Over the last decade or so I’ve written thousands of blog posts.
I believe that one of the critical elements of being able to do that was keeping a content calendar.
A content calendar goes by a few names:
- Content Schedule
- Editorial Calendar
- Content Plan
- And more
But whatever you call it, it’s a place to organize your ideas, titles, notes and more for content as well as laying out important dates especially due dates and publish dates.
Many struggle with content – text, audio and video – because they put the pressure on themselves to brainstorm, research and create all at the same time. I believe in separating at least the brainstorming from the creating. This way you do the brainstorming in batches and then when you sit down to create you find the idea and notes and get to work.
So it’s time to create a content calendar if you don’t have one and even if you do here are some tips I’ve found to be useful over the years.
1. Due Date & Publish Date
A common issue with publishing content of any kind is the tendency to want to publish immediately after the content is created and done.
A great habit to get into is to finish the content and schedule it for a later date. One of the best features of WordPress (and now most others) is that it allows you to schedule blog posts.
I like to create a due date and a publish date. I usually leave one week in between. I’ll create posts usually on the same day each week and schedule for the same day the following week.
95% of the time you’re going to stick with that schedule, but the reason for the buffer is the other 5% of the time when something comes up like a last minute meeting or an illness or any number of things.
If you were publishing immediately after creating you obviously won’t have that buffer.
2. Title & Notes
Include a spot on the calendar for titles and notes.
I should mention that I create almost all of my content calendars using shared worksheets (think Excel) on Google Drive.It’s simple. It’s easy. More on this later.
But I have a cell for each piece of content. Each piece has a due date and publish date like we saw above. And it also has a post for title and notes.
The title is important to give the direction the creator should take. As I mentioned earlier, I like to create these titles in batches. So once a month or so I’ll brainstorm titles for the entire upcoming month.
I’ll also include a notes section. This provides context for the title. Maybe it also includes a link or two. Or maybe a source. Or maybe a quote. Or maybe a requirement that is only for this post.
3. Overall Requirements, Checklists
Off to the side on the content calendars I use I’ll include overall requirements and I’ll usually put them in checklist form.
Usually for blog posts or podcasts or whatever there will be requirements that you’ll want to include in all pieces. Internal and external links. Calls to action. Mentions. Things like that.
The more you create the more you’ll just memorize these requirements, but it’s still good to have a checklist as a reminder.
4. Responsibility Definitions
Sometimes multiple people will have their hands involved in the creation of the content. Maybe one writes the post, another edits and another uploads. Another idea is to have someone that creates the titles and notes. And there could be a manager that organizes the calendar.
Whatever the situation make sure everybody has their role and knows what their responsibility is. You can include these roles right on the calendar along with contact information so that if there are questions everybody knows who to contact.
For example, if the writer has a question about a title and notes they can contact the person responsible for creating the title and notes.
5. Consistent Frequency
I like to keep things consistent when it comes to publishing. Publishing on the same day or days each week. The same time if possible. Otherwise it can get a little scattershot and people seem to appreciate consistency.
What I tell people is to create pieces consistently and if inspiration does strike they can either add the idea to the list for later or they can write it and publish it as a supplemental piece to the scheduled material.
Also include an area for feedback. Especially overarching feedback that can be used for future content.
I like to include this near the requirements checklist area. Usually early in the process you’ll get some feedback from readers or business owner or something like that. You’ll want to document this so you remember it when you create new content so the person doesn’t have to keep repeating the same feedback with each new piece.
7. Keep It Simple
Fancy software isn’t really necessary.
Don’t add too much information to the calendar if possible.
I definitely like to keep it simple. There are so many project management software options available. Over the years I’ve tried just about all of them and I can tell you that at least for content creation I always come back to using Google Drive.
A content calendar really can be a key cog in your content marketing efforts. If you don’t have a calendar then odds are good that you’ll eventually fade in your content responsibilities and goals. The calendar keeps you and your team on task. It turns the entire process into a habit and helps you create content over the long-term, which is required for content marketing success.