How to Get Crazy Organized With a Comprehensive Content Calendar (Free Template)
Consistency is key for content marketing success.
Creating content consistently requires strong planning and organizational skills.
There are no shortcuts around, nor exceptions to, these two points. You’re playing a competitive game and you need to to be prepared to win. Getting yourself organized is just the first step.
But, data shows too many marketers are stumbling right out of the gate.
Let’s look at some stats from Hubspot:
- Only 30% of B2B content marketers describe themselves as successful.
- 55% of B2B marketers aren’t sure what success nor effectiveness would look like.
- Companies that published 16 or more blog posts per month got about 4.5X more leads than companies that published four or fewer blog posts per month.
There’s a clear disconnect here. If content marketers aren’t sure what would make them successful, then what are we all doing wrong?
We may be biased, but here at CoSchedule, we know of one simple tool we think might help.
The time-tested content calendar.
A calendar is one of the most fundamental tools content creators can use to get organized. They make it easy to plan out:
- What you’ll create.
- When you’ll create it.
- Who on your team will be responsible for each piece of content.
Calendars take a lot of different shapes and forms. In this post, we’ll break down how to build, plan, and maintain a comprehensive content calendar (with a free template) to plan everything you’ve got going on in one place.
No more jumping between multiple apps or documents. No more memorizing deadlines in your head.
We’re going to get you organized. And you’re going to make yourself more successful.
Getting Started: Decide Which Type of Calendar You’ll Use
There are three common options here:
- Printable paper calendars. Some people appreciate the feel of writing with a pen on actual paper. There’s nothing wrong with that. This option is plain, simple, and cheap.
- Spreadsheets. Using something like Google Sheets or Office 365 makes it easy to build a calendar anyone on your team can access from anywhere.
- Apps. We’re going to shamelessly plug CoSchedule here. This is best option for efficiency and sheer power once you’ve committed to using a calendar for the long term.
Whichever you choose, it’s important you use something. For the purposes of this post, we’ll focus on spreadsheets and apps. In a little bit, we’ll show how to create a complete calendar in a spreadsheet (which you can download via the circular widget to the left, or down below), and touch briefly on what CoSchedule can do, too.
Next Up: Develop Your Content Strategy
We don’t need to get into the details of building a content strategy here. That’s a big topic by itself, and one which entire books have been written about. Here are three we’d recommend reading:
- Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson
- The Elements of Content Strategy by Erin Kissane
- The Content Strategy Toolkit by Meghan Casey
At a minimum, however, you should know what kinds of content you’re creating right now, and what you’ll be creating in the future. Before you can plan your calendar, you need to know what’s going on it first. Some different types of content could include:
That’s just scratching the surface. If you’re looking for more content types to fill your calendar, here’s 113 of ‘em.
Tie All of That Content Back Into Your Business Goals
If content marketers don’t understand what their own success looks like, it could be because of a lack of clear goals.
So, set goals using the SMART goals methodology:
What’s the takeaway here? If you’re going to spend time planning content, then make every piece count. You can do that by making sure everything you put on your calendar is tied to a goal. If you’re creating anything just for the sake of publishing something, get rid of it.
You don’t have time to waste, and neither does your audience.
Who Will Use Your Calendar?
Now, let’s determine who will use your content calendar. If you’re working solo, that’ll probably mean just yourself (and maybe your clients). For marketers working on teams, however, you could have several people working off one calendar. In that case, it’ll be important to nail down the following details:
- Who is in charge of your calendar? You may want to assign one person who is in charge of making edits to the calendar. Or, you might want to allow team members to keep their own portions updated.
- Which team members will use your calendar? You’ll probably use it with everyone on your team. But, you might also want to include project managers or account managers who might need access as well (assuming those folks are considered part of a different team).
- If you have external clients, which stakeholders (or your client’s team members) will be able to access the calendar? We recommend setting up one calendar per client.
Determine How Your Calendar Will Be Organized
Organizing an organizational tool? You bet.
How Far Ahead Will You Work?
Planning your work ahead of time makes life a lot easier. When you know exactly what you’ll be doing, you won’t be left scrambling at the last minute to produce something, anything, on the fly. Decide how far ahead you’ll plan calendar, and try to stick to that goal. You might also set weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annual goals for how much content you’d like to produce, too.
What Does (And Does Not) Go On Your Calendar?
If it’s content, it should go on your calendar. However, what about other things that aren’t directly tied to producing marketing collateral? That could include things like:
- Notes and reminders
We’d recommend including these things if you want your calendar to be truly comprehensive. You might also opt for a cleaner, more streamlined calendar that cuts out anything extraneous. Whatever you decide, make sure it’s clear to everyone what they should and should not put on the calendar.
Define Your Color-Coding Scheme
This is a simple detail that’s important not to overlook. It’s important that everyone using your calendar understands what color codes mean. There are a couple different ways you can approach this.
- Color-coding content by type. You might have one color for blog posts, another for podcasts, and another for videos (for example).
- Color-coding by project progress. You might make unstarted projects red, projects in-progress yellow, and projects ready to publish green.
Feel free to develop your own variations on these approaches, too. Just keep it consistent and do what works best for you.
Using Your Content Calendar
Now that you have the nuts and bolts of your strategy together, it’s time to start actually using your calendar.
Before you add anything to your calendar, know when you’ll set your deadline. If you have types of projects you repeat on a regular basis, consider establishing a set window of time for how long those projects will take. For example, if you know you spend an average of one week preparing blog posts, and you publish blog posts on the same days each week, you can more easily map out that content on your calendar.
Now, let’s take a look at the calendar template we’ve included in this post.
It’s designed to be simple, flexible, and easily customized to your needs, while still including everything you have happening in one place.
At the bottom, you’ll see tabs for each content category on the calendar:
Pretty straight-forward. Feel free to add or remove anything you do or don’t need. This is your calendar.
If you click into each tab, you’ll see fields listed specific to each type of content. Here’s what the blog portion looks like:
You’ll notice this is pretty simple and clear-cut. There are fields for:
- Date: This could be the date you start working on your post, or your deadline, depending on your preference.
- Headline: This doesn’t need to be final, but you should at least include a hypothetical headline to have an idea what your post will be about.
- Target Keyword: If you’re doing basic keyword research (and you should be), include your primary targeted term here.
- Writer: If you have multiple authors on your team, note who will be taking each post.
- Type of Blog Post: Depending on how you categorize your blog content, this could include which top-level navigation item you’ll list posts under, or which broader campaign your post is a part of.
- Status: Note whether your post is Pending, In Progress, or Complete (or some variation).
- Due Date: This is the deadline for having content completed. This should be sooner than the date you’ll actually publish your post.
- Publish Date/Time: List the specific time you’ll schedule your post.
- Notes: If there’s anything else important to note about your post, include that here.
Next, let’s look at the email calendar portion:
- Date: This should be the date you plan on starting writing your email content.
- Subject Line: You may want to add an extra row if you plan on A/B testing headline options.
- Campaign: What is this email promoting?
- Email List Segment: If you segment your email list, include the name of which segment the email should be sent to.
- URL: If there’s a link to anything in particular that your email should include, drop the URL here.
- Due Date: This is when your content should be completed.
- Send Date: This is when your content should be delivered.
- Notes: Is there anything important you want to make sure not to forget? Include that here.
- Status: Note whether your email is Pending, In Progress, or Sent.
Social Media Calendar
We’ve created a few different versions of a social media calendar in the past. This template includes a social calendar alongside your other content, in case you’d like to see everything in the same spot.
On the left, you’ll see fields for each social network. Add or remove these as necessary.
- Content: Write your post copy here.
- Image Link: If your post will include an image, consider hosting your image files in Google Drive, Dropbox, or another cloud-based service. Then, include a link to where that image is located. This will make setting up posts easier later on.
- Time: Note when each post should publish.
Video content has its own set of needs. Even if you’ll be publishing your video on your blog, you’ll have other considerations to contend with too. Those include which video hosting services to upload your video onto and more.
We’ve kept this as simple as possible, including only essential information for planning out video projects ahead of time.
- Title: This should be the working title of your video.
- Shooting Date(s): When will you be shooting your video? For larger projects, this may span multiple days.
- Video Summary: What is your video about?
- Publish Dates: When will your video go live?
- Distribution: Where will your video live and where will it be shared? This could include YouTube, Wistia, Vimeo, or other popular video hosting sites. It could also include places where you’ll promote your video, like your blog or email newsletter. You might also include social networks where you’ll share your video, especially if you’re thinking social-first with your video strategy.
This is a bit bare bones, but the real goal is tracking your deadlines and giving your team visibility on what’s coming up. If you have more complex information you need to add, go for it.
If you’ve ever launched a podcast, you know there are a lot of moving parts involved in producing each episode.
- Date: This is when you’ll start working on your podcast episode, knocking out tasks like determining what your episode will be about, writing interview questions, and so on.
- Title: Give each episode a working title.
- Guest(s): If you’ll have interview guests, who will you be speaking with?
- Interview Date: Include the time of your call, too.
- Due Date: This is when all your work needs to be done for each episode.
- Publish Date: This is when your episode will actually go live.
- Distribution: List everywhere your podcast will be available, and where you’ll promote it. This will most likely include iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher. You might also include other places where it’ll be hosted, like SoundCloud.
- Promotion: If you’ll be promoting your podcast outside of where it’ll be hosted, list those outlets. This could include your blog, email newsletter, social media channels, and so on.
No need to overcomplicate this. Here, we’ve included space where you can list any events coming up at any point in the year that are useful to remember.
This could include:
- Sales seasons
- Company events
Or anything else you might need to plan around.
Managing the Calendar
Once you calendar is up and full of content, you’ll want to make sure it stays neat and organized. If you’re not careful, it can quickly devolve into a mess. Follow these tips to keep everything straight:
- If you make a major change, let your team members know.
- Check your calendar at least once every morning to make sure you don’t miss any upcoming content.
- Consider setting up automated reminders of some sort to remind you when things need to be done. You can do this either with Google Calendar or Gmail.
- Don’t add anything onto the calendar you don’t actually intend to create.
- Even if you have multiple people editing your calendar, assign one person to be your calendar manager who ensures everything is kept neat and orderly.
A Note on Spreadsheet-Based Templates
This template we’ve just walked through will work to keep your content organized. However, spreadsheet-based templates run into some issues that are worth being aware of.
Let’s quickly clarify what we mean by this.
The biggest downfall that free marketing spreadsheet templates often run into is they only make sense to their creator. Since different people have different working styles, and different companies have different needs, they’re not always flexible enough to adjust to your own needs.
We’ve tried to get around this with our calendar template here, but if you need to adjust anything at all, go for it.
Like we said earlier, this is going to be your calendar. Make it work the way you need it to.
Also, like any tool, a spreadsheet only works as well as your ability to use it. With a static calendar, whether on paper or a spreadsheet, you’ll need to make sure you stay on top of what goes on your calendar, and hold yourself accountable for getting content completed on time.
Before We Go, a Few Words on Using CoSchedule
If you’re considering moving up to a purpose-built marketing calendar, keep reading.
With CoSchedule, we’ve built what we believe is the best option available on the market.
That’s a transparently self-promotional statement, but if we didn’t believe it, we wouldn’t be here.
And if you’re interested in seeing how it works, keep reading.
So, What Can CoSchedule Do?
CoSchedule makes it easy to see all your content in one place. Here’s what the recently redesigned calendar interface looks like:
Pretty slick. It also gives you the option to see all your scheduled social media messages alongside the rest of your content:
When you open a new content item on your calendar, you’re able to select from all different types of content:
No matter what you’re planning, you can put it on your calendar and quickly identify all your content at a glance.
You can also automate your blog and social media publishing directly in CoSchedule. If you’re writing a blog post, you can either write your post with the built-in content editor …
… or, you can attach a post from Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or Evernote, and convert it into a WordPress post:
Once content is on the calendar, you can easily drag it and drop it anywhere you’d like:
For added organizational power, you can also add reusable checklists to content (called Task Templates):
You can also communicate with your team so you don’t lose correspondence on projects:
And that’s just scratching the surface of what CoSchedule can do. If you’d rather watch than read, check out this video:
Go Forth and Conquer Your Content Calendar
Start getting more organized, and start getting more done. Now that you have all the knowledge and tools you’ll need, all that’s left to do is start.
Ready to try CoSchedule? Start your free 14-day trial now.