How to Plan an Editorial Calendar the Best Way (Template) via @CoScheduleClick To Tweet
Make Planning Easy With Your Editorial Calendar TemplateCreating an editorial calendar from scratch can be pretty time-consuming. You’d rather spend that time planning and creating content. To help you get ahead of the game, we created this bundle of editorial calendar templates. All you have to do is fill in the details like the shortlisted content pieces’ audience, target keywords, due dates, visual assets to create, and so on. When you’re ready to upgrade for more efficiency, consider an alternative like CoSchedule. We’ll be here whenever you decide it’s time.
So … What Exactly is an Editorial Calendar, Anyway?An editorial calendar is a planning document that gives you an overview of what’s in your publication pipeline. It helps plan, manage, and coordinate the various stages involved in content creation – idea generation, production, publishing, and promotion. Traditionally, they’ve been used to visualize blog posts and articles. But you can expand yours to manage any type of content you publish. Be it social, digital, print, video content – you name it. But there’s more to it than this overview. By giving a bird’s-eye view, an editorial calendar shows how strategically you’re creating content to appeal to your target audience in various stages of their buyer’s journey. And, if you market to multiple target personas, you can also tell whether you’re creating sufficient content for each. Besides a big picture view, it will also give you and your team a plan of action to follow for pumping out content consistently. Hence, it’s part a strategic content planning tool and part a place to coordinate with your team for a consistent, on track content schedule. To break it down, an editorial calendar should:
- Be an idea bank to offload post ideas and key topics.
- Enable team coordination on creating content.
- Provide a publishing strategy and schedule for consistency.
- Allow you to make in-process adjustments with drag-and-drop ease.
- Help visualize your content marketing strategy to make it comprehensible for everyone.
Okay, But Why Should I Use an Editorial Calendar?Without a calendar, you’ll likely find yourself disorganized – unsure of what’s to be covered next, who’s working on what, and which deadlines are due. You might also come face-to-face with an important holiday, event, or initiative; ending up rushing to coordinate content activities around it. Between this lack of coordination and no view of what’s in the pipeline, creating content consistently can feel like juggling several plates at a time; only to crash a couple. So let’s review the compelling reasons to use an editorial calendar:
1. Get OrganizedAn editorial calendar gives you a central hub for storing content ideas, visualizing your publishing schedule, and building out a workflow from the approved ones. With it, you can tell what’s due, in progress, within the editing stage, and so on – all at a glance.
2. Plan Content StrategicallyGood content marketing is strategic. It involves creating content that solves your target persona’s problem and meets them where they are at in their buyer’s journey. But while you can plan out articles to meet all these requirements, you can’t get a full picture of how each piece connects with another and its overall purpose until it’s laid out in a calendar interface. With a calendar, you get an easily understandable look at:
- What content you’ll create.
- Who will create that content.
- When the content is due.
- Why you’re creating the content and for whom.
3. Provide Visibility Into What Content is Being CreatedIn addition to showing you what’s in production, an editorial calendar makes it simple for stakeholders to see the same. Such a 10,000-foot view means you can also coordinate content campaigns and themes. Plus, you can tell how much content you’re publishing for each funnel stage.
4. Manage and Hit DeadlinesThere’s nothing that makes coordination as easy as pre-planned due dates and a place to assign editorial tasks from. A content calendar provides both. Key players involved in content creation get visibility of the tasks they’re responsible for and related deadlines. This way, you and your team are more likely to stay on track of the work due without coming close to last-minute requests. Plus, the workflow that an editorial calendar offers helps build failsafes. This gives you plenty of time for everything be it keyword research or getting stakeholder approval since you can do all that weeks in advance.
There’s nothing that makes coordination as easy as pre-planned due dates and a place to assign editorial tasks from. A content calendar provides both. via @CoScheduleClick To Tweet
5. Publish More and Better Content, More EasilyWith a well-planned workflow, better deadline management, and fully fleshed-out content topics, you’ve everything you need to do to hit publish. In fact, with everything planned to the tee, you can focus on the content quality. You’ll be creating each piece of content ahead of time – more on this in a bit – which means you’ve plenty of time to review and polish for quality.
What Are My Options for Editorial Calendar Tools and Software?Convinced you need a content marketing editorial calendar? Great. Let’s look at available options:
Printed Calendars: Going Old-SchoolPrinted calendars are great for those of you who need to get out of the digital setting for an outlook of your content workflow. You can have an annual or four quarterly calendars paired with monthly calendars showing what’s going on. These calendars come with major downsides though:
- They don’t support team coordination. There’s no way you can use the calendar to coordinate assigning editorial work.
- The calendar is uneditable. So you can’t move content pieces through their stages such as from ideation to in progress or mark them complete once done.
Spreadsheets: Free and SimpleA spreadsheet can help overcome the shortcomings of a print calendar. They are everything that printed calendars are except digital, and are therefore editable and useful for team collaboration. Because they’re cost-effective and so much better than not having a calendar, these are great for those of you getting started with an editorial calendar. But they aren’t free from drawbacks, which include:
- Disconnected workflows. The calendar is separate from your social channels and email platform so it’s no help with content promotion.
- Lack of automation. This means you can’t automate tasks like publishing with a spreadsheet.
- Communication isn’t hurdle-free. Team members have to leave comments in the sheet that are hard to keep track of, which sets the need for a separate communication tool.
CoSchedule: Powerful Visibility, Automation, and Workflow ManagementAs with spreadsheets overcoming the downsides of printed calendars, CoSchedule makes up for all the limitations of a spreadsheet-based calendar. Top that with advanced functionality like drag and drop ease, automation, and integrations with other products and you have the best choice. Here’s what you get with CoSchedule Marketing Calendar:
Provides a central place for all things content.You can manage not just your blog calendar, but social media (which can be toggled on/off) and other content types with CoSchedule. In fact, you can sync the calendar with your Google calendar to view all your meetings in one place.
Offers collaboration in one placeCoSchedule has built-in communication features. This allows you to tag different teammates and share thoughts under the Discussion tab – streamlining communication in one place. No need for a separate communication tool like with spreadsheets.
Drag and drop convenienceInstead of copy-pasting content into different columns to reflect its status, simply drag and drop content anywhere on the calendar.
Integrates With All Your Other ToolsCoSchedule connects with other tools you’re likely using to help you get more organized and save more time. Integrations include:
- Google Docs / Office 365
- Google Drive / Dropbox / OneDrive
- Social Networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram)
- Email Service Providers (MailChimp, Active Campaign, Campaign Monitor, and Constant Contact)
Let’s Look at an Example of an Editorial CalendarNow to give you an insider look at an editorial calendar example, here’s CoSchedule’s interactive calendar with a numbered list of its key elements: Each number on the screengrab gives you the following:
- Days/weeks: All content plans are laid out in a blocks-based calendar interface.
- Content: Each task under a parent content piece shows up with a checklist icon on the calendar. When the job is done, check off the icon and the task will show as complete.
- Deadlines: Each task reflects on the calendar based on the deadline you select for it (custom date or automatic options: same day as publishing date, a day before publishing, or 3 days before publishing).
- Publish times: Whatever time you select for a task shows up as a time stamp on the day it’s due.
- Color-coding: Different content types are distinguished using different colors. In this case, it’s purple for blog content and blue for newsletter content.
- Assignees: This denotes who on the team is responsible for a given task on the calendar.
Now, Let’s Set Up Your Editorial Calendar Step by StepGetting to the meat of the matter, let’s talk about how to actually use an editorial calendar in five simple steps below:
Step 1: Gather Your TeamCreating winning content takes time and work. There are a lot of moving pieces involved so you need to fill in several roles. But let me get this straight: you don’t necessarily need separate team members for each role, particularly if your resources are limited or if you are a one-person team. You just need someone to fill in the roles and if you’re short of members, one person can wear multiple hats. For the latter, begin by listing all the work involved in creating a piece of content. If you have folks to help you though, start by filling these roles:
- Writers: Folks who take keywords, product features, and other raw material and use them to draft finished copy.
- Graphic designers: Those who create branded visual assets such as blog headers, social media posters, even GIFs explaining processes in how-to pieces.
- Editors: They review and proofread writers’ drafts for accuracy.
- Project managers: People who handle the high-level stuff – the stories you want to tell, dig into your audience’s interests, and coordinate everything from content ideation to briefing and final sign-offs on each content piece.
- Analysts: Analysts collect performance data on published content to determine how well it’s achieving goals set for it.
Step 2: Establish Your Publishing WorkflowHaving clearly defined steps in your process or a workflow makes publishing by a set schedule achievable. It also makes team collaboration efficient as it spells out everyone’s responsibilities by specific turnaround times. So how do you create a well-oiled workflow? Follow these steps:
- Figure out each step involved in creating each piece of content.
- Identify who will be best for doing those tasks.
- Decide project handoff points between team members.
- Determine the time by which to complete each task (and in what order).
- Assign and coordinate on tasks with team members.
- Come up with topic ideas.
- Set a deadline.
- Conduct keyword research.
- Create a brief/outline.
- Write content.
- Edit content.
- Handoff for graphic design.
- Ensure it’s SEO-optimized.
- Proofread content.
- Write social copy for promotion.
- Write email copy for promotion.
- Schedule publishing date and time.
- Come up with topic ideas (team/strategist).
- Set a deadline (project manager).
- Conduct keyword research (SEO specialist).
- Create a brief/outline (project manager).
- Write content (Content writer).
- Edit content (editor/project manager).
- Handoff for graphic design (graphic designer).
- Ensure it’s SEO-optimized (SEO-specialist).
- Proofread content (editor).
- Write social copy for promotion (copywriter).
- Write email copy for promotion (copywriter).
- Schedule publishing date and time (project manager).
- Come up with topic ideas (team/strategist – 30 minutes).
- Set a deadline (project manager – 5 minutes).
- Conduct keyword research (SEO specialist – 2 hours).
- Create a brief/outline (project manager – 2 hours).
- Write content (Content writer – 8 hours).
- Edit content (editor/project manager – 1 hour).
- Handoff for graphic design (graphic designer – 4 hours).
- Ensure it’s SEO-optimized (SEO-specialist – 30 minutes).
- Proofread content (editor – 30 minutes).
- Write social copy for promotion (copywriter – 1 hour).
- Write email copy for promotion (copywriter – 1 hour).
- Schedule publishing date and time (project manager – 5 minutes).
Step 3: Establish Your Publishing CadenceAs much as you’d like, you wouldn’t be able to publish all your ideas as actionable content. This is particularly true if your team has dedicated limited resources to content marketing. So instead of aiming to run a marathon with your publishing schedule, go ahead and take it slow – one race or content piece at a time. Start with asking yourself what’s a realistic schedule you can follow? It could be anything from one blog post per week to three every fortnight. Decide how many:
- Blog posts you’ll publish weekly
- Social media posts you’ll create, and
- Large content pieces (think: ebooks, white papers) you’d push per month/quarter/year
Step 4: Generate Topic IdeasNow that you’re clear on how much you have to publish, work on what to publish. Remember: not every idea is going to align with your marketing objectives and audience interests. It’s why I recommend you identify your content core before jumping into generating ideas.
Know Your Content CoreGood ideas are ones that:
- Interest your audience by answering their questions
- Deliver business results by allowing you to pitch your product/service to your audience
Brainstorm Ideas in 10 MinutesKick off the ideation session by writing down every idea that comes to mind on a post-it note in a solo or team, 10-minute brainstorming episode. Don’t forget to ask customer-facing teams like the sales team to join the session or submit their ideas. These folks spend a lot of their time talking to prospects and customers. They know their struggles, pain points, and the questions they’re asking. So you can bet they have some good ideas to share.
Score Your Ideas to Find the Best TopicsOf course, not every idea is going to make it to the finalists. It’s why you need to spend the next ten minutes scoring ideas. Put all idea post-it notes on a board. Then, read them out loud to your team one at a time; asking them to score each on a 3-point scale. Here, 3 means ‘awesome,’ 2 stands for ‘okay,’ and 1 denotes ‘poor.’ This will divide all ideas into three buckets – giving you a bank of good ones that you can work with.
Prioritize Ideas for PublicationIn the remaining ten minutes, select from the topics that got the best rating (all the ones rated 3). From there, choose the ones that are the most relevant to your content core and need to be covered first. If you’re a one-person team, weigh ideas objectively based on which ones are the most relevant to your company and its audience. You can also dive into keyword research to approve ideas based on keywords that have the most ranking potential.
Step 5: Add Your Best Ideas to Your CalendarFinally, add these winners to your editorial calendar alongside their due dates. Your calendar must show deadlines for each step involved in the process of creating each piece. Plus, a final end date by which the piece should be ready. Having all the content topics, steps involved and the deadlines for each piece in your editorial calendar helps you be:
- More Organized
- More Productive
- More Successful
The Numbers Don’t Lie: Proof That Editorial Calendars WorkConvinced you need an editorial calendar but not sure how to dispel stakeholder’s doubts? I’ve got success numbers from a CoSchedule customer that you can share with your boss. Using our editorial calendar software, the marketing team at ON24:
- Quadrupled blog output from 24 to 112 posts per year. And are now on track to double output/production to 250 blog pieces per year.
- Saw a 98% increase in their blog traffic and a 1,412% increase in organic blog traffic – all this in two short years.
- Schedule 100+ social posts per week, therefore, never missing an opportunity to promote their content.