5 Lessons From The Forbes Editorial Calendar That Will Make You Better At Blog Planning
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While doing some keyword research one day for the CoSchedule blog, I noticed that the term ‘Forbes editorial calendar’ was holding an unusually high ranking. What gives? Were there really that many people looking for the Forbes editorial calendar?
Curious, I did a search on my own. This is what I found:
What’s so great about that, I thought?
At face value, it doesn’t look like much. With a publication the size of Forbes, it isn’t much of a surprise that they plan so far in advance. But maybe there is more to it than that.
Lesson #1: Forbes Isn’t The Only One Who Is Pre-Planning
The pre-planning and pre-publishing of the yearly editorial calendar isn’t a new, or unique, practice. Time, Inc, and Vogue all have publicly available editorial calendars right on their website. Why?
For most publications, the reasons are actually very business focused, rather than content focused.
Most editorial calendars are found within the “media kit” section of the website, meaning that most publications see them as tools for selling magazine advertising.
Simple enough, but what about the content planning implications?
Lesson #2: A Yearly Editorial Calendar Makes Sense
There is value in taking a look at your content planning from a yearly perspective. In our own editorial calendar training, we advocate both yearly and monthly planning for most bloggers using an editorial calendar process.
The idea is simple: When you force yourself to start at the highest level and work your way down through the food chain (yearly to monthly planning), you see everything from a grand perspective and consider each detail along the way. Ask any painter–there is big value in starting with a broad brush before honing in on the details.
When you see a year’s worth of content all at once, you are free to think about the big picture, without getting too focused on the individual details. This lets you create the overarching themes that your smaller (or monthly) blog posts will fit into the whole plan.
Some common topics you might place on a yearly editorial calendar are:
- Advertising Campaigns
- Key Industry Events
- Global/National Holidays
- Product Launches
- Commemorative Months
The goal shouldn’t be to load the calendar up with things to cover, or individual posts. Rather, you should be looking to find overarching content themes that will fit your content for a certain period of time. Like Forbes, it might be advisable to only select one topic/theme per month.
Lesson #3: Even Small Teams Can Benefit From A Yearly Content Plan
There’s an old story about a traveler who came across three bricklayers on a scaffold. The traveler asked the first one, "What are you doing?"
The first responded, "I'm earning a wage."
The traveler then asked the second one, "What are you doing?"
The second responded, "I'm building a wall."
They are doing the same work, but which of the two is laying the better brick?
The traveler then asked the third one, "What are you doing?"
The third responded, "I am building a cathedral.”
The lesson here is very clear—we can all benefit from understanding the bigger picture, even content teams.
Good Questions To Ask Yourself:
- Where is this blog going?
- What is the larger goal?
- How are we achieving this plan?
It's common knowledge that a team who communicates the big picture works better together. A yearly calendar should help this big-picture thinking develop within your team.
All organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year. Those who forget WHY they were founded show up to the race every day to outdo someone else instead of to outdo themselves. The pursuit, for those who lose sight of WHY they are running the race, is for the medal or to beat someone else. ― Simon Sinek, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
You might be surprised at how much big picture thinking comes out as you and your team develop your yearly editorial calendar, especially if you make it a regular part of your content planning meetings.
Lesson #4: Let The Details Come Together Later
When you sit down to write a blog post what usually happens?
You start thinking about the individual details of that post.
- What will this post be about?
- What should I use as a headline?
- What will my outline be?
These are important questions, but how do they play into our overall content strategy?
Jumping into the details too quickly will prevent you from considering the bigger picture. Follow these steps for too long and you’ll end up without a bigger picture at all.
Yearly content planning forces us to make those "big picture” decisions early when they are simple and easy to do. It’s about starting at the high level and working our way down. Choosing a monthly theme (or two) is not difficult.
When it comes to planning out your posts for the month, the broad theme should make individual topic selection easier than ever before. Now, you at least have a framework for making those decisions.
All you have to worry about are the details when writing the post. Put the big decisions first and that will always make the detailed decisions come easier in the end.
Lesson #5: Painting With Broad Strokes Helps Your Audience
Making your life easier is one thing, but how will a yearly editorial calendar impact your audience?
If all goes well, planning for a year should boost your audience and grow your blog. With a yearly schedule, your audience will become more likely to connect with your content. There are a few simple reasons why this is so.
1. Relevant And Timely Content
As you connect your content to the larger trends like the Forbes editorial calendar does, you will help your content become more relevant with what is going on at the time. A good example of this is a simple holiday post that I wrote for Thanksgiving a few years ago.
Because we planned ahead and pushed for an emphasis on Thanksgiving, I was able to have a detailed post ready to go when Thanksgiving came around. My post was featured on the homepage of a prominent social media blog exclusively because I was taking advantage of a current trend. Sure, the post only lasted a day or two, but it drove big traffic in the mean time.
Yearly planning made the difference on that post.
2. Delve Deeper Into Topics
Yearly planning should also allow you to think deeply about the themes and topic categories that matter most to your audience in a new way. This can even be used to reach out to different segments of your audience in a strategic method. For example, on this blog we occasionally rotate between writing posts for “bloggers” and writing them for “content marketers” and "editors". While they all have similarities, they really are distinct groups with unique challenges and topics to cover.
By focusing on a single topic theme, we're able to reach a specific audience more directly, and build their trust in our content faster than ever before.
Starting Your Yearly Editorial Calendar
Here at CoSchedule, we have a set of free paper editorial calendar templates that can help you start the habit of using an editorial calendar to plan your content marketing. This includes a handy template for planning out your yearly calendar. You can download them here.
Of course, CoSchedule itself is an excellent way to set up your monthly calendar. Just saying! :)
Subject To Change
I’ve warned you before about the hazards that come when you plan too far ahead. This hasn’t changed, and it shouldn’t. Even the Forbes editorial calendar makes room for changes when needed. A plan doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind every once and awhile. In fact, it is probably dangerous not to.
The key is to use the yearly calendar for what it does best—getting you through the big-picture strategic thinking.
As you work the plan month by month, make adjustments and respond to changes in your plan. Nothing can substitute keeping your finger on the pulse of your own strategy. Plan ahead, but never let things go into autopilot.
December 28, 2015