Tips for Setting Up Your Editorial Calendar
Published: September 24, 2013
Author: Kristi Kellogg
Advanced planning is a power tool of productivity. SEO, PPC and social media professionals can all benefit from coordination of important events, seasons, deadlines and ideas.
If your job includes content creation, be it website or blog content, public relations, community management, or ad copy creation, an editorial calendar is your friend. Without one, deadlines get muddled, and opportunities for high-quality content (the kind that builds authority and leads to conversions) can be lost. Here are considerations for the efficiency-boosting editorial calendar you’re about to create or improve upon.
Publication Schedule: Leave No Deadline Behind
What belongs on an editorial calendar? Everything. Or more specifically, three “everythings.”
- Everything you publish: the actual content – when’s it due and where?
- Everything that matters to your company and community: events, promotions, seasons, etc.
- And everything you’re responsible for maintaining: coordination and upkeep of “other”
1. Establish publication life cycles and deadlines for:
- blog posts and guest posts
- press releases
- ad creative deadlines
- social media posts
- static web page content
- white papers and marketing literature
- internal reports
Basically, any written material that you (or your team) is responsible for.
2. Map out Relevant Events, Conferences and Other Happenings
This will be different for each industry. Some seasonal marketing opportunities listed in an oldie-but-evergreen-goodie 3Q Digital post are:
January: Strong for dieting, education and dating services (New Year’s resolutions!). Also debt consolidation (post-Xmas)
February: Dating, flowers, jewelry
June: Mortgages, travel, home improvement
August: Education, mortgages
November-December: Toys, books, gifts
An SEO company would certainly want to put conferences like SMX or PubCon on its editorial calendar, while a high-fashion apparel company’s editorial calendar might include New York Fashion week or the anniversary of Vogue. A dance company’s editorial calendar would reference National Dance Day (July 28) or, perhaps, the season premiere of Dancing with the Stars.
A content strategist working in the sports industry might note season finals, playoffs and Super Bowl Sunday on his editorial calendar.
The Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day aren’t pieces of content, but they are on the editorial calendar because they potentially can inform content. For example, Super Bowl Sunday will be held on Feb. 12 in 2014 – if that’s marked on the sports blog, as well as the slot for his weekly blog post, the Super Bowl can inform the preceding Friday’s blog post. When relevant events are posted clearly on the editorial calendar, it helps content strategist generate ideas. Valentine’s Day (or another holiday) might spur an idea, as well, and suddenly, the calendar looks like this instead:
Chances are he has a list of potential blog posts that is filled with evergreen content – the kind of articles that are useful year round. Step-by-step guides or how-to posts are classic examples of evergreen content. Maybe he’s been wanting to write a post on how to optimize your diet for athletic performance. He can plug that in for Feb. 7.
3. Maintenance and Coordination, Including Contributions from Guests and Ongoing Upkeep
The sports blogger’s calendar shows a lack of content for Feb. 7 and Feb. 21. Perhaps he knows an industry peer who is interested in guest blogging, and he’s just been waiting to set a date. The calendar shows that either of these dates will work, and he chooses Feb. 21. As for Feb. 7, he might turn to his evergreen content.
As for maintenance, you have to remember that content is alive. You don’t publish content and then let it make a life for itself, free to thrive or die on its own best luck. You nourish content, update it to make sure it stays accurate. Promote it to communities that would care. Mark your calendar to remind yourself when to review a long-lived section of your site to make sure everything is up-to-date.
Virtual, Physical or Life-Size Editorial Calendar?
If you’re flying solo, forging your content strategy on your own, an editorial calendar can easily live on your desktop (virtually or physically), but when multiple writers and myriad projects are involved, tastes and preferences can spark creative new solutions. At Bruce Clay, Inc. we have a team of writers, and we stay busy. We are responsible for blog posts, email newsletter articles, social media management, static webpages, client content, editorial review of client reports, white papers and more … which means we need an editorial calendar that is accessible to everyone, and also has a lot of room to house all those assignments.
BCI Content and Media Manager Virginia Nussey made an entire wall in our office a calendar that displays three months at a time. Knowing that deadlines and projects can change, they are written on easily movable Post-Its. Moreover, each Post-It color represents a different writer, so it’s easy for each writer to see her tasks at-a-glance. Brilliant!
Maybe a life-size editorial calendar will work for your content team. Or maybe you’ll use a shared calendar on Google Drive, or an Excel spreadsheet, or maybe you’ll come up with a new format all your own. No matter the format, it is essential that a publisher utilize an editorial calendar – for the sake of your content, and your sanity.