Is your content running wild like a flock of sheep? Has some of it been out in the pasture allowed to graze for too long? Is it consistently being attacked by wolves? Choose your breed of wolf here, business partners, lawyers, writer wannabes? 

Let an Editorial Calendar help you protect and bring your content strategy under control.

What is an Editorial Calendar?

In traditional publishing, an editorial calendar is an old standby. Magazines, newspapers and television news stations have been using editorial calendars to organize their content for decades. It allows them to manage the numerous contributors who help produce the content (ad agencies, in-house advertising and PR teams, and freelance contributors). And it helps contributors pitch ideas around the theme of the month or program. And keeps contributors on schedule with due dates for submission.

But How Does it Relate to Content Strategy?

There are many tools in the content strategy toolbox, but none as taken for granted as the editorial calendar. An editorial calendar can help your company or your content team organize, manage and, more importantly, plan your content for months ahead of time.

Why Use an Editorial Calendar?

There are many reasons to use one. If you have a team of writers, you can organize them more effectively. If you want an integrated approach to content, you can manage the content, and keep it more consistent across different channels like social, marketing, web, tablet and mobile.

And for the marketer, when you cover a topic or a product, you integrate the message and increase the retention of that message for the target audience. You can cover a subject matter so much deeper when you can attack it from many angles and many writers. And then there’s that consistency word. When you know and plan for your content, you’re going to have more consistency.

You can also use an editorial calendar to brainstorm. Publish your editorial calendar with suggested themes, bring your different content authors from inside and outside the organization together to discuss ideas and brainstorm.

While Twitter posts may seem spontaneous and reserved for timely information, tweets can be and often are planned. In fact, timely information has been planned for a long time. Television news has been using feature pieces for decades to fill slow news days. An editorial calendar can do the same for your social posts.

Who Shouldn’t Use an Editorial Calendar?

If you’re in a reactionary content ecosystem or your organization doesn’t value content, you may not want to attempt an editorial calendar. Not yet. It might be better to build your reputation first and then create the right atmosphere for the company or business partners to accept an editorial calendar.

How do you Build an Editorial Calendar?

Everything from an Excel spreadsheet to Sharepoint to the cloud has been used to produce an editorial calendar. What is best is up to you. I like the cloud like Google Docs, Google Calendar or Sharepoint. Each allows teams to work and communicate virtually. And you won’t clog up emails with attachments. Plus with Sharepoint, you can view your calendar monthly and then download it into an excel spreadsheet and see all the nitty gritty details.

But both Google and Sharepoint have their limitations. Some companies are uncomfortable with their sensitive information like product launches out on a cloud or in Google docs. So proceed with caution.

First you need to ask what the purpose of the editorial calendar. Is it to manage delivery dates? Is it to manage and create consistency across messages? Is it to organize cross-functional authors? Is it to define the purposed of the content?

Here’s what you can capture in your editorial calendar:

  • Theme/Name
  • Author’s Name
  • Type of Content: Marketing Banner, Blog, Landing page, Product page, Interactive tool/Widget, App, Game, etc.
  • Headline
  • Metadata
  • Date Published/Live Date
  • Submission Date
  • Content Purpose: Build Awareness, Educate, Drive Traffic, Conversion, Increase SEO, etc.
  • Target Audience
  • Result: Page Views, Re-Tweets, Downloads, etc.

Remember, it’s yours to define. Think about what you may want to get out of your calendar, what you want to keep track of and what will make your content more relevant.

Then, let your editorial calendar round up your content and steer it where you want it to go.

Image courtesy of rafa sanchez ruiz (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Want to read more of Lori's Content Strategy suggestions? Then read Content Gardens: The Content Lifecycle