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3 Reasons You Need an Editorial Content Calendar

Only really serious content marketers with really serious content marketing programs need a formal content (editorial) calendar, right?

Wrong! No matter what the size of your content program; whether you use it to engage with internal or external stakeholders - you need an editorial content calendar (we’ll call it a content calendar for the rest of this article) to keep your efforts aligned to your overarching strategy, structured and on-track.

In fact, recent research by the Content Marketing Institute found that four out of five high-performing content marketing programs use a calendar, while only half of the least successful do.

What is a content calendar?

As the name suggests, you can use a content calendar to keep track of your content and see at a glance when things are going to be published. As Hubspot describes it:

An editorial calendar is a visual workflow that helps a team of content creators schedule their work on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Editorial calendars can help you track content types, promotional channels, authors, and most importantly, publish dates.

Not all content calendars are created equal. Let’s say, for example, you’re using an actual calendar or a white board with a calendar drawn on it to schedule your content by date. We might call this a ‘bare essentials’ content calendar. It’s a good start, and better than nothing, but you’re missing numerous opportunities to drive your team’s efficiency and align your content work more closely with your organisation’s strategic direction.

I’ve listed below the three most important reasons why you need to introduce a content calendar (if you don’t already have one) or review and tweak the one you have (if you are using one, but think things can be done better).

1. Keep your content program well-organised and on-track

As Hubspot notes in the linked article above, your content calendar should list not only what you’re publishing and when, it should also include channels, content types and authors. I would also add in a few other elements such as subject matter expert mapped against each piece of content, and links to article briefs for content that’s in production or yet to be created.

It’s also a great place to keep track of the content your competitors are publishing, if you’re using content to market your products.

To ensure things are progressing smoothly, all you then need to do is host a weekly 15-minute call with the responsible team members to run through the document and ensure everything is on-track, or identify any road blocks.

2. Ensure co-ordination across the business

If you’ve faced trouble getting buy-in and co-operation from your colleagues across the business when you’re trying to develop content that is consistent, meaningful and aligned to the organisation’s objectives… you’re not alone.

It’s confoundingly difficult to get executives and other stakeholders to align behind content when there are numerous other fires to be put out.

Having something written down that lays out what you plan to do, and when, helps to demonstrate that you’ve thought about what you’re doing and can function as a quick reference when an executive asks you for an update.

Introducing a content calendar won’t necessarily solve all your challenges when it comes to collaborating and co-ordinating across the business, but it certainly helps.

It’s also worth noting that a calendar doesn’t take the place of a documented strategy (which should precede the calendar), but in many cases executives and others across the business will be more interested in your calendar, which is where the rubber hits the road.

3. Be more strategic and consistent (and fewer surprise projects!)

As noted above, a content calendar doesn’t take the place of a documented strategy (i.e. audience research and persona development, social listening, competitor research and content pillar / topic development). This work should come before your content calendar, and bring it to life.

What does this mean? Well, 90 percent of what goes into the calendar should be shaped by one of your audience personas and their content requirements. If it doesn’t meet the criteria, then it’s out.

So next time Fred from sales has a bright idea for a customer email blast, you can say either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or ‘we have room on the calendar next week’, rather than functioning as the company’s order taker.

Of course, you’ll still have some items that don’t really map to any of your personas or content pillars, but they need to be published anyway. This might be things like reacting to major world events or unexpected company or industry news. It’s worthwhile to keep the other 10 percent as ‘wiggle room’ for when you need it.

A note on content calendar tools

A quick Google search will reveal a myriad of free and paid content calendar tools. I’ve tried a couple of these but always come back to good old Excel or Google Sheets.

Everything I’ve outlined above can be done in both programs, and most people are familiar with them. That’s a huge bonus if you’re going to make your calendar available to people across the business!

Need some help with your content calendar?

Our Content Calendar package is a completely managed solution that combines the best tools with more than 20 years of experience in managing content and editorial calendars. Take the hassle out of managing your content calendar from AU$1299 per month.

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