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The Basics of Creating an Effective Editorial Calendar

Your editorial calendar guides your content marketing strategy from start to finish. Learn how you can turn it into a surefire map to your success.

By Liz Azyan , in General , at September 7, 2015 Tags: ,

Any social media or content marketing expert will tell you that running a personal social media account differs greatly from maintaining a business or corporate page.

One of the key differences is that the latter takes its contacts or followers into careful consideration — way more than how an individual would think about their followers on social media every time they post updates.

This is hardly surprising. For instance, unless you’re in the catering industry, there’s a 99.9% chance that posting pictures of your breakfast won’t do you or your brand much good. Likewise, there has to be a sense of continuity, nay, of consistency on your business page — how are you going to achieve that if you post about the weather one day and share an album full of playful kittens (regardless of how adorable they are, unfortunately) the next?

You see, content marketing for businesses involves creating and sharing a tremendous amount of content that is meaningful, relevant and interesting to your audience. Thus, in order to do content marketing successfully, you need to generate a ton of content.

This can seem overwhelming at first, and with good reason: Aside from the fact that you’ll be dealing with a LOT of writing on your plate, the absence of a solid, detailed strategy that tells you what to post and when to post it can make things so complex that you might actually find yourself writing about how frustrating it is to write!

As with most things in life, however, the key to winning at content marketing lies in having a well-crafted plan in place; in this case, this means drafting what content marketing specialists and social media managers refer to as an editorial calendar.

Mapping out your content strategy 

An editorial calendar serves as a guide for you and your team with regard to the kind of content you’ll be creating, as well as the schedule of posting and frequency of sharing. With an editorial calendar, you can calibrate your strategy based on your objectives, or even on a set theme. For example, you might want to post best practices for social media platforms this month; one look at your editorial calendar will remind you to post that blog on Facebook best practices on Monday, share the infographic on LinkedIn statistics on Wednesday, link to that funny article about Twitter no-nos on Friday, and so on.

You may think this is just extra work for you, but think about it this way: If you placed yourself in the shoes of your own audience, wouldn’t you be more likely to engage with your brand if you could relate to the content it publishes on social media? This is the only way your potential customers will find some sort of connection with you.

In essence, your editorial calendar fulfils the following functions:

1.  A to-do list.

It will let you schedule everything – from your own blog posts, to article submissions from your guest writers, to even your downloadable offers (such as eBooks, slide shows, images, and so on). It tells you when you should start creating them and when they should be up and ready for mass consumption.

2.  An idea board.

Your content calendar serves as a place where you can assign, plan, or “park” ideas (the last one basically means taking note of a good concept, even though you don’t have a concrete idea of how it can be translated into actual content).

3.  A means of communication.

If you’re working with a team, the editorial calendar can also be your bulletin board, where everyone can see tasks assigned to them, take note of the publishing schedule, gain a better understanding of how your ideas can be translated into visual output, and see important announcements.

4.  A calendar. (No, seriously.)

It’ll help you keep track of holidays and important events, which will not only help you plan your schedule, but will also let you prepare a good content strategy for those dates geared towards getting more leads.

Setting Your Calendar Goals

In one of my previous entries, I talked at length about setting SMART goals for social media marketing. It’s pretty easy to apply the same principle to your editorial calendar.

1.  Specific.

Figure out the kind of content you want to share — taking into consideration what would work for your brand and what wouldn’t — as well as how frequently you plan to create and post content.

2.  Measurable.

The very nature of the calendar as a plan that depends on dates makes it measurable by default. In preparing your editorial calendar, consider post frequency, scheduled times and dates of posting, the number of posts about a specific topic that you plan to share, and so on.

3.  Attainable.

Example: You shouldn’t set a goal of blogging three times a week if you can’t keep up with it. If your schedule is unrealistic, you’ll get bogged down and stressed, and the quality of your content will suffer.

4. Relevant.

Are you going to be sharing and creating content that’s relevant to your brand? For example, unless you can somehow relate your business to the latest trailer of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, there’s really no reason for you to share it on your page. (That’s not to say that entertaining posts aren’t welcome, though — just make sure that you don’t veer too far off-course!)

5.  Time-bound.

Well, here’s one aspect of the editorial calendar that you certainly won’t have to spend much time thinking about — your only problem would be meeting the deadlines you set, based on what’s plotted out in the calendar.

Don’t worry too much about anticipating results; after all, you can still alter your editorial calendar after you check. If you find that certain types of content (for example, Facebook posts or videos) are getting more engagement, you can add more of them to your calendar. On the other hand, if you find that your articles aren’t drawing traffic or gaining readers, you may choose to focus your efforts elsewhere.

Your Content Creation Schedule

There are two ways to go about creating your content. You can spend some time daily producing it, or set aside a block of time each week or so to create the week’s content. If you’re not sure which approach is best for you, try them both for a set period of time.

In content creation, nothing gets done without a clear plan and a workable schedule. Thus, as it ensures consistency in effort, timeliness, and quality, your editorial calendar is your content marketing campaign’s unsung hero.

Now that we’ve discussed the importance of creating an editorial calendar, it’s time to focus on what you’ll be putting there. Content can take many forms — check out this infographic, where I’ve mapped out 21 of the most common types of content for your marketing strategy.