How To Make 2017 Super Organized With An Easy Content Calendar Template
Here at CoSchedule, we follow the philosophy of planning your work, then working your plan.
And for content creators, there’s no better organizational hub than a well-planned content calendar. When your entire strategy is on one calendar, it’s easier to keep organized, focus on deadlines, and be more productive.
Now that we’re a few days into 2017, odds are, you’re thinking about your annual marketing plans. In fact, we’d be willing to bet at least one of these describes your current situation:
- You could be just starting to plan out content for the new year.
- Maybe you’ve made the resolution to get more organized.
- Or, maybe you’re flying by the seat of your pants, wishing you had a tool that could corral your content.
In any scenario, a calendar should be a key piece of your organizational strategy. There’s a reason major publishers use editorial calendars to plan content throughout the year. Content marketers and bloggers should follow their lead.
In this post, we’ll show you how to build one and keep it full all through 2017.
Download Your Free 2017 Content Calendar And Content Scheduling Bundle
Build your own content calendar and schedule content at optimal times with these templates and guides:
- A 2017 Content Calendar Template to map out your content all year long.
- A printable paper content calendar template if you want to go old-school.
- A Social Media Editorial Calendar Template if social is your sole focus.
- A Best Time to Publish Blog Posts Template to schedule every post at the optimal time.
- A Best Time to Send Email Template to reach your audience’s inbox when they’re most active.
- A Best Times to Post on Social Media Template to make the most of every post.
- A Social Media Posting Schedule chart to build a content promotion schedule on social media.
What Is A Content Calendar?
Content calendars go by a lot of names. You might also see them called “editorial calendars,” “marketing calendars,” “social media calendars,” or some other such term depending on how they’re being used. In any case, though, their purpose is about the same. They’re simply calendars that help you plan your marketing, content, and editorial initiatives.
There are generally three types of calendars commonly used:
- Printed calendars
Why Should I Use A Content Calendar?
The easiest answer is because “winging it” doesn’t work.
If you don’t have a plan, you’ll end up wasting time you could be spending being productive. That much is nearly guaranteed.
Using a content calendar makes it easier to plan out what you’ll be doing in the future. That could mean a week, a month; however far ahead you’d like to plan. You could (as we’ll show you in this post) how to plan your content marketing efforts for an entire year.
Once you get your calendar built out, you’ll be able to:
- Hit deadlines more easily and hold yourself accountable for getting stuff done.
- See everything you’re working on in one place. Blog posts, social messages, events, email newsletters, podcasts, videos—whatever you’re busy creating.
- Think methodically and intentionally about what you’ll create. For example, instead of scrambling at the last minute to create content around a major holiday, you can plan for it ahead of time.
In short, you’ll work more efficiently and effectively with less stress. I think that’s something we can all get behind.
How to Plan Your 2017 Content Marketing With A Content Calendar
Now, let’s get into the nuts and bolts of content calendar planning.
To get the most out of a calendar, you’ll need to use it to plan ahead; at least a couple weeks in advance. If you really want to leverage your calendar to its fullest though, you’ll plan out as far ahead as you reasonably can, allocating space for holidays, seasonal events, and other calendar items you know right now are going to crop up eventually.
Start With Your What, When, Where, and Why
Before we get too much further, figure out which content channels and types you’re currently creating, and plan on creating this year.
This could include:
- Which social networks you’re on
- A blog or regularly updated website content
- Print magazines, brochures, or newsletters
- Anything else you’re working on
Make a list so you can lay it all out.
Next, Decide Which Type of Calendar to Use
Next, choose which type of calendar you’ll use. Here are three options:
- A printable calendar template. If you prefer non-digital solutions, an old-school printed calendar can work. There’s a free printable calendar template included in this post.
- A spreadsheet. We recommend either Google Sheets or Excel. We’ve also included a free Excel template in this post, and we’ll also show you how to build a calendar yourself in Google Sheets.
- An app like CoSchedule. We may be biased, and this option isn’t free. However, we wouldn’t make content calendar software if we didn’t believe in it. This is the easiest and most convenient option available.
Let’s Build A Quick Content Calendar In A Spreadsheet
If you opt for a digital calendar, spreadsheets are a great way to get started before stepping up to a paid alternative. Let’s build one together.
1 ) Start by opening up a new file in Google Sheets or Excel (we’ll use Google Sheets for demonstration purposes).
2 ) Add tabs at the bottom, with one for each month.
3 ) Next, highlight the cells shown below. Then, click Format and Merge Cells. For each day, you’ll need to merge two cells.
4 ) Label the month in the merged cells. Next, add your Week, Days, and Content Types fields so your spreadsheet looks like this:
You now have the loose structure for your calendar built. Now that you know how to reverse-engineer this template, you can easily customize it with any columns, rows, fields, or labels you’d like. This is going to be your calendar, so make it work for you. It doesn’t need to look exactly like this.
Once you have your layout together, copy and paste everything into each tab, until every month is set up. Copy and paste this one-week template three more times below on each month to add weeks to the calendar.
Here’s how we chose to style this template:
Adding Content to Your Calendar
Tools are as good as your ability to use them. Content calendars are no exception. Once you have your calendar on hand, the next step is to fill it with content.
But … what content, exactly?
The answer is any content you have. We could even extend this to include events you might be planning, or other important dates for your business.
Let’s start by giving those Content Type fields actual names. We’ll fill it in with some specific types of content just as an example:
There you go. Feel free to include anything you’re working on. You may need to add or remove sections.
How to Keep Your Content Calendar Full All Year Long
This is where the real work starts. Before you can fill your calendar, you’ll need ideas to plan around. You’ll need a lot of ideas, and you’ll need them fast, too.
That’s where our simple brainstorming process comes in.
Here’s how it works in three parts:
- Spend ten minutes writing down every idea that pops into your head.
- Spend another ten minutes scoring those ideas on a three-point scale (3’s are great ideas, 2’s need more refinement, and 1’s are duds). You’ll likely end up with more 1’s and 2’s than 3’s, but that’s okay.
- Spend ten more minutes choosing which of your 3’s you’ll actually create or implement.
That’s it! Add a day and time on your calendar to run through this process once a month and you’ll always have enough ideas to keep your content marketing machine moving forward. For a more detailed walkthrough on how to complete this process, check out this post on brainstorming.
Consider Creating Content Themes
Since we’re talking about year-long planning here, it makes sense to discuss seasonal content. If you know you’ll have particular holidays, sales events, or other times of year requiring special promotion, plan that out on your calendar.
Start by breaking down these kinds of events into categories. These could include:
- Peak buying seasons for customers.
- Times of year that have particular importance in your industry.
- Recurring annual company events.
Next, consider creating monthly themes for your content. You know how magazines sometimes focus issues around one central topic? You can do that for your content and other marketing initiatives too. A theme could be any broad topic you’ll create multiple pieces of content about during a given month.
You don’t need to strictly limit yourself to your themes, of course. However, using themes can make it easier to brainstorm content ideas (since you’ll have a target to think around) and help your audience know what to expect from you month to month. They can also help you build authority around particular topics, helping you become known as a go-to source for that particular information.
Implement a Consistent Color-Coding Scheme
A color-coding scheme helps immensely to quickly identify content on your calendar. You can color-code your calendar any way you’d like. A successful scheme should incorporate the following elements:
- It should be agreed upon by everyone who will be using the calendar.
- It should be consistent. If you decide Twitter messages are always highlighted in green and your graphic designer’s tasks are always in blue, it’s important to keep that straight. Otherwise, you can run into confusion and missed deadlines.
- It should be simple. Try to use only as many different colors as you need.
Here are a few different ideas for laying out color-coding schemes:
- By campaign. If you’re creating campaigns that span multiple channels, then color-coding each piece of that campaign can make it easier to see when each piece will be publishing.
- By theme. Similar to color-coding by campaign, if you’re creating content across channels around a theme, it can be helpful to see each piece that belongs to that theme at a quick glance.
- By team member. If certain team members have content or tasks they’re responsible for, this can help them see everything they need to get done, and when.
- By channel. If you’d prefer, you can also color-code content based on channel (ex: all Facebook posts in blue, all YouTube videos in red, all blog posts in orange, etc.).
If none of these ideas work, you can always come up with one of your own, too. Here’s what your calendar might look like once you’ve added some content with your color scheme:
Determine Who Will Manage Your Calendar
If you’re a solopreneur or otherwise working alone, this step is easy. If you’re working on a team though, it’s helpful to have one person be in charge of overseeing the calendar. Of course, you can have team members add their own stuff, and make them responsible for hitting their deadlines. However, having one person keeping an eye on everything can be helpful.
Your calendar manager should be responsible for the following:
- Giving team members a nudge if their projects are nearing a deadline.
- Ensuring the timing and planning of content and marketing initiatives makes sense.
- Throwing a red flag if something looks off.
This person can be anyone on your team who is suited for this task.
How Does CoSchedule Make Content Calendar Management Easier?
You now know everything you need to build a content calendar and keep your marketing plans organized for the entire year. Best of all, getting started isn’t going to take a ton of time, and the benefits will pay off all the way through 2017.
If you’re ready to move beyond paper and spreadsheets, CoSchedule is the next step forward when it comes to content calendar tools. Rather than make an empty pitch to you here, we’ll actually show you how our platform makes it easier to get organized, save time, and manage all your content on one calendar.
Schedule All Your Social Media Posts in One Place
Copying and pasting messages out of a spreadsheet isn’t exactly efficient. In CoSchedule, you can automatically schedule social messages for most major social networks, including:
Easy-to-Use All-In-One Calendar Interface
Spreadsheets are definitely the most cost-effective content calendar solution. And, when they’re well-built, they can work well enough. However, they aren’t without drawbacks. Here are a few limitations of using spreadsheets for your content calendar:
- They require a lot of copying and pasting out of your calendar and onto your various social networks.
- They don’t notify you when tasks are due.
- It isn’t easy to drag-and-drop content around your calendar in case you need to move something.
CoSchedule’s intuitive drag-and-drop interface makes it easy to see all your content in one place, move things around wherever you need, and save time planning your work. Plus, with built-in email notifications, you’ll always be alert when things are due.
Best Time Scheduling
If social media marketing is part of your responsibilities, this is going to be a massive time-saver. With Best Time Scheduling, you can create social media messages directly in CoSchedule, and let our tool schedule them to publish at optimal times. No more guesswork.
When you’ve created something really great, you’ll probably want to share it on social media more than once. ReQueue allows you to easily create content categories, add social messages, and then reshare them automatically in the future.
Make 2017 Your Best Year Yet With CoSchedule
Ready to try CoSchedule? Start with your free 14-day trial. You’ll get to test all our features yourself to see if it’s the right content calendar platform for you. Regardless of which tool you choose though, we hope this is the year you get more organized and produce better work than ever.
Now go out there and build an awesome content calendar.