We can all think of brands that continue to excel in their content marketing efforts, providing a robust example for the rest of us to follow. Just as surely, we can probably think of some brands that have tried their hand at content marketing but then failed — either posting without ever making an impact, or simply allowing their posts to fizzle out and cease altogether. (Some of us may even have been involved with companies in this latter camp.)
What’s the thing that separates companies in Group A from the companies in Group B? I will be so bold as to say that, four times out of five, it’s the utilization of an editorial calendar.
An Underrated Tool
The editorial calendar is somewhat underappreciated in some marketing circles because it’s neither especially flashy nor very technical; it’s imprecise yet not ineffective; malleable and ever-changing yet vital for giving your content marketing campaign shape. It takes a lot of work to maintain one, but doing so ensures that your content marketing efforts are organized, not scattershot.
An editorial calendar can take many forms; you can use Google Calendar or you can use an actual, paper-and-pen calendar if you really want to. What matters is that it’s something you’re comfortable with and can easily share with your team members and alter as needed.
Form and Function
The function of the editorial calendar is to give you the lay of the land with regard to your content marketing. It should include social media posts, blog entries, video and infographic creation, press release distribution — whatever you’re using in terms of content development and deployment. It should spell out the what, when and who of each of these components.
In my own experience, an editorial calendar works best when it includes your Facebook posts, pins, tweets and other social media posts — all written and planned in advance. (A minimum of two weeks in advance is best.) This should all be good, solid, evergreen content. Planning in advance allows you to ensure you’re covering all the necessary topics and ideas, and that you’re not repeating yourself; that articles or blogs you really want to see posted get posted. And if you have a really busy day and can’t write a Google+ update, well, no worries: you’ve got one in the can, perhaps already set up in Hootsuite and ready to go. (And if breaking news develops, there’s no reason you can’t pre-empt or simply expand your scheduled content.)
Critically, though, the editorial calendar isn’t just about the what and the when. You should also have a clear division of labor shown: Who is writing the next blog entry — and what is its due date? Who will post it? And who will check back to respond to comments? How often? For that matter, who will be sharing it on Facebook and on Twitter?
Your Content Marketing Road Map
You don’t necessarily want to write out all of your content in advance, of course. Spending an hour or two writing a couple weeks’ worth of Facebook updates is one thing, but you might be a little more flexible with your blog posts. At the very least, though, your editorial calendar should lay out the topics for your next few posts — directing your thoughts; helping you keep your eyes peeled for helpful research; and making certain you’re covering a good range of topics rather than coming back to the same well, time and time again.
And really, that’s as good a way as any to sum up the appeal of the editorial calendar: though this may be something of a “soft skill,” it happens to be an ideal way to keep your content fresh, eclectic and on-schedule — while simultaneously providing you with efficient use of your time.
Image credit: WMich & Canva