- You have a versatile content calendar that can help you organize all of your campaigns, track your projects, and easily collaborate with your team.
- You’re provided with an easy-to-follow process for managing said calendar.
- You have several examples of what a great content calendar looks like.
The Best Content Calendar Template to Organize Your Entire Year via @CoScheduleClick To Tweet
Bonus: Grab Your Annual Content Calendar [Free Templates]Before we show you how to organize content calendars, you’ll need the right tools in your arsenal. Get started with this trio of templates:
- Annual Content Calendar Template for effectively planning out your content all year long and keeping your team organized.
- Advanced Content Calendar Template that offers an alternative structure and layout.
- Basic Blog Calendar Template for managing a simple blogging schedule.
What is a Content Calendar?A content calendar can be anything used to plan, schedule, and organize content and other marketing projects. Marketing teams rely on their content calendars to plan campaigns across different platforms—like the company’s blog and email marketing tool. It’s their right-hand for planning and creating a steady flow of high-quality content.
The Case for Using a Content CalendarA content calendar is just another unnecessary marketing fad, right? Not necessarily. “Winging it” doesn’t work with content marketing. If you don’t have a plan, you’ll end up wasting time you could be spending being productive. That much is nearly guaranteed: if you don’t keep organized, you’ll be less likely to succeed. A lack of planning leads to inefficiencies; things take much longer than they need to. In turn, you don’t have the results your leadership team is looking for. That increase in marketing budget you want will be 10x harder if you don’t know how it’ll be spent. Using a content calendar makes it easier to plan out what you’ll be doing in the future. This could mean a week, a month, or however far ahead you’d like to plan ahead. You could even plan your content marketing efforts for an entire year, like we’ll show you in this post. Just think about this: when you plan ahead for your future content, the likelihood of your content being significantly better is astronomical. This is because you have more time to research, draft, and add finishing touches to your final product.
- Hit deadlines more easily and hold yourself accountable for getting stuff done. Being able to visualize these deadlines on your content calendar makes this a walk in the park.
- See everything you’re working on in one place. Blog posts, social messages, events, email newsletters, podcasts, videos — whatever you’re busy creating.
- Think strategically about the content 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.
Types of Content CalendarsNow we know what a marketing calendar is (and why you should be using one for your content), let’s take a look at three different ways to plan upcoming content.
SpreadsheetsThe simplest way to create a content calendar is to use a spreadsheet. Tools like Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets make spreadsheets a free and easy way to plan upcoming content. It’ll take a bit of design work, but once it’s set up, you see your calendar at a glance and monitor the progress of each piece of content. Bear in mind that if you’re using spreadsheets to manage your content calendar, your automation options are limited. It’s almost impossible to trigger events—like new content being shared with your email list—based on a change to your spreadsheet calendar.
Kanban BoardsKanban boards, which look like virtual whiteboards with mini post-its, can also be used to manage a content calendar. They’re great for visually managing workflows, and are especially suited for agile teams. You can use tools like Trello or CoSchedule’s Idea Board to create columns for the status of a piece, the platform it’s on, or the week it’s being published to get an overview of your upcoming content. Just drag-and-drop the card to the right column.
- Your CMS
- Social media platforms (including LinkedIn and Twitter)
- Your email marketing platform (MailChimp, ActiveCampaign, Campaign Monitor, and Constant Contact)
How to Set Up a Content CalendarReady to make your own? Whether you’re choosing a simple spreadsheet or a marketing calendar, here’s how to set it up for success.
1. Determine Content TypesBefore 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:
- A blog or regularly updated website content. This is likely the bread and butter behind your content strategy. It’s also the type of content most often associated with content calendars and planning.
- Email. According to Campaign Monitor, it’s 40 times more effective than social media for customer acquisition.
- Podcasts. Speak to your audience through a recorded conversation in Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Stitcher. Don’t know how to start one? We’ll show you.
- Webinars. Jump on a live video call with your audience and walk them through a solution to something they’re struggling with. (Bonus points if that ties in with your product/service offering.)
- Infographics. Nope, they’re not dead.
- Video. Video marketing is growing in importance, and you can use your calendar to plan every shoot.
- Print magazines, brochures, or newsletters. The print world is changing, but it’s not going away anytime soon.
- Anything else you’re working on. If it’s a marketing project, you can organize it on a calendar.
2. Choose Color-CodingNext, decide on a color-coding scheme to quickly identify content on your calendar. You can color-code your calendar any way you’d like. However, a successful scheme should incorporate the following elements:
- It should be agreed upon by everyone who will be using the calendar. Everyone should know which colors refer to which types of content.
- 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.
- By campaign. If you’re creating campaigns that span multiple channels, color-coding each piece of that campaign can make it easier to see when each piece will be published.
- By theme. Similar to color-coding by campaign, it can be helpful to see when different pieces of content are being published that belong to a theme or category.
- By team member. If certain team members have content or tasks they’re responsible for, color-coding by team members will 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 (for example: all Facebook posts in blue, all YouTube videos in red, all blog posts in orange, etc.).
3. Make the Calendar Accessible Team-WideThe final step in creating a content calendar is to give your entire marketing department access… even those who won’t be using it every day. Making your calendar accessible team-wide gives everyone visibility. You won’t need the back-and-forth “what are we publishing next month?” questions. It’s all there on the calendar view. Plus, stakeholders can see what you’re working on if they have access to the content calendar. Getting buy-in (and bigger budgets) for the marketing department becomes much easier if stakeholders can see how their existing time and money is being spent.
How to Use a Content CalendarOnce you’ve got your calendar ready to go, let’s take a look at how you (and your team) can start using it.
Develop Content IdeasBefore 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. Don’t worry if they’re good or not just yet. What’s important is getting your ideas down on paper.
- Spend another ten minutes scoring those ideas on a three-point scale. 3’s are great ideas that your target audience would want to read right now; 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 create or implement. These are the best of your best ideas.
- How strong of a tie-in the keyword has with your product/service.
- The potential conversion value of ranking for the term.
- How difficult it would be to reach page one.
Establish a Publishing ScheduleNow, you’ll need to determine how often to publish content. This includes determining your posting frequency, as well as days and times. When you’re starting out, it’s helpful to start small. Even if you only schedule one blog post, that’s one more thing you’ve gotten organized than before. You can worry about scaling your content production later.
- Monday at 11am EST to get the most traffic.
- Saturday at 9am EST to get the most comments.
- Mondays and Thursdays at 7am EST to get the most inbound links.
Set Clear DeadlinesIf you’re working on a team, it’s helpful to have one person be in charge of project managing the content 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 owner should be responsible for determining:
- Who will manage the calendar
- Who will have access to the calendar
- Which projects go on the calendar
- How often the calendar will be updated
Advanced Content Calendar TipsYou’ve got your content calendar set-up and you’re using it regularly. Want to get more from your new publishing schedule? Here are three advanced tips to make sure your team is using it to its full potential.
Get Team Buy-In to Change ProcessWhat good is a new content calendar tool if your team isn’t actually using it? It’s not just content marketers that should be using the calendar tool to prepare, plan, and publish new content. Your entire marketing department should rely on the calendar to prioritize the campaigns they’re working on. The only downside? People are reluctant to change. Get team buy-in for your new content calendar by explaining its benefits:
- It’ll improve their productivity since they can see what needs to be done and when.
- They don’t need to quiz (and frustrate) co-workers to get content production updates.
- Automations mean they can eliminate most repetitive tasks.
Plan Content Creation Processes and WorkflowsSpeaking of getting buy-in, it’ll be easier for you to get your marketing team to use the new content calendar if you make it easy for them to do so. So, create workflows for your standard content creation processes. Let’s use blog posts as an example. You likely have these 7-step process that marketers go through each time they’re scheduling a new blog post for the company site:
- Research and outline
- Write draft
- Design visual content
- Approve content
- Format in WordPress
- Final review and publish
- Schedule promotion posts
Measure ProductivityNo good marketer sets and forgets a new strategy—content calendars included. The goal of a content calendar is to increase team productivity and create high-quality content. So, make time to measure whether the new system is having an impact on your team’s productivity and overall content marketing strategy. With CoSchedule’s Team Performance report, you can use metrics like:
- Task completion rate
- Number of overdue tasks
- Workflow completion by team member
Content Calendar ExampleCurious to know what a real content calendar looks like? Here’s a look at the first month of CoSchedule’s content calendar from 2013. We started out small, publishing just a handful of blog posts each month:
A Content Calendar Case StudyStill not sold on the value of having a content calendar? For an example of what a clear publishing schedule can do for your content, take a look at what ON24 was able to accomplish in a short period of time once they started using CoSchedule. They managed to quadruple their blog output from 24 to a whopping 112 posts per year.
- Give their entire marketing team full visibility into all of the brand’s content across each marketing platform. Removing that ambiguity improved content collaboration.
- Hit deadlines more consistently. That means less stress, more efficiency, and better work.
- Increased blog traffic by 98% over a 2-year period, and specifically increased organic traffic by 1,412%. Those are incredible numbers, and numbers don’t lie.