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How to Create a Successful Editorial Calendar

If you rely on your blog for fresh content to drive inbound traffic there’s one tool that is often neglected: The editorial calendar.

An editorial calendar is essentially a virtual “To Do” list. It’s a tool of accountability. It’s a forum for brainstorming. It’s a micro-managers dream come true. (Can you imagine showing your manager exactly what you’re working on three months in advance?!) It’s your blog topics laid out for months on end. It’s a motivational tool for those who are deadline driven or just tend to procrastinate. It’s a living, breathing document that becomes the method to your madness.

An editorial calendar can help reduce confusion and keep you more organized. (Image source)

Chances are you have some sort of editorial calendar in place already without even realizing it. Usually a random smattering of ideas you don’t want to forget, on napkins, post-it notes and emails sent to yourself in the middle of the night when inspiration strikes.

How in depth you go, depends on you and your goals, but the more detailed it is the more efficient it can become.

Day Planner vs. WordPress vs. Good ‘ol Spreadsheets

If you’re old school, which some of us are, a good, detailed day planner dedicated as your editorial calendar can be an effective tool, however you will be limited to space due to the very nature of the physical calendar.

But, for the majority of those working in the digital age, a virtual calendar using Microsoft Excel or Outlook, Google or WordPress (or any other platform for that matter) lets you organize your thoughts, send you alerts for looming deadlines and unlimited space for notes, ideas, resources and insights (using a cloud-based tool is best as you can access it from anywhere).

WordPress Plugins

If you’re using WordPress there are a few plugins that help organize posts to be published on the platform, check out:

Editorial Calendar WP
WordPress plugin Stresslimit Editorial Calendar helps organize posts to be published

Keep in mind though, if you’re weary of bogging your site down with plugins which can lower page speed (and hurt conversions) you’ll want to use an external spreadsheet.

Google Docs to the Rescue

Enter the good ‘ol spreadsheet. With unlimited space, multiple tabs, and even some color, you can build a creative (and easily shareable) platform that allows you to establish themes or focal points for your work. So, if it’s important to remember that March is the month of the Sweet Potato, including it on your calendar will help you develop content ideas around sweet potatoes. (Oli: I hate sweet potatoes).

Some things to include in your calendar:

  • Post Date
  • Author (if you’re not the sole author)
  • Working Title (or at least a descriptive idea to the content)
  • Publication location (is this a post for your blog, a guest blog, etc.)
  • Status
  • Category
  • Tags
  • Keywords
  • Call to Action (Is there a specific and measurable action you want to see from this topic)
  • Notes
Crackerjack Marketing Editorial Calendar
A Crackerjack Marketing contributor shared her editorial calendar which she keeps active on Google Docs.

By including more than just the topic and post date, you create a more effective tool which helps to remind you of the integral components of SEO and content marketing.

Share, Share, Share

For teams of writers this can be a great avenue for collaboration. By sharing the calendar, you are able to utilize each other’s networks and ideas. If a team member sees you’re working on a post about A/B Testing and he just happens to have a relationship with the marketing mavens at Unbounce or has recently conducted a test, he can share his contacts or perspectives to help provide you with more relevant content. It’s also a great way to ensure you’re not duplicating material by haphazardly publishing posts from various authors.

In addition, editorial calendars can become a vital asset when working in conjunction with advertisers or coordinating promotional opportunities for your own business. The calendar provides a comprehensive guide to when and where your work will fit into campaigns and promotions or vice versa. For example, if you are working in partnership with the American Cancer Society and know their annual Relay for Life is approaching in May, your work leading up to the event can revolve around non-profit, healthcare, cancer awareness and related topics.

When working with multiple clients, this provides a detailed description of the who, what, when, where and why, optimizing your efforts, your time and perhaps even your sanity. It can be used in coordination with standard tools to show what you’ve done and where you’re going. It’s also a fantastic tool to use to close a deal when proposing your services. Imagine being able to show a perspective client exactly what you had in mind for them over the next quarter?

Work Smarter, Not Harder

It should go without saying, but once you’re posts are complete, mark it on the calendar. Not unlike crossing a task off a traditional to-do list, it’ll create a sense of accomplishment and as we all know, some days that’s what we need to keep us going.

Keep your editorial calendar updated
The sense of accomplishment is always greater when you can visualize it. (image source)

Be Flexible

It’s also important to remember not to lock yourself into the calendar. After all, it is designed to be a living document. If you have a post scheduled to publish tomorrow, yet there is an important news event to take advantage of, so be it. If something is going on in your respective industry that demands your attention and ultimately that of your customers, go for it.

So, what’s on your calendar today?

— Angela Stringfellow

default author image
About Angela Stringfellow
Angela Stringfellow has spent the last few years of corporate life working in marketing management in the healthcare industry before transitioning her real-world marketing experience to the web. For the past several years, Angela has worked as a consultant with businesses small and large to build comprehensive social media campaigns, blogging and editorial strategies and enhance overall brand reputation and media presence, with a primary focus on Web 2.0 technologies and content marketing.
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Comments:

  1. Jo Carroll

    Goodness – how organised! I can certainly see the advantages – though I’ve been blogging because it’s fun. Just hope all this strategy doesn’t leak the joy from it.

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    Reply
    • Renee Sharelle

      I recently decided to try an editorial calendar because I found I would go a week or more without posting anything at all. I wanted to post, it’s just that I had so many ideas that I had no idea how or where to start. That said, my biggest fear was having all the joy from blogging sucked out of me. I mean, you can plan the fun out of something.

      I suggest only using a calendar for things that are special, if the blog you are running is personal or in a niche – that way you don’t get overwhelmed trying to plan everything. A post like this for me would have been part of a series of posts about blogging productivity, so that everything was all nice and neat. Having a calendar doesn’t mean you only post what you schedule – just that you have some ideas that need more preparation. The extra love and work that goes into these scheduled posts will show in the quality of your content, so I feel it would be worth it.

      Hoping my two cents helped, Renee xoxo

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      Reply
  2. Lisa

    Great info – I had not used either of these 2 features. Decisions, decisions….

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    Reply
  3. Gemma W.

    This is really cool. I have the Editorial Calendar plugin installed, but I think I may remove it in favour of using Google Calendar/Tasks in combination with Google Docs instead.

    (0)
    Reply
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  5. Dewaldt Huysamen

    Thanks so much, will get editorial calendars on docs asap.

    (0)
    Reply
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    […] How to Create a Successful Editorial Calendar One of the most challenging aspects of any good content marketing driven business is … the content plan. If you don’t think it through, you can easily end up veering off topic, writing randomly, and confusing your audience. An good editorial calendar can go a long way toward avoiding this, and this article goes a long way toward setting one up. […]

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  10. Kaye Swain

    Hi Angela – how fun to find you here. What a great article! I have one of the WordPress Editorial Calendar plugins and LOVE it. It really does help. Thanks for some extra food for thought.

    (0)
    Reply
  11. Mena

    Nice ideas.. :) managing out my day like this is for sure different than a to-do list.. but i didn’t get how this will help with clients in the future ..

    (0)
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  17. Grace Boyle

    Also worth mentioning, Kapost has a cool editorial calendar feature that’s easy to use as part of the content marketing platform. Definitely more robust / bells and whistles than some of the WP plugins, but still helps fill a need around planning and strategy for content.

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  20. Helen

    Great tips, the most useful was – to make and use posting statuses.

    (0)
    Reply
  21. Woodlands

    i’m using google calendar at this point. Make me re-think of my usage after reading your post here. Hmmm..

    (0)
    Reply
  22. Amy

    A good editorial calendar should be able to publish to social media sites. It should work with Twitter and Facebook because that’s where your customers hang out. Even better, it should combine content curation with content creation. Namely, it should be very easy to curate content, but also very easy to integrate with existing blogging platform like WordPress.

    ContentDJ (http://bit.ly/YEiRx9) has a good social media editorial calendar feature. It integrates with Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and WordPress. You can drag and drop to schedule posts.

    The tool also helps you find the most shareable content to publish.

    (0)
    Reply
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