How to Create an Editorial Calendar
Creating an editorial calendar from scratch can be a daunting task. Use this guide to walk through the process and create a calendar that’s ideal for you.
Evaluate Your Needs
Define Your Content Types & Channels
What kind of content does your team create? Do you need to organize daily blog posts, regular email copywriting and creation? Are there new types of content that you’re planning to test out? Make a list of all the various types of content you create that could use more strategy and organization behind them.
Make sure you account for different channels. You might have a company blog but also want to post on Medium.
Next, consider frequency. What does an ideal month of content creation look like for you: eight blog posts, one white paper, 12 emails? Determine your frequency for each content type and channel.
Determine Your Audience and Themes
This process may take a little longer than determining channel types and frequency, and probably warrants spending some time with your team to make sure you’re crafting the right list of audiences and themes.
Who are you writing for? You may have this information already nailed down in a brand document through personas or segmentation. Understanding your audience is really important when you’re targeting more than one audience, as many marketers are. Keeping track of your audience segments in your editorial calendar ensures that you’re creating content in the right frequency and distribution to reach your various customer segments.
Themes further define your content pieces and are another checkpoint to make sure your content is finely tuned to your brand message. You should aim to create 4-5 themes. Themes can adjust and change over time, but limiting yourself to four or five gives you the opportunity to measure the success of each theme individually and see what’s resonating with your audience. If a certain theme isn’t working, you can go back to a brainstorm session and test out a new theme.
When it comes to determining themes, you might look at your company’s strategic objectives to inform them, or you might create a list that’s a little bit softer. For example, if you were creating content for a furniture company, your themes might be something along these lines:
- Creating Home: touches and accessories that make your space unique
- IRL: Real customer stories and imagery
- Hands-On: Tips & tricks for homeowners on customizing spaces
It’s important to craft themes that cross content mediums. A theme should be able to be applied to an email, a blog post, or a video effectively. Avoid the trap of creating a theme just for one medium: for example, the example above could easily have become “Hands-On Video,” which restricts the theme to video only. If your theme doesn’t lend itself to more than one medium, broaden the idea and reconsider it until you can easily see its application across many methods.
Find Your Format
We stand by the simplicity and endless customization possibilities of the standard spreadsheet, and it’s a good place to start as you’re planning out your content calendar. Make a column for each of the following:
- Publication Date
With your list of themes in hand, you and your team can generate a list of content ideas to put into a “backlog” list to pull from as you create your content plans for each week or month.
There are some really great content software platforms out there for those looking for something more slick than a spreadsheet. Check out our content tool comparison to see which one might be right for you.
Creating your editorial calendar is all well and good, but it’s not very useful if no one ever looks at it (cue joke about an editorial calendar in the forest and…nevermind). So once you’ve formatted the calendar, it’s time to define roles.
- Who owns the management of the editorial calendar?
- Who is responsible for keeping the team aware of planning and execution of the editorial calendar?
Setting up regular planning and reporting sessions will keep your team engaged and get them used to treating the editorial calendar as their content home base.
- Who needs to be involved in planning sessions?
- Who’s involved in the execution of content? Are there people outside of the marketing team who need to be aware of the plan?
- Should planning sessions occur weekly or monthly?
- Who is responsible for measuring and reporting back on content?
With all this in hand, you’re well on your way to having a workable editorial calendar.
Don’t Forget: Keep it Flexible
Things change fast. Planning is important, but so is flexibility. Treat your editorial calendar as a living, breathing document: a guide for your editorial efforts, but with room for change and adjustment based on your company’s needs and strategic objectives.