How To Create An Editorial Calendar The Best Way (Template + Examples)
Wondering if your organization really needs an editorial calendar? Or is it just another fancy tool in a content marketer’s stash? Smart marketers know that consistently producing quality content is the key to driving traffic and converting leads. Still, it’s challenging to maintain a regular publishing cadence without a central hub for planning, tracking, and coordinating content activities. An editorial calendar offers all this and then some more. It makes all the difference between a successful content strategy and one that drags its way to the finish line (or perhaps doesn’t even make it there). So let’s talk about how you can benefit from adding one to your toolbox and show exactly how to get yours set up in five simple steps.
What Exactly Is An Editorial Calendar & Why Do I Need One?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, or video content – you name it. But there’s more to it than this overview. An editorial calendar shows how strategically you’re creating content to appeal to your target audience in various stages of their buyer’s journey by giving you a bird's-eye view. 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. Doing so helps as a strategic content planning tool and a place to coordinate with your team for a consistent, on-track content schedule. In short, you need an editorial calendar to:
- Get organized
- Get visibility into what content is in progress
- Manage and meet deadlines
- Publish more and better content more easily
Recommended Reading: How to Set Realistic Deadlines Your Team Can Actually Meet
What’s The Difference Between An Editorial Calendar & A Content Calendar?The two terms are mostly used interchangeably. However, the major difference between them lies in the details covered. To begin with, the editorial calendar is home to long-term content plans. It’s more general by nature as it’s used for planning monthly, quarterly, and yearly content themes. For example, you can use it to plan a year’s worth of broad content ideas — say, one quarter; you’d like to focus on business reporting while dedicating the next quarter to building dashboards for effective reporting. You can map all of this out in an editorial calendar for a big-picture view of your content plan. On the other hand, a content calendar is specific. It packs in granular details of the broad content plan you created in your editorial calendar. Meaning: the content calendar holds weekly content plans, including the topics you’ll cover and who’ll work on what. Since this calendar organizes day-to-day content activities, it’s also more flexible than an editorial calendar.
3 Examples Of Editorial Calendar Tools & SoftwareConvinced you need a content marketing editorial calendar? Great. Let’s look at the available options:
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 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.
Calendar AppA calendar app such as Google Calendar is another way to create an editorial calendar. It’s more suited to individual users, though. You can use it to plan your day by blocking time on the calendar interface for different content activities. What’s more, you can create multiple calendars for different marketing campaign projects in your pipeline. Most calendar apps are mobile-friendly, so you can easily access them on smart devices such as your tablet or phone. However, there are many disadvantages of using a calendar app editorial calendar such as:
- Poor team communication and coordination. You can only share a link to your calendar with teammates so they can block time in it for coordinating specific content activities with you. Plus, there’s no way to assign tasks on the same interface and coordinate via comments on the content process.
- Lack of visibility into your content pipeline. There’s no way to get a birds-eye view of your content production in a calendar app.
Project Management ToolA project management tool helps individuals and team plan, manage, and organize projects in one place. Compared with the options shared above, a project management tool-based editorial calendar is best suited for teams as it’s flexible and encourages team coordination. Teams can easily communicate by commenting on project details, sharing their ideas, asking for feedback, and mutually agreeing on deadlines. Depending on your tool, you can get different views of your content calendar — from the typical calendar overview to a Kanban-style overview. CoSchedule Marketing Suite: Powerful Visibility, Automation, & Workflow Management As with spreadsheets overcoming the downsides of printed calendars, CoSchedule Marketing Suite 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.
How To Set Up Your Editorial Calendar In 5 Simple StepsWe’ll break each one of these down, but here are the 5 steps you need to follow to set up an editorial calendar:
- Gather Your Team
- Establish Your Publishing Workflow
- Establish Your Publishing Cadence
- Generate Topic Ideas
- Add Your Best Ideas to Your Calendar
Step 1: Gather Your TeamCreating winning content takes time and work. Many moving pieces are involved, so you must fill 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; 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 materials and use them to draft finished copy.
- Graphic designers: Those who create branded visual assets such as blog headers, social media posters, and 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 achieves its goals.
Step 2: Establish Your Publishing WorkflowHaving clearly defined steps in your process or 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 to complete each task (and in what order).
- Assign and coordinate tasks with team members.
- 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 CadenceStart by asking yourself what a realistic schedule you can follow is. 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
Recommended Reading: Content Management Workflow: A Step-By-Step Guide To Create Your Very Own
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 will align with your marketing objectives and audience interests. It’s why it’s important you identify your content core before jumping into generating ideas. Your content core is broad content pillars that cover topics that interest your audience and drive business results by allowing you to pitch your product/service to your audience. By working on your content core before anything else, you increase your odds of publishing balanced content ideas relevant to your audience and marketing strategy. Once you’ve identified the content core, drive ideas around it. How? I’ll break that for you in the next three steps using the 30-min content marketing brainstorming process we use at CoSchedule. Read on.
- Brainstorm Ideas in 10 Minutes
- Score Your Ideas to Find the Best Topics
- Prioritize Ideas for Publication
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 creating each piece. Plus, an 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
Recommended Reading: Marketing Implementation: How to Put Your Strategy Into Practice With A Template
The Numbers Don’t Lie: Proof That Editorial Calendars WorkAre you convinced you need an editorial calendar but not sure how to dispel stakeholders' 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, never missing an opportunity to promote their content.
Recommended Reading: How One Marketing Team Quadrupled Their Content & Drove 1,412% More Organic Traffic To Their Blog