So you’ve got your business blog all set up and you’re ready to take the plunge into content marketing. That’s wonderful!

But wait! Not so fast! One of the most common mistakes companies make when they start blogging for business is jumping in without a plan. As with just about anything else marketing-related, it’s imperative to have a plan. It’s hard to meet goals when you don’t first identify what they are.

This is where an editorial calendar comes in handy.

It’s important to remember that blogging isn’t a content strategy in and of itself; it’s simply part of the whole. If you’re creating a full content strategy, you’ll likely have other content to market as well. For example:

  • white papers
  • ebooks
  • guides
  • podcasts
  • videos

In order to manage all of this content and make sure it fits together and flows well, you need an editorial calendar.

To start, try planning your content for the upcoming quarter or half-quarter. This will get you accustomed to using an editorial calendar without becoming overwhelming at the start. Consider the following:

  • What are your business goals for the upcoming quarter?
  • What content will complement those goals? How can publishing help you to further advance your mission?
  • How often do you want to blog?

This last question is seemingly innocuous, but it’s really one of the most important ones to consider. If you’re only updating your blog once or twice a month, you’re not going to make much of an impact. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you’re blogging every single day, you’ll probably make an impact, but you also run a much higher risk of burning out. It might be easy to come up with lots of writing ideas at first, but not everyone can maintain that pace.

Instead, you have to consider what’s realistic for you. Try to at least publish once a week (twice, if you can) to start out.

Then start filling in your calendar. Tip: Start from the end. It’s often easier to work backwards when you know what you’re working towards. Depending on your business goals, maybe you want the quarter to culminate with an e-book that you plan to publish on one of your company’s main themes or a webinar that you plan to host. Whatever that end goal is, the content that you use to build up to it should examine parts of the whole.

Let’s say, for example, that by the halfway point in Q4, you want to publish an extended guide to choosing and using social CRM solution for social customer service. This will serve as the ultimate resource for potential customers who want to educate themselves on their options. Using that as the endpoint, you can work backwards to determine what content will lead up to the guide.

For blog posts, you might consider topics such as:

  • What is social CRM?
  • What is social customer service?
  • Who is today’s social customer?
  • Maintaining a social media presence
  • Establishing positive customer relationships
  • Features to look for in a social CRM solution

For additional content, you might consider:

  • Narrated screen captures that show the viewer how to use different features of a social CRM solution
  • Case studies of other companies who have successfully implemented such solutions
  • A webinar or podcast with a panel discussing the need for social CRM solutions
  • Infographics detailing the nature of today’s social customer

The simplest and most fundamental content should come at the beginning. Once you’ve determined how many blog posts you’re going to publish each week, start filling those into your editorial calendar. This is a good time to determine which days of the week are going to be best for publishing.

Blog posts are the building blocks of a content strategy, and they’re very versatile. No matter what other kind of content you produce, you can always use a blog post to help promote it. Got a video? Write a post about it and include it within. Have a whitepaper? Include a CTA to download it at the end of the post. Recently held a webcast or attended a relevant Twitter chat? Recap posts can work well, but those forms of content can also inspire further posts. Include the hashtags or webcast permalink.

For this reason, blog posts will likely be the most prevalent form of content that you’ll have on your editorial calendar. Feel free to repurpose as much as you can — but just know that you’ll need to be thinking ahead to allow for that when you’re creating your calendar.

Once you have your blog posts in place, determine where your additional or “special” content will fit. This kind of content includes your infographics, research, survey results or data analysis, videos, expert interviews (video or text), webcasts, images and charts, and so forth.

Leave the calendar alone for a day or so and then come back to it. Look at it with fresh eyes. Does he order still make sense? Does it begin with the basics and work its way up to the more complex material? Does one week’s content build off of the week before it? And most importantly, does all of the content seem to follow the same theme and lead to your ultimate goal for that “content period” (be it a half-quarter, quarter, or any other time frame you decide)?

If so, then you’re ready to start creating. As a final tip, make sure your calendar is complete in enough time to get a jump start on creating. Sometimes life gets in the way, but if you are actually ahead of schedule, your readers will never notice if you get sick and can’t post for a day — the post can already been finished and scheduled ahead of time. This keeps your regular publishing schedule alive (which is one of the best ways to grow and maintain readership).

FAQ

We thought we’d conclude with a few commonly asked questions regarding editorial calendars:

How detailed should an editorial calendar be?

An editorial calendar can be as detailed as you want to make it. What it should definitely include is a tentative title and a brief one-sentence blurb describing what the post will be about, and the person who will be authoring the post. That last part is especially important if you have a team of writers. Some people prefer more detail so that they don’t forget anything when it comes time to create content. Others don’t need quite that much direction. Through trial and error, you’ll discover what works best for you.

Technology vs. old school: which is better?

If you search for editorial calendar templates online, you’ll discover that there is certainly no shortage. Whether you want to install a plugin into WordPress that will help you maintain your calendar there, use a program or app, or write it all on a physical (or electronic) calendar is entirely up to you. Again, you’ll discover what works best for you, but it’s always good to be able to visualize.

Being able to see how one piece of the puzzle fits into the whole thing can be very empowering to the writer. Furthermore, including the details means that there is less forgetting. Some people enjoy writing all of this out by hand, while others enjoy the color-coded nature that WordPress plugins allow. Visualizing is key, and for that reason, whether you’re going old school or technological, it’s best to be able to see how everything will fit together as opposed to just looking at it in list form.

We are a small organization. Do we still need an editorial calendar?

Any business regardless of size, that wants to engage in content marketing can and should have an editorial calendar. It will help you to keep yourself on track and less stressed out.

What happens when my series wraps up?

Once you’ve completed your content series, don’t lose your momentum. Keep blogging (this is a great time to write recaps) on your same schedule until the next period starts. Blog on some general or timely industry topics. When you do begin your next series, cross promote if possible and link back to some of your older work that still rings true.

Got other questions? We’d love to hear them in the comments.