Kyle’s note: This is a piece co-authored by Adam Franklin from Bluewire Media and myself. We pooled our knowledge to create a guide on editorial calendars together how effectively use them.
If you are serious about content marketing for your business, then it’s likely you’re publishing content on a regular basis. Going from post to post coming up with ideas, researching and creating your content can drain your energy and lower the quality of your content.
An editorial calendar allows you to divide your content creation into manageable parts and plan them in advance. The biggest challenge is not creating an editorial calendar, but sticking with it long enough to realize the benefits.
In this post we’ll share tips on how to create an editorial calendar and stick with it. We’ll also provide some examples from content marketing leaders you may know.
Choosing the right tool for your editorial calendar
Trello is a project management tool that provides a visual way using a system of lists and cards to manage what’s being worked on, who’s working on it, and where something is in the process. With its calendar power-up, it allows you to create an editorial calendar. The combination of the list and calendar view give 2 useful perspectives on a project.
CoSchedule is a WordPress editorial calendar that allows you to schedule your posts, social media and team tasks, all from inside WordPress or on its web app.
Google Sheets are easy to use and familiar to most people. This is probably the most customizable system. Here is the Google Sheet that Bluewire Media use. Feel free to download their Editorial Calendar Template (or as an Excel spreadsheet if you prefer).
Understand what is possible for you
Understanding your limits is key to your calendar being effective. If you over-commit then your content will suffer. If you under-commit then you’re not likely going get a lot of value out of the calendar. Whether you’re producing words, recording audio files, filming videos or designing graphics, the first step of creating a world class editorial calendar is to get a feel for what is achievable for you. Ignore the superhuman feats of others for now.
This may be experimental at first. If you have never tracked your content production you may not be aware of what is possible for you. Start by planning content out a week at a time. Set specific goals, see if you hit them. If you don’t, don’t get upset, just recalibrate for the next week.
After a few weeks you should have a good idea what is possible for you, and you can plan your content out several weeks in advance. This means less decisions you need to be making and more focus on creating great content.
You can become even more effective by dividing your content creation into different activities. As you start to get a better understanding for the demands of each activity in your content creation process, you’ll be able to find ways to become more productive.
Here’s a few content creation activities to get you started:
- Graphics and images
Set a specific time each week to review your editorial calendar.
When you are just starting, it is easy to ignore your calendar and lose track of where your posts are.
Setting aside an hour or so each week to update the calendar and schedule new content should be all you need to experience a dramatic impact on your organization and productivity. I recommend scheduling your calendar time at the end of the week. This way you can start the next week with a plan.
Optimize for what you do best
Now that you know what you commit to your content creation, figure out where you add the most value and optimize for that. If you’re a great writer and you have 3 written articles planned out for the week, then schedule your writing for your most productive or creative hours in the day.
With your main activity planned out you can batch a lot of other activities during other times of the week. Spend an hour or two generating ideas or proofreading several articles creating images or gathering external links.
Understand what you do best in the content creation process, and design your calendar’s workflow to support it.
Many editorial calendars have labeling systems to show the progress of the post.
For example, Pat Flynn from the Smart Passive Income releases his podcast on Monday, his blog on Wednesday and his new video series on Friday. Since his editorial calendar is clearly defined, it means he can knuckle down and do what is required rather than waste energy thinking about what to publish next.
Fellow content powerhouse John Lee Dumas has themed his days too and he uses this approach to keep on top of his daily Entrepreneur on Fire podcast (plus weekly webinars for each of his 2 flagship programs). An editorial calendar like John’s requires a daily calendar to match. Check out his level of organisation.
Remember, Chris Ducker says “what gets in the calendar gets done.”
Delegate and collaborate
With your content creation divided up into activities and you can now start to delegate or outsource some of the activities that you don’t enjoy as much or add as much value. Or if you have a team to help with certain elements of the content, you can organize it around your team’s workflow.
For example, the team at Trello has their calendar divided into different stages. Different team members are following different lists, so the people responsible for editing and graphics only need to be concerned with the content in their list. But the whole team can view the content pipeline and see the progress of each post.
Image source: Trello
Having an editorial calendar helps you work with guest writers and contributors to your blog. The calendar can help you set a due date for the post and allow you to track its status as your external writers are creating it.
It can be difficult to get guest writers to follow your guidelines perfectly. One trick we have with our editorial calendar is assigning a checklist with a few basic steps a guest writer should take before the submit the post for feedback. CoSchedule and Trello both have checklist features.
An underrated part of sticking to a world class editorial calendar is engaging the help of VAs. Google Drive is a great tool for delegating tasks to VAs. BlueWire has several content marketing VAs on their team who help with things like formatting blog posts, creating graphics in Canva, editing videos and podcasts, and adding posts to MeetEdgar. The process for each step is clearly documented in Google Drive so VAs can follow along and make updates to posts when requested. I simply approve content by hitting the publish button.
Automate time consuming tasks
Many content creation activities can be automated. An easy place to start is with content promotion. Posting one-off tweets and Facebook updates probably won’t have the effect you want for your post. And you don’t want to be breaking your workflow every hour to post something on social media.
By marking all the posts in your editorial calendar that need promotion, you can set aside an hour each week to schedule social media and post to other sharing sites. Tools like Buffer and Hootsuite let you schedule posts on several different social media accounts. CoSchedule excels at automating content promotion, and even has built in analytics so you can see the social media reach of all of your content.
New York Times bestselling author of Platform, Michael Hyatt cites the premium WordPress plugin, CoSchedule as one of his major productivity breakthroughs in recent years. Michael uses CoSchedule to handle posting his blog posts to all his social media platforms and given how much times it frees up, it is a bargain at $10 per month.
Jeff Bullas, #7 on Forbes “World’s Top 40 Social Marketing Talent” swears by Social Oomph to help automate his tweets and following people back. This tool alone saves him 80 hours a week.
A favorite strategy Bluewire Media uses is to re-post all of their evergreen content to Twitter. Evergreen content is also known as ‘pillar content’ which means an article that doesn’t get outdated and maintains its relevance over time. These articles are important to share on an ongoing basis since they can continue to help readers for years into the future.
With MeetEdgar you can populate queues with your evergreen content and they will then be posted at regular intervals that you decide. Once everything in the queue has been posted, it simply starts again ensuring you have your best articles are continually being thrust out to attract new readers.
Image source: Meet Edgar
Create a place to store content ideas
Having a place where you can quickly store all of the new content ideas that occur to you can be a big help in managing your editorial calendar. At WP Curve we have a big list in Trello where we collect all of our content ideas. Content ideas come to me at random times in the day, but very rarely when it is convenient. When they appear I quickly add them to the Trello list with a few notes or write them down to add to the list later. Dan and Alex do the same. When it’s time to plan out new content I don’t have to spend a lot of effort coming up with new ideas. I can choose from our list of existing ideas and map them out in our editorial calendar.
Plan ahead for events
If there is an event you are planning or some sort of industry trade show, holiday or product launch you can plan these out several months in advance on your editorial calendar. Having your content planned and prepared will help you take advantage of the event instead of scrambling to produce something during or after the event.
Repurposing content in your calendar
You don’t always need to plan out new content in your editorial calendar. You can create a system where you schedule older content to be repurposed into a new medium. For example, you could create a written post, then create a plan for repurposing the content a few months down the road.
If you are more of a talker, not a writer, you can take a leaf out of Jaime Tardy’s book. Jaime hosts the popular podcast called The Eventual Millionaire which she records as a video via Skype. Her team then turns that into a YouTube video, a podcast, a word for word transcript and also creates graphics for her blog.
Calendar templates to get you started
A great editorial calendar takes time. So take small steps to build yours out in a way that works well for you and your team. The extra efficiency you can get out of your content production is well worth the effort you invest into your calendar.