For centuries before the idea of “brands as publishers” came along and gave a generation of marketing writers renewed job security, traditional publishers used editorial calendars, or ed cals, to plan upcoming stories and help advertisers choose their insertion schedules.
That hasn’t changed, but today, brands have co-opted the editorial calendar, in name and essence, as a way to plan and manage their content marketing programs. For brand publishers:
An editorial calendar is a calendar that acts as the central hub for content production, workflows, and deadlines. It’s essential for alignment of content production teams and visibility across business stakeholders.
For me, editorial calendar creation is the point at which a content program starts to feel real.
This is when strategy starts to give way to tactics, assignments are created, dates are assigned, and my little tadpole-sized ideas start to grow legs (I’d link to a photo, but be-legged tadpoles are…not cute).
Because brand editorial calendars are (or should be) based on a company’s overall content strategy, they often open with a roadmap for the year that outlines upcoming product launches, marketing campaigns, events and tradeshows, and other overarching categories that map to the company’s goals, such as thought leadership.
Then, for each month, the ed cal includes a breakdown of the actual content pieces needed, who will be responsible for them, and when they’ll be due.
Elements of a typical ed cal include:
- Content type (byline, white paper, blog post, etc.)
- Destination (website, publication, etc.)
- Content completion date
- Design completion date (if applicable)
- Approval date
- Publish/go live date
- Target persona
- Sales stage (awareness, credibility, interest, etc.)
- Social media/promotion
- Call to action
- Destination link (once published)
But why build from scratch what you can steal from willing victims? If you need to manage a few content assets per month, there are a ton of free editorial calendar templates on the Internet. I use a modified version of this one, saved and shared as an editable Google spreadsheet so my team can update and comment on it. If you’re looking for something more robust to manage an enterprise content operation, take a look into content marketing technology.
What unexpected categories have you added to your editorial calendar? Feel free to share your experiences or advice in the comments.