Content Creation

6 Tips for Planning an Editorial Calendar

By June 16, 2015 2 Comments

Content marketing involves lots of moving parts, and without well-designed processes in place, there’s no way to get them all in sync.

In fact, according to a recent survey by Gleanster Research and Kapost, managing the overall content process was the top challenge to content marketing success among mid-to-large B2B companies.

One of the most helpful steps you can take in your content marketing logistics is to create an editorial calendar.

Managing the overall content process was the top challenge to content marketing success among mid-to-large B2B companies.

Kapost’s research showed that 36% of firms miss deadlines due to lack of a centralized calendar. But having one that works well for the team can make a big difference: 85% of marketing top performers manage a centralized calendar for content production, compared with only 44% of average companies.

How do these top performers keep their edge? Here are six tips to take your editorial calendar from average to excellent.

1. Know Your Key Dates

The best editorial calendars are the ones that integrate ideas from across an entire company. This means it’s important for the editorial team to know the dates for upcoming product launches and other marketing projects.

These milestones should be recognized and covered in your content plans, so the sooner you can get a roadmap going, the better you’ll be able to steer your crew toward success.

Keep in mind that important dates aren’t only the ones that are internally important to your company. Want to have a Valentine’s Day tie-in? What about a funny post for Talk Like a Pirate Day? Those dates should be tracked ahead of time so you can brainstorm the best possible approach to the event. All of that information should live in your editorial calendar, even if you don’t necessarily create something around it each year.

2. Think Evergreen

Not every element of your editorial plan has to be time-sensitive. In fact, balancing timely material with evergreen content can help bring repeat visitors to your site. It secures your reputation as a useful resource year-round. Plus, it takes some of the pressure of real-time marketing off your editorial creators and gives them the time to expound on the topics that interest them most.

Use a calendar to monitor the balance of the real-time material you’re putting out. When you have gaps in the schedule, or content gaps in topics that align with your product and customer needs, fill them with evergreen posts. And when you have content that’s particularly successful or important, plan to give it a regular signal boost to extend the time it spends in circulation.

3. Include All the Details

A calendar isn’t the place to try out shorthand abbreviations. It will be a more useful resource when it acts as a complete record of your content that keeps everyone on the same page.

Make sure that each entry tracks all of the people involved and the project’s full title. Depending on how you structure your projects, it can also be worth tagging calendar entries with a keywords or fields (like persona or buying stage) that explain the campaigns they’re part of or the audiences they’re for.

Once a piece of content goes live, be sure to link to it in the calendar, too. That final record is especially good to have when your content spans multiple platforms. For instance, you might have a hub of product guides and how-tos that lives in a separate place from your regular company blog. Tracking all of those different projects in a single place helps give direction to your activities.

4. Plan for the Whole Process

Great content takes time and preparation. You’ll want a calendar that reflects the amount of time it takes to create and refine each item. That’s true of everything your editorial team produces, from blog posts to whitepapers. It also means that a lot of balls are in the air at any given time.

A calender centralizes all of the activity around your content strategy. It ensures that everybody is on the same page and knows who is responsible for a task at a particular stage. If editing usually takes a week, then the writer’s initial due date should reflect that. If the design team needs to be involved, get an estimate of their available resources so you can stay on track.

Remember that the promotion is part of the process too. Make sure that your calendar reflects where and when you’ll share a piece of content. You wouldn’t want to work hard on great material just to have it slip through the cracks.

5. Make It Flexible

Remember, part of the challenge of content marketing is that it can be unpredictable. That’s also what makes it so effective. Maybe the product team announces a last-minute update. Or your CEO authors a guest post that publishes unexpectedly. Or social media goes bananas debating the color of a dress and creates a viral moment.

These are great reasons to make changes to your editorial plans, and your content marketing leaders should feel confident with making these changes.

You may want to intentionally leave some space in your calendar to make it easier to accommodate those spur-of-the-moment creations. If you pack your posting schedule too tightly, your pieces (and your staff) will have less room to breathe. Let the content have time to make the rounds on social, email, or whatever your distribution channels are.

6. Think about the Reader

Content marketing offers brands the opportunity to frame the conversation around key industry topics. Part of this is so you can position your business at the forefront of thought leadership. But it’s also to provide a service to your audience. You need to give them material that they want to read, and that delivers value. To do that, you’ll need to know who your readers are, why they read your content, and what they want to see.

Use your editorial calendar to makes things fun for your readers. Create monthly themes for your content. Space out your funniest posts to keep the tone fresh. Know when they’re most engaged and when they’re most saturated with other material.

Whatever your other content marketing goals are, always keep the readers in mind while you plan your calendar. They’re the ones who determine your success, after all.

Anna Washenko

About Anna Washenko

Anna is a freelance writer in Los Angeles. She's a generalist, just as excited about marketing and social media as about music and video games. Her very concise thoughts can be found on Twitter: @AnnaGetsPithy.

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