If you’re here on the GatherContent blog, chances are you care a lot about your content. And you probably have a lot of it to create and manage. So you need all the content management tools and tricks you can get. A good place to start is creating an editorial calendar or content calendar as it can also be called.
An editorial calendar is a calendar to help you keep track of what content you are publishing, when it needs to be published, who will publish it, and where it should be published.It’s particularly helpful when you’re creating a lot of content on an on-going basis. This might be a blog, a newsletter, or some other form of content that your users look forward to or rely on.
Editorial calendars are all about structure and consistency. They can help you and your team:
In its most basic form, the editorial calendar should tell you:
All of these items should be determined by your content strategy before you actually dive into creating an editorial calendar.Here's an example:
Determining what content to create and publish starts with determining your user needs and business goals.
Let’s say a local coffee shop has business goals that include getting groups to use their space for artistic events. In the past, they’ve found this generates substantial business and press for their company.The users who need space for their events may also need information about how to run or promote an artistic event. Or information on how to choose a venue, inspiration for their events, etc.It makes sense that our make-believe coffee shop would publish content on those very topics. They are helping their users create, publicise, put on, and enjoy successful events. This kind of content helps both the user and creates trust and relationship with the business. In turn that may drive more artistic events into their space.If they want to get even deeper into what to publish and make sure they are publishing more often on more popular or important topics, the coffee shop could also assign percentages to its topics (which might look something like this):
They can then use these percentage guidelines to develop their editorial calendar, publishing four inspiration posts for every six how-tos.
With the goals in mind (as well as considerations such as resources, time, SEO), they can decide what channels to use. Let’s say our coffee shop decides that a blog—with its long-form content and SEO value—is the best use of their content creation.
The coffee shop needs to look at their internal talent and access to external resources and decide who is responsible for creating the content. As well as editing, approving, publishing, and maintaining the content. Defining a content creation workflow will be useful here.This might be a single person or a large team, but it should be decided before the editorial calendar is made.In our example, it’s likely that one person will be in charge of the whole enchilada. They will also have help from a reviewer who provides a second set of eyes before content goes live.
There are a number of strategic considerations, both internal and external:
Considering all of this, the coffee shop will have to decide how often and when they’ll be publishing content.In the case of this example, they probably have limited resources and one person handling all their marketing. So it’s likely that the most they could handle would be one post per week. Let’s say they also have higher engagement toward the end of the week. Our coffee shop decides that they’ll publish one blog post per week, consistently hitting the publish button on Thursday afternoons.
Once we know what needs to be published, where it’ll be published, who is responsible, and when we want to publish—it’s time to actually create an editorial calendar of your own.In the case of the coffee shop, the editorial calendar might look something like this:
The content manager will write a blog post on Mondays, review (hopefully with a second reviewer looking it over as well) on Tuesdays, and hit the publish button on Thursdays. The topic is specified for each week in keeping with the topic distribution chart above. And the system is pretty simple.Depending on the type of calendar, gathering, or publishing software they’re using, the coffee shop could also set up reminder emails or pop-ups and monthly or quarterly check-ins with the team to reevaluate strategy, review popular posts, and brainstorm how to make their blog and content better.
Many of you will have much more complex projects than this. You’ve got multiple authors—perhaps in-house and freelance. You’ve got more than one blog or content project in the works. And then there’s that review process, which involves everyone from the company lawyer to the janitor (okay, so maybe not the janitor…but it sure feels that way sometimes, right?).
I get that.
Your calendar is going to look a lot more complex. But the principles—the what, when, where, and who—will remain the same. The calendar just gets bigger and more detailed.
When multiple people are involved, for example, color-coding by person or project, giving clear direction on time of day (is it due at the end of the day? The beginning?), and even using a system that allows you to give different levels of detail or permissions to different users can be a lifesaver.
When multiple projects are in the works, you may want to choose or create a calendar system with the ability to layer (so that you can turn off the Newsletter layer and clearly see only the tasks for the blog or vice versa).
Every editorial calendar is a little different in its execution. The important thing is to have your strategy in place; to know your what, when, where, and whos; and to choose a system that works for your project makeup. Then you can set about creating an editorial calendar with confidence it will be effective for your needs.
Gigi is a content strategist and web writer specializing in travel, technology, education, non-profit, and wellness content. In 2010, she quit her agency job and started Content for Do-Gooders, where she helps clients solve messy content problems around the world. You should follow her on Twitter.