where creating a content calendar comes into its own. If you haven’t got one, you need one. The content calendar isn’t simply a spreadsheet for tracking what has and what is about to be published; it should be a living document that manages the ongoing lifecycle of your content marketing campaign and be accessible to all your relevant stakeholders.

Now, anyone who works with me knows that I’m a late convert to the ‘spreadsheet’. The thought of using one, updating one, being in the same room as one, used to bring me out in hives. I’m a creative, dammit! But as a former journo in a content-rich world, there’s no other way of keeping track of what we’re producing for our clients and for ourselves.

Involve your stakeholders

If there is a lot going on… scratch that, even if things are just ticking over, it’s a good idea to have regular ‘editorial’ meetings with everyone who has a stake in your content strategy. We advocate weekly catch up conference calls with all our clients where we look at where we are with the calendar, what new themes, if any, have come up, and how we could/should respond to anything topical that has come up. Not only will regular meetings allow you to keep on top of the multiple messages you need to include in your strategy but actually being able to see how topics are scheduled can give stakeholders peace of mind that their ‘bit’ is accounted for.

What to include in your calendar: keep it simple

Some experts advocate including a whole bunch of stuff on a content calendar, such as relevant links, meta descriptions and SEO information, and calls to action. I’m from the ‘keep it simple’ school of thought. You don’t want this thing to make your eyes bleed. I think if you know what key theme or message you’re hitting, plus the persona you’re targeting, you should have a good idea of what call to action you’re likely to use (and using one should really be second nature if you’re content is going to perform).

When we create our calendars, we list the channels we want to publish content on down the verticle axis and have rows for publication date, the persona we’re targeting and any key themes or messages we need to include horizontally across the top. We can them populate the columns with our content title and type (to ensure we see at a glance whether we’re doing too many infographics or memes, etc); plus author information and current status.

However you do it, a content calendar is an invaluable tool for maintaining a high-level overview of your strategy and managing all those different messages. And I don’t get so much as an itch these days when I see one.