How to use an editorial calendar

An editorial calendar is an invaluable tool you can use to plan your content production schedule in advance.

Unfortunately, however, most businesses don’t use one. This is usually because people assume that creating an editorial calendar is difficult, or complicated, or involved. But this is not the case!

You can make your calendar as simple or as complex as you want:  super-detailed and set it in stone, or bare-bones and flexible from one month (or one week) to the next. It’s entirely up to you.

Read on to learn how to discover what works best for you, and start making the content production process faster and easier right away!

Below are the key steps to take to create your editorial calendar:

1. Brainstorm topic ideas

You can do this on paper or electronically, using a tool like Evernote or a simple doc file. Now is not the time to censor or limit yourself – let the ideas fly and don’t worry about organizing or culling them until later. Once you have generated as many ideas as you can, take a break. Put your file away and go for a quick walk, have some lunch, or focus on a task that allows you to give the creative part of your brain a rest. Breaks are important in any kind of creative work, and content marketing most definitely falls into that category. Giving your brain a rest, or focusing on an easy/non-creative task for a while, will enable you to come back to your list refreshed and clear-headed, and you will be well prepared to move on to Step 2.

2. Review and organize your ideas

Now it’s time to take a look through all your notes. Before long, you’ll start to notice patterns in the ideas you generated in the previous step. You can use these patterns as starting points for topic categories or “buckets”, under which you can list individual topics for blog posts, articles, reports, and other types of content.

You can use a separate piece of paper or document for each content category, or use one document and create a column for each category, under which you can list the relevant individual titles.

3. Decide when and how often you will post

Now that you have a good library of content topics to choose from, you need to think about how often you want to publish your content. The key here is to be honest with yourself about what you can realistically produce. You might love the idea of publishing three blog posts a week, but if you’re going to try to work that into an already-packed schedule, is that really going to be possible? Don’t set yourself up to fail! You can always start small and work your way up to producing more and more content. Once you’ve decided on the amount and frequency of your content production, stay consistent with it. Your readers will learn what they can expect from you fairly quickly, and if your content resonates with them, they will seek out what’s new on a regular basis. Make sure you’re upholding your end of the bargain by sticking to your schedule and producing high quality content that’s relevant to them.

4. Create your calendar

First, decide how often – and how far in advance – you want to take the time to plan your content. Monthly? Quarterly? Yearly? Your business model and personal work style and preferences will dictate what works best. Keep in mind how flexible your calendar (and topics) need to be. If you think you will need to change your content strategy fairly frequently, then you might want to go week-by-week.

Once you’ve decided on that, you can start filling in the blanks.

Consider dedicating certain months or days of the week to specific topics (like Net Atlantic did for our recent Mobile Monday blog series). If you want to plan your content out for the year, you might start by deciding on quarterly or monthly themes, and work backwards from there. Also be sure to consider any content that will be more difficult or take longer to produce than your usual repertoire.

You can use this process as an exercise to get focused on what kind of content you want to produce in the coming months. You’ll gain a high-level view of your plans and will be able to see opportunities for creating more extensive projects, blog series, email campaigns, etc. – well in advance. And you don’t have to officially roll out the schedule or share with anyone else if you’re not inclined to do so.

In the end, it really comes down to figuring out what works best for you, keeping in mind the goals and capabilities of your business. Some find they need a lot of structure and a regular schedule to stay focused and avoid overwhelm, while others like to take a more flexible approach and feel stifled by too much planning and structure.It’s all about experimenting to find a system that works best for you.

Do you have an editorial calendar? Do you find them helpful or restricting? What techniques or processes help you the most in determining what kinds of content you produce and how often you do it?


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