An editorial calendar is what you might guess it is - a calendar that informs what editorial decisions you’ll make for your blog and when. It comes from the world of magazine publishing, when editors had to decide what stories they’d run, when, and who was going to write them. We’ve adopted the method in online writing - usually blogging - to add structure and organization to the way we publish content.
What is an editorial calendar?
An editorial calendar is a calendar that specifies when a specific piece of content will be published.
It can also specify who is going to write it, or incorporate additional data, like an article brief, research, blog hierarchy, or images.
You may also have heard “blog calendar”, blogging calendar” or “blog schedule” , or any combination of these. They’re all the same thing!
Can we apply the concept in other places online?
Sure. The concept of a blog editorial calendar can be extended to social media (what posts will be published and when) or for content marketing (what assets will be published and when they will go online). The most important aspect of any online editorial calendar is that;
It is reasonable and sustainable
That all members of your team are involved and in agreement
Why do you need to use a content calendar?
I really believe that all blogs, big or small, can really benefit from an editorial calendar. Here’s why:
They provide for regular, fresh content (Google loves it!)
They avoid last minute topic scrambles
They clearly assign responsibility and expectations
They help clarify your content strategy
They help individual team members better plan their time
Smaller teams and less frequently updated blogs can get away without them, but they’re still missing out on the benefits, above. If your team is bigger, involves different departments, has multiple writers, or publishes frequently, we’d say they’re completely necessary.
How to create an editorial calendar
There is no one way to create an editorial calendar for your blog - there is a certain amount of trial and error and finding out what works for your team.
Find out if any of your existing apps might work. People get good results from Google Calendar, Trello, Asana, Excel, and Basecamp. Some people already pay for social media or marketing tools that also have this functionality, like Hubspot, Kapost, CoSchedule, or Loomly. The important thing is that everyone involved has access, is happy using the tool, and that there is a “view by date” functionality.
Set your tool up so that there is a clear ability to view or filter by date. Add the content pieces on the dates you want to publish. Add a notification for the person responsible on a date that will allow them to complete the work in time.
In the most basic form, this is a content calendar.
If your calendar needs to factor in different stages in the content creation process, multiple writers, multiple responsible people in the production process for a single piece of content, or needs to demonstrate where a given piece of content lies in a greater content strategy, you’ll have to fiddle around with your tool to get it to reflect this.
One of the easiest, especially for getting a mental grip on the process (maybe before you move it to a more comprehensive or pretty tool) is Excel. The CMI have produced a good, basic content calendar for Google Sheets/Excel. You’ll find it here.
Some stages in the process you might need to include:
Ideas > Research > On Hold > Writing > Editing > Images & Design > Scheduled > Social Collateral > Ready to Publish > Published
You’ll also need to be able to assign tasks to a specific member of the team.
In Excel, you can do this with colour-coding and drop-down filters. In project management apps, you can do this with tagging, team members, and projects (for example, “Blog”) and sub-projects (for example “name of blog post”. Some will have pre-defined “content calendar” templates, so search to see if one is on offer.
Why you urgently need an editorial calendar for your blog
It’s hard to write, publish, and promote blog posts adequately when you’re also responsible for other aspects of a business, but having no plan, no timetable, and no accountability is unlikely to help. Plotting content into a content calendar allows you to make a reasonable, executable plan for your time.
Laying out the pieces of content that make up your strategy in advance will allow you to ensure that your strategy is complete, focussed, and well-balanced. If you plan out content for the month only to realize there’s nothing funneling to your new online product, for instance, you’ll know that your strategy needs refactoring now, and not once it’s too late.
Assigning tasks to different team members allows you to make the best use of the time available to content creation while also relieving personal pressure. Realizing that you can’t delegate to others allows you to see that you might need some extra help!
We’re convinced that all blogs need a content calendar, and soon we’ll be offering a free webinar showing you how to make a content calendar template for Excel/Google Sheets. A simple calendar won’t take more than 15 minutes, and complexity can be added as you need it. This will allow your content production to grow in harmony with your resources.
In the meantime, download one of the calendars mentioned above, or make your own. Your blog - and stress levels - will thank you.