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:
An editorial calendar gives you a central hub for storing content ideas and visualizes your publishing schedule. You can tell what’s due, in progress, within the editing stage
, and so on – all at once.
- Get visibility into what content is in progress
Not only does an editorial calendar make it simple for you to see what’s in production, but it makes it easy 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.
- Manage and meet deadlines
An editorial calendar provides vital players involved in content creation visibility into 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.
- Publish more and better content more easily
With everything — from the workflow to the deadlines — planned to the tee in a content calendar, you can focus on content quality. And by making sure all content is created ahead of time, you can make time for reviewing and polishing content for quality.
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.
Convinced you need a content marketing editorial calendar? Great. Let’s look at the available options:
Spreadsheets: Free and Simple
A 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.
Ultimately, spreadsheets are challenging to maintain and not a ton of fun to use.
A 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 Tool
A 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 Steps
We’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 Team
Creating 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 Workflow
Having 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.
To prevent anything from slipping through the cracks, it’s best to work with a checklist.
Make one listing all the steps involved in creating a single piece of content. Along with each step you add to this checklist, also add who will be responsible for the task and estimate how long it’ll take them to complete it.
Once done, your list would look like this:
- 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).
With your list ready, add the due dates for each content piece and tasks under it in your calendar.
As you do so, though, add two weeks to each task. That’s how far out in advance you should place your content on your calendar.
It’s also a good idea to share this checklist with your team to ensure no step is missed.
Using CoSchedule Marketing Suite, you can easily create a list with Task Templates
. These reusable checklist templates are automatically added to each content piece on the calendar.
Marking steps as complete in the list will show it to all team members. Plus, completed items will reflect as a percentage on the calendar.
All in all, you’ll have a clearly defined workflow with each job to do alongside their turnaround times. This way, you’ll likely stick with your publishing schedule
while making sure the content you publish meets your editorial standards.
Step 3: Establish Your Publishing Cadence
Start 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
This beginner editorial publishing cadence is a great place to start, and you can easily scale as you get the hang of your process.
Remember: churning out content isn’t enough. You’ll need to reserve time for promoting it too. This means you should also be penciling in time for writing social media captions, creating promotion graphics, repurposing content
, and so on.
I recommend you add every
step in your content operation
to the calendar to ensure you don’t miss anything.
Step 4: Generate Topic Ideas
Now 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
Kick 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 Topics
Of course, not every idea will 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 you can work with.
- Prioritize Ideas for Publication
In the remaining ten minutes, select from the topics that got the best rating (all the ones rated 3).
From there, choose the most relevant ones to your content core that 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 with the most ranking potential.
Step 5: Add Your Best Ideas To Your Calendar
Finally, 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
As for the remaining ideas that scored well, add them to your content backlog. This way, you can pull them out whenever you host your next brainstorming session. Or, use them when stuck in an ideation rut.
The Numbers Don’t Lie: Proof That Editorial Calendars Work
Are 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.
Before using the CoSchedule editorial calendar, though, the ON24 marketing team hit hurdle after hurdle as they didn’t have one tool to manage their content production
Their process wasn’t streamlined, and tracking teammates’ tasks was a challenge. What’s more, they frequently missed opportunities and content gaps.
With CoSchedule though, they solved these problems and then some. The calendar software became their centralized hub for managing not just blog content but also social posts.
Using our content calendar, they could visualize their pipeline, making it easy to identify and fill in content gaps.
It also helped them plan campaigns weeks ahead of time, hit deadlines, and reach an amazing publishing frequency.
It’s no wonder their Digital Content Manager, Michael Mayday, remarked:
“CoSchedule has given me sanity. Being able to see where there are online content gaps and rearrange content on the fly is absolutely invaluable."
Common Questions About Editorial Calendars
Finally, before we wrap this up, let’s answer any remaining questions that you may have.
What Does An Editorial Calendar Include?
An editorial calendar includes all the content topics you plan to publish for different channels. It also covers the tasks that go into producing, distributing, and repurposing content, along with each task’s due date.
What Is The Purpose Of An Editorial Calendar?
An editorial calendar’s purpose is to help you plan content for different target audiences in various stages of the funnel. It also lets you stay organized and on top of your publishing schedule while helping you coordinate with your team on content ideation, creation, and distribution.
What Is The Best Editorial Calendar?
The best editorial calendar is flexible and easy to edit by nature. It also encourages team coordination over content ideation, production, and promotion while empowering you with checklists and automation to maintain the quality of your published content.
What Is An Editorial Calendar In Marketing?
A marketing editorial calendar is an interactive calendar used to plan content for marketing campaigns for different channels. Use it to map out and coordinate the other content pieces to create, publish, and promote by set deadlines.
This post was updated on December 30, 2021, and again on October 25, 2022.