How To Use A Content Marketing Editorial Calendar To Save A Ton Of Time
86% of you reading this right now are planning to publish more content.
That's a lot of planning for you content marketers and bloggers out there!
Let me contrast that stat: 12% of you plan to publish the same amount of content you do today, and only 2% plan to publish less content.
The fact that you found this page this right now means that you're here to rock at content marketing.
Why Use A Content Marketing Editorial Calendar In The First Place?
The difference between having a content marketing editorial calendar and not having one is simple: One is flying by the seat of your pants and the other is executing a strategy.
A solid content marketing editorial calendar is a tool that helps you plan out your content. You can use it as a solo blogger or with a team.
Editorial calendars approach your content creation from two sides. They encourage you as you start to see your content as it will be, and they kick you in the pants as you see your content as it should be.
And yes, you need one. Even if it’s just you blogging.
If you’re thinking, “My blog isn’t very big, so I don’t need an editorial calendar,” the editorial calendar will reply with, “That’s why your blog isn’t very big.”
Let’s own up to the Catch 22 and hop on board. If you’re serious about your blog, the smaller it is, the more you need a tool that helps you focus your content and ups your publishing rate.
So where should you begin? There are 3 simple steps to follow to rock an amazing content marketing editorial calendar (and subsequently, an amazing strategy):
- Understand why you're doing content marketing and know how you'll be successful at it.
- Plan the content you'll create and how you will do it.
- Execute your plan using a content marketing editorial calendar to publish and share your content.
Step 1. Understand Why You're Doing Content Marketing
The ultimate goal of content marketing is to create content that ends in conversion. Right? End result: You make your business money.
So it makes sense to start off by understanding your audience and what they need from you to make the decision to download what you're giving, subscribe to what you're emailing, buy what you're selling, or whatever it is that you want them to do.
Traditional marketing runs screaming from the concept of connecting to an audience. Instead, it wants to push its message in front of every face possible, whether they would be interested or not. That doesn’t work anymore.
Your audience is human.
Audiences are made of individual people who don’t want to be treated as an anonymous crowds or mere demographic statistics. They have names, careers, families, interests, and concerns, and those are the things they care about the most.
They don’t care about your advertising.
Recommended Reading: Find The Right Target Audience, And Make Writing Easy
So why are you creating content?
Why are you creating content? The answer to that question might be tough to face. Hopefully, you are motivated to gain customer trust.
You can earn trust by providing super helpful content. When that happens, the trust you've built from your content will influence your readers' decision to buy what you have to offer.
And hopefully, you’re willing to do the one thing it takes in order for that to happen: giving.
You have to give—and keep giving.
Keeping your best ideas and content for yourself, behind a paywall, won’t inspire customers to try you, much less trust you.
You might not be comfortable giving away your expertise, but let’s look at in different terms to help dissuade your fears:
Content is a gateway drug.
With your content, you’re not giving away the farm, just starting with a couple of chickens. That convinces your customers to come and visit the farm more often.
You might be telling them how to remodel their kitchen, but you’re not giving away lumber. They still need you.
Be real about marketing costs.
Marketing costs in two ways: in time, or in money.
With money, we try to buy attention, and that’s pricey. With time, we give away great content in order to gain trust.
Which do you think you can sustain: attention you have to keep paying for, or great content your customers come back for on their own?
Recommended Reading: How To Turn Your Blog Readers Into Paying Customers
Step 2. Plan How You'll Actually Do This
Once you know why you're doing content marketing and how you're going to be successful, you can finally start planning your actual content.
Though we're really talking about content marketing editorial calendars here (and only just getting started!), skipping to this point without understanding how you'll be successful in the first place is kind of a waste of time.
You need to have awesome ideas to plan awesome content. And that comes from knowing your goals (why you're doing this) and your audience.
Find the best ideas for your content.
Start by simply finding the best ideas to plan them as content with your editorial calendar.
The challenge is to find ideas that you already know are going to connect with your audience. You can do that by searching for socially-inspired ideas, planning them in your editorial calendar, and writing to connect with your audience.
By socially-inspired content, I mean really listening to your audience. These content ideas are based on what your audience actually needs help with, then writing content to help them out—building the trust you set out to create in the first place.
This way, you start planning content that revolves around a problem or challenge your audience is facing.
Recommended Reading: How To Start A Blog When You Have Absolutely No Audience
Easy, right? Here are some quick things you can look into to find your audience's biggest problems:
- Look through your latest support tickets.
- Read, respond, and ask questions in blog post comments.
- Stick around for event Q&As (think about when people ask questions after people present webinars, conferences, etc.).
- Check out what's going on with social media, and use it to ask your audience questions.
- Interview them—just chat with your customers!
And I'm sure you could think of dozens of other ways to understand your audience's biggest challenges.
Figure out how you'll tell your story.
By this point, you probably have a bajillion ideas you could write about. Now is the best time to plan the best way to write those ideas so one piece of content carries on the story where another left off.
Your blog posts are like chapters in a book. They should make sense together so you can build your audience around a central topic—the biggest challenge they face.
So you need to find patterns to plan them in an ideal chronological order. That'll help you publish your content in the best order possible for your unique story.
Recommended Reading: An Easier Way To Tell Your Story Using Content Marketing
Get the entire team on board.
Let me be clear on this from the get-go: You just need to get the right people on board.
Sure, getting buy-in from the higher-ups is something that definitely needs to happen. But you only need to understand what resources you have available to you to create the content you're planning.
So you need to know who can help you out with strategy, text, graphics, editing, and social media. Maybe that's all up to you—or maybe there are some other awesome folks who can help you out.
These are the main roles you'll need to fill to build a successful team that creates awesome content (and one very busy person could do a ton of these on their own):
- Project manager: The person who helps the team understand your audience, goals, and the stories you're going to tell. This is more high level stuff.
- Content writer: Think of the folks actually writing your awesome content. They take the project manager's vision and make it reality.
- Proofreader: These people proofread and make sure the content will connect with your audience the way your project manager dreamed up.
- Content designer: This person adds tons of value to the post to help your audience consume the hard-to-understand information at a glance (actually, 60,000 times faster than text alone).
- Social promoter: These are your friends who spread the word. If your content is a party, these folks send the invites to your attendees.
And you could probably think of a dozen more roles that might work better for your business. The point is, find out what works for you, and plan how your team will work together to publish the content you need to create.
Once you know how many hands you have to help you out, you can plan a realistic publishing frequency the entire team can handle.
Plan a realistic publishing frequency.
You have a ton of ideas. You could try to publish a new blog post every day of the week to tell your story.
But is that really possible with the resources you have available? And is that much content in a week really necessary?
People don't wake up one day and run a marathon. Runners build up their ability to run long distances over time. They start small and plan for the large races.
Content marketers and bloggers have to do the same thing. For someone brand new to the game, this is a great plan for your first six months to help you build up your content marketing endurance:
Your publishing frequency is really dependent on the resources you can dedicate to content marketing.
Use your editorial calendar to set up a schedule that you (and your team) can handle. Follow it. Decide how many blog posts you’ll publish each week, how many social media posts you’ll post, and how many larger pieces of content you’ll do each month/year (i.e. videos, ebooks, whitepapers, etc.)
Schedules do a couple of amazing things. They force you to not let writers block win, and they guard against content gaps.
Recommended Reading: How To Publish More Consistent Content That Will Help You Grow A Successful Blog
Step 3. Execute Your Plan With Your Content Marketing Editorial Calendar
One of the hardest things to do is change. Really, humans are inherently adverse to change.
So one of the first things you need to do is develop effective habits with your content marketing editorial calendar.
You—and I really mean you since you're the one who looked up this post and is reading it—can't be the only one on your team who uses your editorial calendar.
These things are a million times better when everyone who's involved uses the same tool to create your content. So you need to be the person who helps your team use your editorial calendar.
Here's a look at how you can help them develop effective habits:
And a great way to develop effective habits is with a well-defined workflow.
Use a workflow that actually works.
It's one thing to throw a post on your editorial calendar. It's another to assign specific tasks that need to be completed to make sure that post gets published.
Remember, content marketing is a team effort.
That's your workflow—and your entire team needs to pitch in to help make it a reality.
A clearly defined workflow will help your team communicate more efficiently, and it gives everyone something to be accountable for. You'll all know exactly what you need to do to create awesome content.
Sounds complex, right? Well, this doesn't have to be super difficult.
A solid workflow helps you and your entire team:
- Understand the big vision behind what you're doing.
- Know what each person's role and responsibilities are.
- Complete specific tasks to create content as a team.
- Stick to one communication channel.
- Focus on your own tasks instead of herding cats to get stuff done.
So to implement a workflow that actually works, you and your team need to:
- Figure out exactly what tasks need to be completed for every piece of content you produce.
- Understand what role would be the best for knocking out each task.
- Assign those tasks to the people who fill those roles.
- Assign due dates based one what needs to be done first, second, third, and so on.
- Hold everyone accountable for getting their stuff done on time.
Remember that you need to start with a realistic publishing frequency. If someone messes up the first couple of times, that's fine!
That's why you're there to help them build effective habits for creating content. Work slow to begin with, then ramp up your content creation machine.
Write, design, and edit your content.
There are some things your content writer, designer, and proofreader should keep in mind when they create and publish your content.
1. Talk about your expertise.
What you know best is your expertise.
You don’t have to be the expert, but it’s likely you know more than the average person about your niche topic, otherwise you wouldn’t be in business. So you’re an expert. Let’s put feelings of inferiority aside or you’ll never write a sentence worth anything to your customers.
The beauty of you talking about what you know best is that you create value around your product or service.
Would you rather hire a plumber who confidently talks about all things plumbing on his blog, or the guy who just has a website that says, “I’m a plumber. Hire me.”
2. Speak your customer’s language.
If you have any empathy for your fellow human beings, leave the jargon at the door, please!
If you’re selling light bulbs, you don’t talk about ohms and electrical resistance and how many electric trade associations you are a member of. You talk about how long the lightbulb will last.
Remember, no more corporate voice, meet your audience’s needs—these core concepts ought to prevent you from using jargon or purposefully trying to shame, confuse, or impress a customer with industry language, but it’s so easy to forget! You rattle off features when you could be telling them about the benefits.
You’re not looking to be the industry expert (unless your audience is business-to-business), but an expert for your customer.
3. Just focus on the bennies.
People don’t buy a toaster based on how hot the heating elements can get, but rather, that it gets their toast done pretty fast in the morning so they aren’t late for work. Heating element = feature, fast toast = benefit.
When you write your content, talk about benefits, not features.
People connect to benefits, because they tell them how your product meets their needs. Features only interest the sellers because they make an impressive list for those in the industry.
The content you create has to find a way to translate those awesome features into real-world benefits so your audience can say, “Oh, yes, that would be helpful for me.”
4. Yes, you can talk about that.
There’s a lot of peripheral content connected to what you think is your main focus. And yes, you can talk about that.
Let’s say you sell running shoes. You could blog all day about the new shoe styles, shoe sales, shoe trends—you could be very shoe-centric. After all, that’s your gig.
But think about your customer. The guy buying those shoes is...a runner. And, as a runner, he is interested in more than just shoes.
He wants to know about running events, training options, the latest running mobile apps, outdoor trails, hydration, knee health… Wouldn’t you sell more shoes if you wrote about all of the things runners are interested in?
Your content should definitely include your core content (in this case, the shoes), but also write about connected content (that other stuff). That’s what your audience wants.
Promote your content on social media.
“Complete social media content marketing in just an hour a day!” Sounds gimmicky, but it’s not off. Do you really want to be spending more than an hour on tweets and Facebook posts? No. This plan is a tricky one, but returns great results when you get it right.
Start by figuring out what your audience wants on each network. For example, five tweets an hour might be too much, and no tweeting after 6 p.m. Don’t give them an excuse to unfollow you. Know your audience, know the social network’s unwritten etiquette, and use that as your guide.
Then, find tools that shave time off of your plan. Time is money. Use one or two tools instead of five and an extra hour. Find good tools, and spend the money. They’re going to be a workhorse for you and you won’t regret an excellent tool that makes this easier.
With your plan in place, you now know what happens when a blog post is published. It might go something like this:
- On publish
- Same day as publish
- Day after publish
- Week after publish
- Month after publish
- Next ____
Do everything you just learned with a single tool everyone will use.
Communicating with email, planning content in a spreadsheet, creating content in WordPress, then sharing that content with another tool is exhausting. Not to mention, the whole workflow you just put together is missing entirely.
The best way to execute your plan is to consolidate your tools into one content marketing editorial calendar.
Get started on your plan today with these free content marketing editorial calendar templates, then switch to CoSchedule when you're ready to take your content marketing to the next level.
CoSchedule is the only content marketing and social media editorial calendar for WordPress. It combines communication, workflow, content marketing, and social media into one tool to help you become a rock star at what you do.