If you want to improve your company's use of blog posts, articles and newsletters, you're not alone. Many businesses are starting to realise the benefits of content marketing, and are devoting more time and effort to creating useful and engaging content to attract potential customers.
However, as you face up to the content marketing challenge, you may wonder how you will develop enough content. Indeed, in a recent survey, 64% of respondents cited producing sufficient content as their top content marketing challenge, followed by creating engaging and varied content.
One tool that can help is an editorial calendar.
What is an editorial calendar?
Editorial calendars have long been used by magazine editors to plan the stories that will appear in future issues. They set out what features will be used where in the magazine, and allow editors to look ahead and ensure an issue comes together in good time.
For small businesses, they're a particularly good tool to help you plan ahead and avoid last-minute content panics. As you join the ranks of companies publishing their own content, an editorial calendar can make a big difference to your success.
In its most basic form, an editorial calendar is simply a plan setting out what content will be used in the weeks and months ahead. Calendars are often formatted as a simple Excel spreadsheet, or can be hosted online (for example as a Google Doc) to allow your team to collaborate on content planning.
Because they allow your colleagues to stay up-to-date on the progress of each piece of content and track future ideas, calendars are a simple but effective way to ensure that your blog posts, articles and newsletters are delivered on time every month.
How can an editorial calendar help?
An editorial calendar is particularly good for two things:
- Planning your content in advance to ensure that your whole team or company knows what content you will be publishing and can contribute ideas or information
- Giving you a simple, visual overview of that content, to help your team collaborate and make the planning process as seamless as possible
What should I include in an editorial calendar?
At its heart, an editorial calendar is just that - a calendar. So to begin with it's important to set out a diary or calendar for the year ahead. This can be planned on a quarterly, monthly or even weekly basis, depending on how frequently you're likely to publish fresh content.
Next, think about the different types of content you'd like to publish. Create a section for each one (e.g. 'company blog', 'email newsletter', 'article', 'customer case study'). Then, start to add more detail. If, for example, you have a monthly email newsletter, you might include one section for the introduction, another for that month's feature article, a third for your offer of the month and another detailing links to recent blog posts.
Alternatively, if you're planning several months' worth of blog posts in one go, your calendar might include sections for each of your company's products and services. That way, you'll ensure you cover each one individually and you can address customers' most common questions in your posts.
More effective content planning
If you're creating content with colleagues, it can also be useful to include a column showing who is responsible for each piece of content. You'll then know at a glance who to check in with if you have any comments or suggestions.
You might also include a column highlighting the progress of each piece of content, with several key stages that your content needs to go through (e.g. 'ideas research', 'content outline', 'first draft', 'initial feedback', 'final draft', 'proofreading', 'image research', 'final approval', 'publication'). No matter what stage your content is at, you'll be able to track progress and ensure all the steps have been ticked off before your content is released to the world.
Once you've developed your editorial calendar, the next challenge is to fill it with ideas for content that will appeal to and help your target audience. If you're struggling, have a look at these tips on coming up with new content ideas for your business.