Everything we write as content marketers has a purpose. But even when we understand the point of a single assignment, it’s easy to get confused about schedules and priorities. We need one place that houses all our content ideas, background information, schedules and to-dos. We need an editorial calendar.
An editorial calendar can settle my overactive mind. For me, it’s the best tool to get all the primary information that I need in one place. I can visually see when and how content will be shared, which makes the content creation process more efficient.
Editorial calendars, also called content calendars, are a single source of truth for the content your team is producing. Everyone can see:
- The production status of each piece of content (and the ideas you’re brewing).
- Business-relevant goals for each piece of content.
- Key details (topic, headline, summary, author, keywords, publishing date/status).
- The distribution strategy, including social sharing.
- Who’s assigned to do what.
Editorial calendars evolve along with your team. They aren’t brand standards or style guides, and they don’t substitute for a content strategy. But they will help you stay on task and on brand.
Read on for five questions writers should ask about their editorial calendar.
Why Are We Creating Content?
Writers are responsible for creating content that will be seen by hundreds, thousands or even millions of people. But to be most effective, we need to understand why content is being developed and who it’s for. Start by asking yourself (or your team) these questions:
- What are the goals we want to accomplish with this piece of content?
- Will this further our position as a thought leader or directly lead to business? If so, how?
- Why would this particular piece of content spark action from our target audience?
- Does this content align with our brand and messaging?
Answering these questions can help you focus your efforts. And if you don’t have the answers, you need more guidance or should rethink the strategy.
Let’s say your target audience is HR leaders and people managers in the technology industry. And the topic is improving their hybrid work culture. This topic might be new for a general audience, but it’s probably not new for these people leaders. So what do they need from you? They want high-level, actionable advice that they can implement right away.
Look at those questions we just asked. Hybrid work culture is a hot topic. Many companies are trying to figure it out, even the smart people leaders you’re trying to reach. If you can deliver expertise that further informs them, you’ll garner their attention and respect, which can influence them to inquire about your services and solutions.
You can’t create an editorial calendar until you answer the question “What is it for?” Once you’ve established that higher purpose, you can align it with your editorial calendar and content creation tasks.
Do the Topics Support the Business — and Each Other?
After you know the “why” of your content, it’s time for the fun part — brainstorming content ideas. I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite things to do is come up with and listen to ideas from our team.
This is the stage where your team (or your team of one) can do a brain dump of all your ideas — well, at least the ideas that align with business goals, brand, values and positioning. Topics vary by organization, but everyone has a variety of possible content options: blog posts, interviews with experts, guides, press releases, podcasts, videos and more.
Let your creativity soar with different content ideas and formats. But do so with evidence. For example, run a content gap analysis. This can help you find keywords for which your company wants to rank but currently don’t. Tools such as Ahrefs and Semrush can help you refine your keywords and inform the topics you create content around.
In addition to creating new content, look back at what you’ve already published. What isn’t performing? What isn’t ranking? What needs new information or a different perspective? You can designate that content for a refresh and schedule it through your calendar.
Who’s Doing What? And Why?
You have your topics planned out and you’ve accounted for company announcements, upcoming events and anything else that could affect scheduling. Now it’s time to figure out who is writing what topic and when the content will go live.
Editorial calendars help you schedule a content workflow that makes sense for your team’s capacity including full-time employees and any part-timers or outside help. Maybe your team has content creators with subject matter expertise; it makes sense to assign them topics that play to their strengths. Other content marketing teams, especially small ones, need everyone to lend a hand and learn on the job. For certain types of content, such as audio and video production or graphic design, you might need to hire external help.
Your writers and other content creators benefit from a clear schedule that has as few holes or surprises as possible. Help them focus on doing the work instead of wondering what they’re supposed to be doing. Proper scheduling also ensures everyone has enough time to deliver quality work. Creating original artwork takes longer than selecting a stock photo, for instance, and your editorial calendar should budget for that — in time and money.
Your editorial calendar will be based around deliverables, but it’s essential to include who’s responsible for each deliverable. You can track these tasks within the calendar or use some kind of project management tool, especially if you’re involving people in other departments or outside the organization.
Where Will This Publish?
Posting without considering your audience can negatively affect engagement and performance.
This is where content mapping can help you organize your strategies for linking, SEO, topics and more. In addition, think about the format for the core piece of content, as well as how other formats can repurpose or reinterpret that content. For example, a 60-minute webinar is beneficial for live attendees and on-demand viewers, but you can also create an article summarizing the main takeaways or audio/video clips that highlight essential quotes.
The same applies for how you distribute content and increase your reach to relevant audiences. A blog post can be turned into a quote graphic that’s shared on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Your podcast can be promoted by using audiograms or a still image with a compelling quote from the episode. Each channel has a distinct audience expecting certain types of content, so experiment to see what resonates with your audience.
Do I Have a Steady Schedule?
This question is about consistency. You can ask this question of yourself. What’s your schedule as a writer look like? Most of us are more effective when we have routines and understand what work is coming our way.
This question is also important for editorial calendar strategy. You want your content marketing production to be consistent but not so frequent that your audience is overwhelmed.
There’s no one-size-fits-all schedule for how often — or when — to publish articles and send emails. A CoSchedule analysis of research suggests posting blog posts on Monday morning to get the most traffic. The recommendations change if your goal is to get comments or inbound links, however.
Email is best sent on Tuesday at 10 am, according to research, although that’s far from the only day and time where email marketers find success.
What about promoting your content on social media? Again, be consistent and don’t overdo it. Hootsuite offers recommendations for several social platforms:
- Instagram: 3-7 times per week
- Facebook: 1-2 times a day
- Twitter: 1-5 Tweets a day
- LinkedIn: 1-5 times a day
Experiment with different cadences and platforms to establish what works best for your brand.
Create Your Editorial Calendar Today
An editorial calendar brings structure and focus to content marketing teams. They help leaders align content with strategy, help writers understand what they need to work on and enable anyone else in the organization to see what’s on tap.
The ultimate beneficiary is the business, as the perfect editorial calendar results in great content delivered to the right audience at the right time. When you delight and inform your audience, you inspire them to take action.