Yesterday, I published a post that illustrated the “a-ha!” moment I had regarding the importance of an editorial calendar for any sort of content initiative. After years of recommending to clients the importance of an editorial calendar simply because it was a “best practice,” it finally clicked that the mental faculties used for brainstorming/planning are wildly different from those used for writing. By separating the writing process from the brainstorming process, you’re better able to focus the necessary energies to be more efficient with each.
However, brainstorming is only the first step. Once you’ve got your creative ideas down on paper, you need a plan of attack. Creating an editorial calendar allows you to formally structure your ideas and next steps to execute on that content strategy.
Elements of an Editorial Calendar
A good editorial calendar includes more than simply an expected publish date and a vague description of the topic. There are several key elements that every editorial calendar should include.
- Publish Date – Pretty standard, should require little explanation why this is important
- Subject – General overview of the subject, should be a short phrase that triggers the overall theme of the post
- Working Title – A title is your headline, your first impression, and in many ways what can make or break your post. Writing a good headline has always been important; consider the fact that 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.
- It’s also important to recognize that the editorial calendar should have a working title, not one that is set in stone. If you haven’t written the post yet, how can you know what the most effective title will be? Create a working title to help give direction but write the title to fit the post, not the other way around
- Focus Keywords – The SEO in me is coming out here, but understand that search engines and users are looking for content that uses language that is common to your audience. If you want to engage with your readers, speak their language.
- Key Elements – Brainstorming should always be about more than just the the high-level concept, it should involve some basic details you plan to include in the post. Some will argue that an editorial calendar is more of an outline than a calendar, but I disagree. Once you start outlining specifics, you’re engaging a different part of the brain than the one used for brainstorming. Jot down some key points to give direction to the topic but unless you’re willing to commit to that post right away, try to avoid outlining in too much detail.
- Sources – Do you have any external sources that support your point, maybe ones that helped influence your decision to write the post? Supporting sources are great when you want to validate an opinion or back up a claim with objective statistics. I don’t recommend doing research at this point but if you have sources that you know off the top of your head you want to include, drop them in for future reference.
- Complementary Assets – Do you need any images to support the post? A free download? A giveaway? Having a clear understanding of any additional assets that need to be created for the post is important for resource planning, coordinating with collaborators, and scheduling.
- Promotional Plan – Again, this is not meant to be a fully fleshed promotional plan but when you’re brainstorming ideas, naturally you’ll start thinking about how to promote them. Which of the social networks/online communities that you’re a part of are most suited for this type of content? Are there any influencers that helped inspire the post you’ll want to connect with once it’s live?
Editorial Calendar Format
The nice thing about an editorial calendar is the right format is whatever format is most convenient for you. Personally, I prefer Excel because I can sort by date, everything is arranged in tables, I can resize columns and wrap text to view the information in a way that is clear and logical to me.
If you work with a team, Google Spreadsheets (i.e. – Excel for Google Docs) is a super easy way to collaborate with multiple writers, researchers, or PR folks.
Executing on your Content Strategy
As always, creating a plan is only one small step toward your goals; the bigger challenge is executing on them. I’ve developed a few tips that I find helpful to keep my content strategy on track.
- Import Dates into Google Calendar – Pretty logical, right? Import your editorial calendar into your Google Calendar (or whatever scheduling platform you prefer). Pro Tip: Create a new calendar specifically for your content strategy to keep things organized independent of your hectic personal or professional schedule.
- Set Specific To-Dos – Admittedly, this is more for a structured content strategy like a corporate blog but setting individual To-Dos in a project management system (I use Basecamp) let’s you start to flesh out your ideas in more detail as you begin the writing process.
- Complete Drafts at Least 24 Hours in Advance – This has been hugely helpful over the course of my (admittedly sporadic) writing career. When you remove yourself from a draft prior to publishing, you’re able to review with a fresh set of eyes and make any final quality edits with a clear head.
- Monitor Analytics – See where your audience is coming from, whether or not they view other content on your site, how many new visitors your getting, and what type of engagement you receive. Learning from existing readers is extremely valuable in evolving your content strategy with future posts.
Enough Already, Gimme the Template!
Anyone who is interested in a sample editorial calendar you can use for your own content efforts, mine for the last 10 days of May is available for download here. Check it out and lemme know what you think…feedback is always appreciated!
Welcome! My name is Brett Snyder and I am the owner of Knucklepuck, a digital marketing agency based outside Washington D.C.
When I'm not studying and practicing SEO, you can find me hanging out with our dogs Lemon and Hippo, going to concerts, catching up with friends, exploring new hobbies, or spending time with my son Colin.