At some point, all companies go through a phase where their editorial calendar is nothing more than a list of ideas.
When that happens, so do the following:
Objectives become blurred
Results are scarce
Content stops generating organic traffic or leads
The blog is filled with articles focused on the same keywords
In short: lack of organisation.
Creating an editorial calendar alone will not solve these problems. But it is a key document in any content strategy because it helps to create order, visualise, prioritise, and plan.
Perhaps you already know that this is what you need. You just don’t know where to start.
Or maybe you already have a content marketing calendar, but you’re looking to improve it and refine it more (if this is you, skip the first section of this post and take the fast track as you already know the basics).
Regardless of which phase you’re in, in this article, we provide you with tips on how to create a stellar editorial calendar.
What is an editorial calendar?
Let’s start with a simple definition of an editorial calendar, also commonly known as a content calendar.
An editorial calendar is like the agenda of a content team: a document that reflects what content will be published and when. It can also answer questions like where it will be published, how it will be promoted, and what its purpose is.
We’ll now dive into the details because an editorial calendar can take on different formats. And though its basics are always the same, the information complementing it can vary.
There is no one single recipe for an editorial content calendar but as many as there are teams. The only thing that matters is that it fulfils the purpose of guiding and facilitating content editors’ daily work.
Before creating your editorial calendar
Start by answering these three questions listed below. They will help you define the editorial needs of the team and create a top editorial calendar.
How long will your editorial calendar last?
Typically, an editorial calendar contains content ideas to cover you for one, two, three or six months. But you’re welcome to choose any other time frame.
On one hand, you want to optimise the process of generating ideas for your editorial calendar because having to repeat this every other month isn’t efficient.
On the other hand, you may want to avoid generating content ideas for too far in the future as your content needs may change and you’d just be wasting time.
Tip: Decide how many weeks or months your editorial calendar should last and generate the necessary content ideas for that time frame. Leave a few extra ideas so that you have some leeway in case some content doesn’t come through.
What goals will your editorial calendar have?
The main objective of an editorial calendar is to organise the different content ideas to be published. But that may not be its only goal.
There are editorial calendars that allow other members of the marketing team (or even other employees of the company) to suggest content ideas, leave comments, and put in content requests.
→ In this case, the editorial calendar has a secondary function of helping to generate content ideas or acting as a centre for content requests and feedback.
Some marketing teams include in their editorial calendar basic instructions for their content writers such as a style guide, internal linking, checklists, keywords to optimise for, definition of target audiences, etc.
→ In this case, the editorial calendar also serves as a roadmap or guide for the writers and/or the marketing team.
Tip: Consider who will be using the editorial calendar, what their main problems are, and decide whether they should be addressed in the editorial calendar.
What kind of content are you going to produce?
Most editorial calendars focus on blog content because it is the most published and popular content type.
Yes, there are other types of content such as landing pages, ebooks, whitepapers, FAQs, help centre articles, opinion pieces, guest posts, infographics, presentations… The list is endless.
But because these tend to be published more sparingly, there is often no need to include them in the editorial calendar.
Tip: If there are other types of content that you publish on a regular basis and that impact your content team’s workflow, include them in your editorial calendar.
30 elements to include in your editorial calendar
The first few elements are basic. An editorial calendar that doesn’t include at least the title or the basic idea of the content and its publish date is, well, not an editorial calendar.
But from there on, all the other elements listed are optional. Choose those that fit the needs of your content creation process.
- Title/topic/idea: If you have a title, albeit a provisional one, include it. If you don’t, don’t worry. An idea will do. (eg. Article on how to solve problem X.)
- Date: The day or week you plan to publish the content.
- Content type: The type of content to be produced. Eg. blog post, downloadable content for lead generation, landing page, etc.
- Description: Describe in two or three sentences what the content is about. If you have a clear idea, include details like the different sections of the content.
- Angle: What is the piece’s value proposition? What unique point of view will the content be tackled from? How will it differ from your competitors’ content? These questions help to define the value and angle of your content.
- Pillar or support content: If you work with topic clusters, adding this element to your editorial calendar will help you quickly visualise whether the content to be produced is a pillar page or a supporting page.
- Category: If you’re producing blog posts, specify which category it falls under. This may also be relevant for other content such as help centre articles or FAQs.
- Publishing platform: This refers to where the content will originally be published, be it your blog, Medium, LinkedIn Pulse, Slideshare, etc.
- Business goal: What are you trying to achieve with the content? Eg. generate organic traffic, educate your readers about a product, improve the relationship with customers, nurture the relationship with prospects and leads.
- User objective/user story: Ask yourself why you’re writing the content, not from a business vantage point but from your readers’ perspective. In other words, how this content aims to help them.
- Target audience/buyer persona: If your business works with several buyer personas, the easiest way would be to include the name of the buyer persona the content is targeted at. You may also add a short description. Eg. business manager with under three years of experience.
- Stage of funnel/buyer’s journey: This depends on the terminology you are comfortable with, whether it’s the sales funnel (TOFU, BOFU, MOFU) or the consumer’s purchase journey (discovery, consideration, decision). The idea is to identify the stage the reader is in.
- Idea by: Who came up with the content idea? This is especially important when you have employees from other departments contributing ideas to your editorial calendar.
- Author/editor: Who will produce the content or coordinate the piece, in the event that there are multiple content creators involved.
- Public author: The person who will sign off on the content publicly. This may or may not be the actual author of the piece. For example, an opinion piece may be created by a content marketer but signed by the CEO.
- Distribution channel: Content with no visibility is a waste of time and resources. Right off the bat, think about what distribution channels you can use to amplify your content’s reach. Eg. social media, email campaigns, etc.
- Repurposing: Once it has been created, what other formats and types can the content converted to or used for?
- Action (creation, updates, optimisations): Specify whether it is content created from scratch or existing content that needs to be optimised and/or updated.
- Comments: Allow for comments about the content idea. Eg. where the idea came from, aspects to consider, sensitivities, related ideas, etc.
- Links or examples: If the idea was inspired by existing content or needs to reference other content.
- Resources: Links, internal documents, people to contact, etc. List the resource needed to create the contact.
- Supporting visuals: Any visuals like graphics, original images, infographics, videos, etc. that support the content.
- Target keyword: Whenever the objective (main or secondary) is to generate organic traffic, include the keyword for which the content should rank for.
- Search volume of the main keyword: It is very useful to include the monthly search volume of the target keyword as a reference. This also helps with understanding its ranking potential.
- URL of the main competitor: The URL of the content that’s currently ranking top for the target keyword
- Secondary keywords: If there are relevant secondary keywords, include them in the editorial calendar. You may also want to include a link to another document (eg. SEO strategy) or to your keyword search tool report.
- Progress: Has the content been created? Is it pending review? Choose from various statuses like to do, WIP, draft, published. This provides those with access to the calendar full visibility of the content creation process.
- Editor/who to review: The person in charge of reviewing and/or editing the content before it’s published.
- Others involved: If there are others involved in the content creation process, whether they are from the marketing team itself or if they’re freelancers or content agencies. E.g. designer, SEO specialist, salesperson, product team, etc. This is important for large content projects that go beyond the typical blog article.
- CTAs: Any call to action. For example, if it is an article about a product launch, include a link to the product landing page. If the article is related to an existing guide or ebook, the CTA would be a banner promoting the downloadable content.
Editorial calendar templates and examples
Once you know what to include in your editorial calendar, it’s time for the next step: Decide how you’re going to create it and whether there are specific examples or templates you can follow.
The most modern and flexible options today include project management tools such as Trello or Asana. But there are also classic options like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets.
They all have their own pros and cons and switching from one to the other won’t take more than a couple of hours. So don’t worry too much about this step and choose the one that appeals to you the most. You can always change it at a later stage.
Editorial calendar templates in Trello
From editorial calendar templates created by the Trello team itself to those created by other marketers and fans of the tool, there are many Trello boards that you can copy and use for your editorial calendar.
Here are a few to get you started:
Pros of using Trello for your editorial calendar
- It is a flexible model that allows you to make adjustments as needed without having to delete, rewrite, copy, or paste as you would otherwise have to in Excel or Google Sheets.
- They better reflect the present, past and future situation of the content marketing operational cycle.
- You can choose to be notified when there are major changes.
- It’s cleaner and more visually attractive.
Editorial calendar templates in Excel or Google Sheets
If you want to go classic and simple, here are some templates for the content calendar in Google Sheets.
Pros of using Excel or Google Sheets for your content calendar
- Anyone can understand a content calendar created on a spreadsheet easily. Project management tools may be easy to use, but there are team members that aren’t familiar with it, there may be some reluctance.
- Its results are usually simpler. In an editorial calendar created in Excel or Google Sheets, you will most likely only include the basic and necessary information.
- Organising your calendar in tabs allows you to have different editorial calendars for different types of content in the same document or include relevant information that you can keep separate from the editorial calendar itself.