An editorial calendar is the lifeblood of any content marketing strategy. It’s not enough to produce the right type of content — you also have to post it at the right times. An editorial calendar can help you plan out your content, stay organized, and make sure nothing falls behind schedule.
Ultimately, an editorial calendar allows you to create content in a way that serves your audience and helps you meet your business goals. When executed correctly, an effective editorial calendar can:
When it comes to organization and efficiency, a well-run editorial calendar is a huge competitive advantage for scaling a high-performing content marketing strategy.
Editorial calendars are essential for executing SEO content marketing strategies, especially for companies and startups without dedicated content teams. Your company may already be generating content via social media; at the very least, you’re generating valuable data that can be turned into compelling content.
Interested in streamlining your content production process with an editorial calendar? You can start by analyzing your existing content.
Step 1: Understand what content and data your company currently produces.
Step 2: Identify gaps in the content you are creating.
Step 3: Look for opportunities to repurpose existing content and research.
Once you understand your company's current content production status, you can start making informed decisions about the topics you will focus on moving forward.
Start by defining what you want to talk about. Take some time to outline a few themes you can use as the basis for your content. These topics should relate to the services and products your startup offers, but they shouldn't be too specific. The best content is relevant, informative, and engaging — identify your target audience, and provide them with valuable content that will keep them coming back.
Once you have come up with these themes, scan your calendar for important dates or notable holidays. With this information in mind, start identifying key dates for specific posts and creating a broader schedule in terms of when and what to post. If an upcoming event might influence the type of content you post (e.g., "Get Your Business Ready For The New Year"), make sure you write that down too!
The next step is determining the frequency of your posts. Depending on your content strategy, the size of your team, and your budget, you will need to set a publishing cadence that works for everyone.
Some companies post daily, while others spread out their content more sporadically throughout the month. Generally speaking, a good schedule should allow you to keep the quality of content high while also maximizing output — it's okay to start off slow and then scale up as you improve your content production system.
Editorial calendars are designed to help you plan your content around events and milestones so you can be more strategic with how you publish and promote it — this will ultimately drive more traffic and leads.
As a startup, every piece of content you publish should have a purpose, whether it's to get signups for your product or educate existing customers about best practices. The best editorial calendars allow you to schedule your posts in advance so they're ready to go live on the date of your choosing.
You can also use it to plan ahead by scheduling posts around specific themes or events. For instance, you might try creating a set of holiday-related posts for Black Friday, or plan a themed week of posts around a big event that’s relevant to your business.
Once you’ve established important dates, work backward from each holiday or event to start filling up your calendar and determining when to publish other pieces of content that aren't time-sensitive. By the end of this step, your content calendar should be mostly full with some space for flexibility.
Even if you’re not particularly concerned about holidays or events, an editorial calendar will help keep you on track with publishing consistently.
Next, create the placeholder titles and briefs for each post. For every blog post you want to create, write up a brief (a short document with just a few sentences) outlining the goal of the post, the keywords you want to target with that specific post, and any other important information. This will help make sure your entire editorial team is aligned around your keyword strategy and content goals.
When creating the placeholder title for each brief, make sure it's informative enough that your writers will know what to write about. These titles are not the final titles for the piece; rather, they’re intended to help your team understand the purpose and goal of the content.
For example, the placeholder title for this piece was "How To Create An Editorial Calendar For Startups: A Step-By-Step Guide." Regardless of the title we ultimately chose, I knew this title would give my writers and editors a good sense of what the article should be about.
Now that you've scheduled your content, it's time to map each piece you will write against other channels and formats for repurposing. An interview, for example, could be turned into smaller highlights. A longer white paper could be mined for shorter blog posts, social copy, and even visual assets for social media or infographics.
Use a calendar like this to help you make the most of your content. Throughout the planning process, think about how certain types of content can be repurposed. For example, if you're producing a case study, think about how that could be turned into a slide deck.
Repurposing content is a great way to maximize the return on your investment for any given piece of content — It takes time and resources to produce content, so always think about how you can extend the reach of the assets you’ve already created.
The more ways a piece of content is repurposed, the higher the likelihood it'll be seen by someone in a way that catches their attention. For example, by repurposing a blog post into a series of Instagram posts, you can capture two different audiences with the same asset.
Next up is to assign roles for each piece of content on your calendar. This can take a variety of forms, but it generally means figuring out who will create the content and who will review it. You may also consider designating someone as "accountable," meaning they are responsible for ensuring the content gets published on schedule.
This last step might seem redundant if you have an editor, but it actually has two benefits: first, if you assign someone “accountable” for each piece of content, you don't have to worry about missing anything; second, when people are held accountable for their own work, they are more likely to contribute their best efforts.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: the more important the piece of content, the more people you should assign to it. For example, you might have an experienced content creator with industry experience writing an article about specific customer pain points, but you'll want them to review it with a subject matter expert (SME) before publication. Similarly, if you're working on some major thought leadership piece with huge implications for your company, you may want to assign it to multiple people for accountability or have a few key stakeholders review it prior to publication. Then again, if you're just posting quick tips or top 10 lists on social media, there probably isn't much need for accountability or additional review.
The most important thing is for everyone involved to understand their role in creating and publishing each piece of content. This will help eliminate confusion down the road and prevent anything from slipping through the cracks.
Once you have the basics in place and have decided which calendar tool you're going to use, it’s time to make a commitment to the schedule. You don't want this to be a one-off activity that gets abandoned after the initial few weeks. Dedicate yourself to the process, and give it some time. This will help your team (and your content marketing process) stay organized, aligned, and on task throughout the month.
That said, you should always leave some room for flexibility in case unexpected events occur or priorities shift. Preparation is important, but you also want to be able to pivot quickly and remain agile as circumstances change.
An editorial calendar is a valuable tool for any company producing content on a regular basis. By taking the time to plan out your content in advance, you can keep your team organized and on the same page with regard to what content will be created and when it will be published. Feel free to tailor these steps to fit your company's specific needs and preferences — the most important thing is to get started, stay committed, and to be willing to adapt as you go.
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