We’ve built some pretty gorgeous editorial calendars… agonized over the details and poured countless hours into making sure it’s just right. And then. And then… it sits in a Google Drive file gathering dust. Between everything that comes up in the day, it’s hard to prioritize an editorial calendar and its content marketing plans. So, what are some ways around this? I’d wager an effective editorial calendar (marketing calendar, content calendar… whatever you call it where you are) can be one of the best tools to help you stay on track toward a certain goal.
But (there’s always a but) it has to be the right calendar, in the right medium, built into the right process. Otherwise it’s likely to be little more than wasted effort. Let’s take a look at some key considerations, whether you’re starting a brand new calendar, or looking to revamp an existing one.
Choosing an Editorial Calendar Platform
The tool you use to create your calendar will play a huge role in how easy, or difficult, it may be for you to get buy-in internally. To start, evaluate what systems you may already be using, and how effective they’ve been. I would even create a pro/con list of your current tools so you have a clear picture of what’s working, and probably a few things that aren’t. Then you can take a look at other options with more confidence, especially if something new seems like it might be a good fit.
We’ve commonly seen Google sheets used since they are easily shared and updated. If you want a little more control, a standard Excel sheet may be a better choice. Trello and SmartSheets might also be useful choices depending on the volume of content you’re looking to plan, and the number of stakeholders and participants who will need to have access. Here’s a more comprehensive list of editorial calendar creation tools. There are plenty to choose from, so our advice is most often to keep it simple and keep it familiar. Bonus points if it matches something already in use.
Planning For More Than Copy
If there’s a question you can ask about your content and its life cycle, now is the time to ask it, and find the answer. Record all of these so you have a framework for the calendar:
- What content is already created? (You can create a comprehensive list, or a general outline of themes and topics, etc.)
- What are you going to be creating?
- Why are you creating it? (Try to tie it to a tangible goal or KPI if you can)
- How often?
- Who needs to be involved? (SEO? Email? Paid Search? Executives?)
- Does it need to relate to other content or marketing initiatives, either online or off?
- What does the approval process look like? (How many stages are there, etc.)
- The publication process?
- How are you going to promote it?
- What will success look like? (Again, hopefully this can be a measurable metric to let you know that your content accomplished what you set out for it to do.)
- What will you do with it post-publication? Revamp it for next year’s promotion, for example?
Working from a Content Plan
This is by far the most challenging part of launching an editorial calendar, because you need everyone involved to feel invested enough to take it seriously and actually, you know, USE it. Don’t underestimate the power of a quick “launch party” or similar here.
It might look like this – get everyone you need in a room, ply them with some coffee or beer and food, and talk it out together. You can practice updating content theme ideas as a team, bounce new ideas off each other, as long as you’re using or demonstrating use of the new tools and framework and coming to the process as a whole, rather than distinct teams or roles within the organization.
I know, I know. This is far easier said than done, which is why many organizations choose to bring in an outside consultant to facilitate this process. This can be a great choice if you suspect your team will be receptive to that. If not, trust your team to get there organically, even if some help is needed along the way.
Maintaining and Upkeep
Not every calendar format or process works for every company, but odds are, you’ll learn something valuable by trying — or changing — how your editorial calendar works. If and when you find something that’s not helping the process, you can make adjustments to simplify things the next time around.
When you have a platform and a process in place, you can start to think about cadence for planning and topic generation:
- Do you need to do this monthly?
- How far in advance do you need to have sign off?
- When will you pull performance data and run reports?
Asking these questions should help you get to the answers you need for maintaining a healthy content or editorial calendar.
It’s also key to keep in touch with all your organizational initiatives, so if you can create a standing meeting that gets decision makers in a room on a regular basis, you’re that much closer, and there’s less potential for important topics to fall off the radar.
After that, having a healthy editorial calendar hinges on updating it regularly. Maybe that’s daily or weekly, as long as you (or someone in the organization) are monitoring the content, you’ll be en route to having access to the information you need to determine which content is successful, and what needs improving or abandonment as you continue to work your plans.