The most effective content marketers learned long ago that an ad hoc approach to content creation doesn’t cut it anymore. Those who have learned to “think like a publisher” have found that a documented content strategy and regularly discussing content plans are essential to getting valuable results.
Regularly published, high quality, on-brand content that boosts SEO and credibility and grows your audience and customer pipeline takes a lot of planning and a lot of effort. An editorial calendar is essential for content marketing teams focused on maximizing content ROI.
Do You Actually Need an Editorial Calendar?
If you create content for your business, the short answer is yes.
As long as your content is expected to drive measurable results, whether it’s web traffic or revenue, an organized framework is the best way to ensure your time and money are wisely spent. An editorial calendar helps you and your team manage the ongoing flow of content planning and creation and enables transparency around your content marketing efforts.
Operations remain highly tactical even in mature content marketing organizations, with urgent projects materializing and demanding immediate attention. Having a clear view of your calendar allows you to make changes and sacrifices where necessary, and prioritize the most critical items over those that can be deferred.
What Makes a Good Editorial Calendar?
A good content calendar is like a good budget—they key is to be honest with yourself and plan for your actual behavior (or in this case, publishing capacity) than an ideal situation and superior future you. Also like a good budget, an editorial calendar asks you to consider all available resources and each piece of content as part of a bigger picture, and one beat in an ongoing publishing cadence you’ve committed to.
Whether you use complex software or sticky notes on a wall, your editorial calendar should allow you to do most of the following:
- Organize content according to themes and topics that represent your expertise
- Address personas and buying stages connected to your business goals
- Make deadlines, assignments, and responsibilities crystal clear
- Flag upcoming and missed deadlines
- Show the relationships among various pieces of content, and between content and campaigns
- Retain flexibility—changing and rearranging items should be easy
- Filter and sort content according to whatever factors you consider most important: author, channel, topic, formant, etc.
- Provide visibility for other stakeholders within your organization
- Make you look good—because look at all the stuff you’re getting done!
What Kind of Editorial Calendar Is Best for Your Team?
There are almost as many ways to manage your content calendar as there are content marketers. I’ve seen various tools employed: dedicated Moleskine notebooks, legal notepads, spreadsheets in Excel, Google Sheets where sharing is critical, simple apps like Trello and robust project management tools like Basecamp. There also numerous stand-alone editorial calendar apps and plugins that work with a specific content management system or publishing engine. Lastly, there those that are built into content marketing platforms designed to serve as a hub for creating content as well as managing the editorial process around it.
The larger and more sophisticated your content marketing team, the greater the likelihood that you’ll need something more robust than a notebook or spreadsheet.
With a team of one or two contributors, analog methods can work, and something like Trello that offers both a card-based board and a calendar view is probably sufficient.
Once you have three or more content creators in the mix, or if you regularly source content from outside your organization, the complexity of your editorial process increases exponentially. The calendar method or software you use needs to be smart enough to reduce friction in the editorial process. Remember, and repeat after me: email is not an editorial process.
Just like developing your first content strategy, crafting a content calendar and finding the right tools to manage your editorial flow takes some up-front effort. The result is a smoother process that yields the kind of output and outcomes you can brag about to all your content marketing peers.