Creating an editorial calendar for the year in advance is a great way to plan your blog posts, which means less work each week to think of a topic to write about.
On the one hand, it’s exciting: you get to let your creative juices flow as you brainstorm. On the other hand, it’s a lot of work and can be stressful to put your ideas together in one coherent, cohesive package. To make your job a little easier, we’ve put together the following definitions, tips, and suggestions. Digital marketers and small business owners, enjoy!
What is an Editorial Calendar?
An editorial calendar is used by bloggers, businesses, digital marketers, and publishers to schedule and organize the publication of content on blogs, newspapers, magazines, newsletters, and social media channels. Most publishers select a set of themes that fit in with their audience’s interests and then brainstorm story ideas that fit the themes.
Does that sound boring? It’s not! The reason it’s interesting is that by considering your audience’s interests, you can connect with them more deeply, perhaps foster engagement and shares, and, ultimately, build your brand and generate leads.
For example, if you are blogging for a fitness center, your themes might be healthy eating, fitness tips for the home and office, and inspiration. The fitness center clients will love getting this information, and feel more connected to your brand. Once you build this kind of relationship, conversion rates on special offers should go up.
Editorial calendars are often divided into the following sections, each with its own file folder or tab:
- Story Ideas
- Content Production Calendar
- Published Content
- Glossary of Terms/Style Decisions
Depending on how detailed each publisher needs or wants to be, some or all of the following details will be tracked:
- Story Title
- Publication Date
- Media Outlet (e.g. Blog, Print Magazine, Email Newsletter)
- Theme (or Section)
- Status (e.g., Active or Inactive)
Content ideas move from tab to tab or folder to folder. In the old days, or in settings where content producers are physically together, sticky notes can be used to physically move the content ideas from place to place on a large board. It may sound old school, but it helps everyone involved see the big picture.
Why Should I Create an Editorial Calendar?
I gave away some of the key reasons you’ll want to create an editorial calendar, above. To recap:
- Better relationships with your clients
- Increased conversions for special offers
- Lead generation
If you are a solo blogger, one of the biggest benefits editorial calendars give you is writer’s block prevention. If you’ve done all your brainstorming and planning up front, then you aren’t stuck at the last minute trying to think up a good idea.
For larger teams and bigger blogs, editorial calendars are useful because they organize your digital marketing team and allow you to plan your content around organizational objectives and special events.
Getting back to our fitness center, which is located in San Francisco, their content marketing team is able to plan for a great post to celebrate San Francisco’s Bay to Breakers race. A post about Bay to Breakers helps their San Francisco readers plan for race day and get the most out of this San Francisco city-wide event. In other words, by planning, the fitness center was able to be more of a resource to their readers.
If you run advertisements on your blog, letting advertisers know in advance what you’ll be posting can be a big help. You wouldn’t want to run an ad for a candy shop next to a post about how sugar affects your oral health. Would you?
Finally, and this is most important if you are trying to build your brand and your readership, creating themes, recurrent formats, and content that readers can consistently look forward to will help you build your audience.
At Colibri Digital Marketing, we share our clients’ editorial calendars with them because they like to know what we are up to. One easy way to give clients peace of mind is to link to their editorial calendar each week or month when you provide your progress reporting and project updates.
For some people, editorial calendars are just too constricting; they want to feel free with their creativity. If that’s you, then an editorial calendar probably won’t be much of a help. And, of course, plans and circumstances change. Remember: your editorial calendar helps you stay focused, but should NOT keep you from being flexible when a great idea or world event comes your way.
How to Generate Ideas For Your Editorial Calendar
As a San Francisco digital marketer, I write a lot about marketing, but here in San Francisco, there are a lot of us digital marketers! Over time, I realized that writing for other marketers, or even the DIY marketing crowd, does not help my business–or my clients’ businesses. No point in preaching to the choir!
To find out what would interest my clients, I sent a personal email to each of my clients and asked for their input. I got a fantastic response rate. In fact, the ideas by far outnumbered the weeks in the year!
After asking your clients what they want, take a look at your competitors. If your company is smaller, checking out the successes of bigger brands gives you an idea of what people really love to read and share. It will also help you generate ideas for your calendar. Don’t plagiarize, but be inspired.
Finally, if you’re not on your own, sit down with your copywriters and social media managers and brainstorm. Getting your team’s input will build morale and motivate them to do their best writing because they will feel more autonomous. Your copywriters and social media managers will generate lots of good ideas and help you create a balanced, thoughtful, and theme-driven year of post ideas.
Don’t forget to put search engine optimization (SEO) into the mix. Include a column for the keywords you’d like to target for each post. For each topic, you’ll have a focus keyword and then a list of secondary keywords that your brand is targeting.
How to Build Your Editorial Calendar
One easy way to build an editorial calendar is to set up a Google calendar, populate it with your ideas, and share the calendar with your team. We don’t like doing that because it clogs up our already chaotic-looking calendars, so the Colibri Digital Marketing team uses Google sheets and shares the document. We like that because of the tab feature mentioned above. It’s easy to move content along the production process, at least virtually.
Trello is a great way to implement the sticky note idea digitally. Trello also offers calendar integration, so you can get a big picture view. There are tons of other paid and free software options that help with collaboration, but if you are just getting started with editorial calendars, I recommend keeping it free and simple.
Editorial calendars offer a lot of benefit to digital marketing teams–and their clients. They help build and organize your digital marketing efforts, they improve performance, and they encourage great relationships. Yes, there are minuses. It takes extra work up front to put a quality editorial calendar together and, yes, they can be constricting. Because we at Colibri Digital Marketing have benefited so much from our editorial calendars, we think you will, too.