Organization is key to any efficient business process, especially marketing. Organization ensures you’re producing quality content on a regular basis to engage consumers and drive sales. However, organization isn’t as easy as drafting a blog post or capturing a video whenever inspiration strikes. If you want results that drive real conversions, you’ll have to maintain consistency in your branding efforts.
That’s why it’s crucial to build a content calendar, which organizes your marketing content across all channels — blog, social media, email newsletter, etc. — on a daily, weekly, monthly and/or quarterly basis. This calendar can keep your ideas and deadlines in check and will save you and your team time and energy.
Why is a content calendar important?
Have a holistic view of your output
A content calendar allows you to view the overall content marketing strategy. When you’re creating content, it’s easy to forget about the larger picture. A content calendar allows you to take a step back and view the blog posts, newsletters, social media posts, and other content you’ve created from a scheduled content calendar.
This bird’s eye view allows you to recognize what’s working, what’s engaging your audience, and how you can continue this momentum. Creating a comprehensive content calendar can keep messaging consistent among different platforms and mediums and streamline creative asset creation. A content calendar also gives you a chance to see what’s not attracting your audience and if there’s room for improvement.
Plan and organize around key dates
Posting your content at opportune times will attract more readers and create an engaged audience. Instead of rushing to create content for important dates, you can use a content calendar with the best times to post built in. You’re able to see important dates such as anniversaries, holidays, and launch dates and you can create content to fit the day. A content calendar also helps to optimize content creation by planning early, usually at the beginning of the year.
Have time to prepare your content
A content calendar gives you a chance to brainstorm and sort your ideas while ensuring that content creation and publishing is optimally completed. If you don’t prep your content, you may forget to publish at a time where it will best impact your audience. Additionally, a content calendar reminds you to regularly update content such as promotions and time-sensitive articles.
Depending on the timeframe you choose for your content calendar, you’ll be able to see a weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly approach to your content. As you consistently refer back to the calendar, you’ll be able to make adjustments, brainstorm new topics, and publish based on the timeframe that’s optimal to your content.
What type of content can I organize on a calendar?
- Blogs. The blogs you post on your website are the most important and versatile forms of content on your content calendar. You can choose to publish whatever fits your schedule, as long as you’re repurposing the content across different channels and updating regularly.
- Emails. According to McKinsey, email communication is up to 40 times more effective at retaining new customers than social media platforms. Set dates on your calendar to send newsletters or a simple email filled with updates to get your subscribers in touch with new content.
- Social media posts. Sharing on social media is one of the easiest ways to get your content out to a wide audience with the amount of platforms available and the opportunities to repurpose content multiple times across these platforms.
- Podcasts. If your business doesn’t have a podcast, it may be beneficial to think about starting one. Podcasts are a great way to create content and update your audience on pertinent topics.
- Videos. Video marketing is becoming more and more popular with the rise of TikTok and other video platforms. Scheduling video content on your content calendar gives you time to brainstorm ideas and shoot videos regularly.
- Print releases. While most content is digital these days, there are still print publications, direct mail pieces, and physical event invitations businesses send out on a semi-regular basis. Schedule your printed content on your calendar just as you would your digital content.
How to build a content calendar
If you’re interested in creating a content calendar for your business or organization, here are 8 tips to build it out effectively.
1. Design your calendar
The first thing you’ll need to do is decide the format of your calendar. This can be an actual calendar template, a simple spreadsheet, a PDF template, or even an online project management tool. From there, decide how you want to map out your content (e.g. weeks or months in advance). You can start short-term and expand as you come up with ideas.
2. Organize content types
Ask yourself who your ideal audience is and what they might want to learn from you. You can do this by creating personas of potential customers, considering any questions or concerns they might have that you can answer for them.
Additionally, ask yourself who you are as a brand. What voice do you want to project? Do you want to be casual, professional, or perhaps somewhere in between? Define your brand’s identity and ensure your content reflects that intended persona.
Once you figure out exactly what you want to write or create for your audience, break it down into different categories (e.g. long blog posts, short blog posts, social media posts, photos, videos, infographics, etc.). This will help you mix up the types of posts you share rather than exhausting just one or two forms of content. You may wish to color-code each type of content to help you visualize it better.
3. Determine how often you want to post
Depending on your resources (business size, number of employees, free time, etc.), you might choose to post on certain platforms daily, biweekly, weekly, or even less than that. This is entirely up to you and what works for your business.
Regardless of how often you share your content, it’s important to keep your posting schedule consistent. For instance, if you choose to publish a blog post each week, choose a specific day and communicate it to your followers so they know when to expect it. On platforms like social media, however, you’ll want to post more frequently to be considered an “active” user.
4. Look for opportunities to repurpose content
Despite the massive demand for “new” content, you don’t have to come up with completely new assets for every channel, every day. There are plenty of ways to slice, dice, and stretch the content you create for one medium for use on another, with very little additional effort. For example, if you write a blog post, you can take a snippet of that and adapt it for a Facebook caption. You can highlight the most important elements of the post and create a text-based video to share on Instagram. You can even turn parts of the blog post into a visually appealing graphic.
Don’t forget that you can also revisit and update older, high-performing content with a little bit of new information. The more mileage you can get out of one core piece of content, the easier it will be to keep up with your content marketing efforts.
5. Be flexible enough to jump on trending topics
It’s good to have a steady stream of “evergreen” content ideas, but depending on your business type, you might also want to post content covering new industry developments or current events. In these cases, you’ll want to be flexible enough to adapt your strategy and publish “trending” stories in a timely fashion. This will help establish you as a relevant and credible expert in your field.
6. Ask your team for help
Get your team involved in brainstorming. The more people you include in the process, the more insight and ideas you’ll gain. Plus, you’ll have more people to delegate to, which will help you tackle more projects in less time.
7. Schedule cross-channel content
When scheduling content, integrate other types of marketing into your strategy. For instance, pair a blog post with a social media post and schedule them to go live on the same day. Also, find other blogs or influencers in your industry or niche, and make an effort to engage with them on a regular basis, whether through follows, comments, likes, shares, etc.
8. Measure your content performance and adapt
As you publish your content, check your stats and evaluate how well certain posts perform. For instance, maybe your audience prefers short listicles to long blog posts; or maybe they want more videos and less photos. Whatever the results may be, don’t be afraid to make adjustments accordingly and experiment with new ideas.
Content marketing is a great way to engage and connect with your target consumers while establishing yourself as a reliable source in your field. Building and maintaining a content calendar will help you achieve your marketing goals with ease while developing and assessing your strategy as you go.
What is the difference between a content calendar and an editorial calendar?
While it may seem as though you can use the terms “content calendar” and “editorial calendar” interchangeably, they’re different types of calendars that you can use differently depending on your content’s strategy. Publications utilize editorial calendars to plan content ahead of time. For example, a published magazine may have a Valentine’s Day spread for its February issue. They can use an editorial calendar to map out the pieces with assigned writers, editors, and photographers. As these pieces are planned out far in advance, editorial calendars can be created monthly, quarterly, or even yearly. It’s scope will usually be broad during the planning stage with the details filled out once the publishing date gets closer.
Content calendars, on the other hand, are likely more familiar to content creators and marketers. A content calendar has more specific details than an editorial calendar as it zeroes in on the day-to-day content creation process. A content calendar will outline each piece of content and its publication date.. Content calendars are meant to be agile and provide you with flexibility whether you’re working on a consistent project or have a time-sensitive deadline for a client. This process gives you and your team an organized view of the content creation process while maintaining and publishing timely content.
How can content and editorial calendars benefit you?
Here are a few ways a content or editorial calendar can benefit you and your team:
- Reduces stress. Content and editorial calendars keep you from worrying about your posting schedule by give you the ability to plan your content out over time and not guessing taking the what content to post on any given day. You’ll know exactly what your team is publishing each day, as these calendars plan content weekly or monthly.
- Creates brainstorming opportunities. Whether you’re a small business or an agency, content and editorial calendars give you a chance to convene with your team on future publishing opportunities. Schedule brainstorming sessions, where your team has the opportunity to come up with new, creative ideas for future content. You can even analyze feedback from previous content to apply to your calendar.
- Engages your audience.. A content or editorial calendar can help you sort through relevant topics for your content and ensure you’re not recycling topics your audience has deemed uninteresting. It allows you to keep your ideas organized and evaluate what was successful and what was not.
- Provides consistency. A content or editorial calendar gives your audience a consistent posting schedule. Whether you’re sharing your content on social media, learning how to create an Instagram content calendar, or crafting a weekly email, consistency is key. A content or editorial calendar can give you the tools to post relevant and steady content.
Best tools for creating content calendars
A content calendar tool is a great way to stay organized and keep track of posting times. Some tools even have the ability to integrate with your content management system. There are a number of tools available to choose from, so it’s important you and your team ask the right questions: Is it important that the tool provides steps on how to create a content calendar? Or do you need a tool that gives you progress reports and collaboration abilities?
Here are a few tools for creating content calendars to choose from:
- Gather Content: This tool utilizes a content platform where you and your team can create, manage, and plan your content all in one place. Gather Content also features templates and a robust calendar you can share with your clients. It’s content workflow allows you and your team to see where your content is in each process without relying on complex spreadsheets or a shared document.
- WordPress Editorial Calendar Plugin: This WordPress plugin is a perfect tool that details exactly how to create a content calendar for a blog on WordPress. You can use the drag and drop feature to change publishing dates, manage your drafts, and see the status of your posts. Everything is featured on the calendar built right into your WordPress capabilities. While this is a simple editorial calendar, you get a bird’s eye view of your content right where you draft and publish.
- Google or Excel spreadsheets: To get a completely customized calendar on a tight budget, it may be worth it to create a calendar on Google or Excel spreadsheets. You can create templates like this one from HubSpot. These templates can house everything from the author, target audience, keywords, and publishing date.
- CoSchedule: As a WordPress plugin, this tool features either a marketing calendar or a marketing suite depending on your business’s needs. The marketing calendar can be edited in real time, meaning you and your team can collaborate on the calendar remotely while seeing real time changes. With CoSchedule, you can create social media posts and checklists while organizing and publishing posts right in the calendar feature.
- Kapost: Kapost is a robust software that focuses on content creation, production, and distribution. It’s a platform that allows you and your team to collaborate, build a strong workflow, and send your message directly your intended audience. You can even connect your content schedule to your sales team. Kapost also keeps track of your content’s performance by providing quantifiable metrics.
- ContentCal: This tool helps you and your team manage all parts of your communication paired with the ability to share on social media platforms, email newsletters, your website, and more. Like most other software features, you get an overview of your content schedule on a calendar view you can share with your team and clients. It’s advanced analytics also tracks your content’s ROI.
How to create an editorial calendar:
While an editorial calendar and a content calendar may seem similar, there are a few differences when it comes to creating an editorial calendar. For one, an editorial calendar is mainly a high level overview of your content over long periods of time. While content calendars are more hands-on and with a day-to-day overview. When building out an editorial calendar think about the needs of your team, including:
- How often you’re publishing content
- The types of content you’re creating
- The size of your team
- The different stages you go through before publishing
- Your preferred calendar format
Here’s how to create an editorial calendar:
1. Choose a format. You can use a number of editorial calendar management platforms or use a simple app such as Google Calendar. You can also use spreadsheets including Excel or Google Spreadsheets. Another option is to use a Kanban board utilized through Trello or Airtable. No matter which format you choose, your editorial calendar should include the month and day, a cohesive platform, and organizational capabilities.
2. Determine the key elements. It’s important to create an editorial calendar that prioritizes elements that help your team work efficiently. Elements of an efficient editorial calendar include:
- Themes, topics, and subtopics of your content
- Important dates, events, and holidays
- How often you’ll be posting — either on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis
- Your publishing channels (website, blog, email, or social media)
3. Establish how often you’ll use the editorial calendar. The more frequently you use your editorial calendar, the easier it is to publish content. Establish a routine within your team in which your editorial calendar is regularly reviewed. That way everyone is on the same page as far as the progress of content and its deadlines. It also allows them to plan for future pieces of content in the long term.
Need help creating your content calendar? Each of our marketing consulting services includes a comprehensive content calendar template and content recommendations. that we’ll work with you to fill out. Get more details here or contact us with questions.
Sammi Caramela also contributed to this article.
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