If you’re here on the GatherContent blog, chances are you care a lot about your content and you’ve got a lot of it to manage.
So you need all the content management tools and tricks you can get. Right?
Today, let’s talk about the editorial calendar.
What is an editorial calendar?
An editorial calendar is, as the name suggests, a calendar to help you keep track of what 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’ve got a blog, a newsletter, or some other form of consistently published content that your users look forward to or rely on.
Why do you need one?
Editorial calendars are all about structure and consistency. They can help you and your team:
- Make sure you’re publishing consistently and on-time
- Manage the frequency with which you publish on a certain topic
- Keep long (or short) approval processes on track
- Keep your online marketing consistent, building trust and community with your users
In its most basic form, the editorial calendar should tell you:
- What should be published
- Where it should be published
- Who is responsible
- When it should be published
And all of these items should be determined by your content strategy before you actually dive into creating the editorial calendar.
Allow me to offer up an example:
What should be published?
Determining what to 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 (because 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, information on how to choose a venue, inspiration for their events, etc.
So it only makes sense that our make-believe coffee shop would publish content on those very topics – helping their users create, publicize, put on, and enjoy their successful events. This kind of content helps both the user and creates trust and relationship with the business, which 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.
Where should we publish?
With the goals and needs above in mind (as well as a number of other considerations, such as resources, time commitment, and secondary goals like SEO), 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 and management resources.
Who is responsible?
Now, the coffee shop needs to look at their internal talent and access to external resources and decide who is responsible for creating the content, editing/revising/approving the content, publishing the content, and maintaining the content.
This might be a single person or a large team, but it should be hammered out before the editorial calendar is made.
In the case of a small coffee shop, it’s likely that one person will be in charge of the whole enchilada with a little help from one other reviewer who provides a second set of eyes before content goes live (if they’re lucky).
When should it be published?
Again based on a number of strategic considerations both internal and external (where in the world is your audience and how does that time zone impact your publishing schedule? When are your internal resources available to publish content? When is your website traffic high or highly engaged?), the coffee shop will finally 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 is one post per week. Let’s say they also have higher engagement toward the end of the week—Thursdays and Fridays—as that’s when existing events often happen, school and work wind down for the week, etc. So let’s say our coffee shop decides that they’ll publish one blog post per week, consistently hitting the publish button on Thursday afternoons.
Creating that editorial calendar
Okay. So once we have all that information—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 for that lovely little editorial calendar.
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.
But what if our project is more than just a simple coffee shop blog?
So, obviously 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 (be it Google docs or a tech solution) that works for your project makeup.
Our coffee shop might get along just fine using iCal or Google docs, where a large university with 25 blogs, 30 unique newsletters, and hundreds of authors will need a much more robust system to keep everything in check.
If you haven’t already, you should check out the new GatherContent editorial calendar, they’ve just released the first iteration this week!
Questions? Comments? Agree or disagree? Leave us a comment or drop us a line.
This is a guest post by Gigi Griffis. 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.