By Rachel Foster published October 19, 2011

5 Editorial Calendar Keys to Keep Content Marketing and Publishing on Track

If you had the opportunity to attend Content Marketing World, or if you’ve been following this blog and checking out all of the amazing videos from the event, you may have lots of ideas on how to improve your content marketing.

However, many organizations fail to see ROI from their content marketing because they don’t create a plan for getting everything done.

This blog post will show you how to get your content marketing efforts moving forward with the help of an editorial calendar. An editorial calendar provides you with a quick overview of your content marketing strategy and outlines exactly what tasks need to be completed.

Here are five things you must do when you create an editorial calendar for content marketing:

1. Know your audience

One thing I mention in almost all of my blog posts is the importance of making your content relevant to your buyers’ needs. If your audience doesn’t think your content is geared specifically toward them, they won’t be interested in it.

Before you develop an editorial calendar, you’ll need to understand who your target audience is, what their biggest concerns are and what types of content they want. You can do this by creating buyer personas, surveying your target audience to understand their needs, or asking your customer service team about the conversations they have with buyers. Once you understand your target audience, you can come up with content that helps to meet their needs and solve their challenges.

2. Identify the gaps in your content

When you make an editorial calendar, you should anticipate any content gaps you’ll have in the upcoming year. For example, if you are planning a major product launch or event, you’ll need content to support these items. It’s better to plan for these gaps early on so that you don’t panic when deadlines are approaching and you don’t have the right content on hand.

3. Plan for special themes

Many magazines highlight different themes each month. You can apply a similar approach to your content marketing. For example, you can pick the top 12 biggest concerns your target audience has and address a different concern each month. You can also make predictions for the upcoming year or tie some of your content into holidays or seasonal concerns.

Themes not only make it easier for your in-house team to develop content, but they are also useful for advertisers and guest contributors. Anyone who advertises on your blog or in your other materials will need to know your editorial themes in advance so they can see if their ads will be a match for your audience at a given time. Guest contributors can also connect the topics of their blog posts and articles to your themes.

4. Decide on your publishing schedule

As you plan an editorial calendar, you’ll need to answer the following questions:

  • What are you going to publish and how content do you plan to publish for each effort?
  • How often are you going to publish?
  • Who will be responsible for researching, writing, designing, approving, publishing, and sharing the content?

 5.     Keep multiple editorial calendars

Last year, Michele Linn wrote a great post in which she suggested creating multiple editorial calendars. The first one should be a master calendar that provides a quick overview of all the content you have planned, broken down by day and week. The other calendars should focus on tasks for specific projects such as your blog or newsletter. Multiple calendars allow you to see the big picture as well as ensure each project is on track.

Your editorial calendar doesn’t need to be complicated. You can keep it in an Excel file and use different tabs for each project. You can also try Google Calendar or another team collaboration tool to automatically send out reminders when deadlines are approaching.

What about you? Do you use an editorial calendar to keep track of your content marketing? If not, are you thinking about using one? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

Author: Rachel Foster

Rachel Foster is a B2B copywriter and CEO of Fresh Perspective Copywriting. She helps her clients improve their response rates, clearly communicate complex messages and generate high-quality leads. Rachel has taught white paper, sell sheet and case study writing for MarketingProfs. She is also one of the Online Marketing Institute’s Top 40+ Digital Strategists in Marketing for 2014. You can connect with Rachel on LinkedIn, follow her on Twitter or check out her B2B marketing blog

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  • Amanda Maksymiw (@amandamaks)

    I think you have hit all the right nails on their heads in this post.  Another quick tip to add is what to do after the editorial calendars have been created.  I have heard about teams meeting once a week or once a month to review progress on the overall calendar to ensure that key milestones are met and the projects stay on track.

    Thanks for sharing,

    • Rachel

      Hi Amanda,

      Thanks for the comment. That is a great next step. An editorial calendar will only work if you follow through with it.


  • Doug Kessler

    All excellent tips.  Implementing them now in a massive content marketing plan.

    • Rachel

      Hi Doug,

      Thanks for the comment. Best of success on your content marketing plan!


  • Darin Diehl

    Hi Rachel,
    Agree with these tips and generally we are doing all of this. But there are other complications we are wrestling with. Our content marketing initiative, launched in September, We are publishing new content every week and have social extensions on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. We have blogger outreach and internal leveraging as well. We are looking at the entire life of a piece of content – from concept to assignment to editing to internal approvals to translation (French and English in Canada) to posting to multiple activation levers as mentioned above. The editorial calendar also becomes a workflow management tool with many different eyeballs needing access at multiple points. At Content Marketing World I started speaking to some of the vendors as we are exploring editorial workflow tools that might help. I am certainly interested in more content about content workflow!

    • Brody Dorland

      Hey Darin! I can’t remember if we talked at CM World, but I’d love for you to give a try and see if it handles the complexities of your process. If not, it needs to, so we’d love your feedback regardless. 

      We’ve been struggling with the same issues you’ve mentioned for years and finally put our foot (er…feet) down and built a tool that helps to simplify complex processes and get everyone collaborating through a web-based application. To our surprise, agencies and publishers are finding that DivvyHQ can even replace general project management systems like Basecamp. That wasn’t necessarily our initial intent, but hey…

    • Rachel

      I found some more posts about content workflow on the CMI blog. You can check them out here – 

  • Fran Aslam

    Hi Rachel:
    Enjoyed reading your post.  Yes creating an schedule for publishing according to the market is a great idea.  But time becomes an issue.  However taking each step carefully and following it at its best is the key to more profits, is still a fact.

  • John Mihalik

    Hey Rachel,

    I’ll admit that my content calendar needs some help. I’m going to revamp it and keep myself on track.

    Thanks for the advice.


    • Rachel

      Hi John,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Good luck with your new calendar.


  • Margaret Johnson

    I find that an editorial calendar has gaps that are caused by the way most people seem to use an editorial calendar, which is a way to organize on-line content.  I believe an editorial calendar will not only manage content, it will also manage time (ours) and saturation (audience’s).  Further, I believe that an editorial calendar will encompass every touchpoint you are creating.  Let me explain, using the example of the major product launch above.  The product launch may require a sell-sheet, perhaps a few white papers.  Landing pages need to be developed.  Email campaigns must be designed.  Are there events surrounding the launch?  Factor in the email invitations, auto-responders, and reminder emails.  Does the product launch interfere with your regularly scheduled interactions, such as email newsletters, or regularly scheduled customer events?  Creating content for all of these interactions is time consuming and requires a level of choreography (as I call it) that a regular calendar typically can’t handle out of the gate.  Wow.  Flowcharting – even with sticky notes on the wall – can be our best friend when it comes to truly mapping our our content interactions with our customers and prospective customers.  Once the flow is charted, then the calendar gets populated, color-coded, and socialized.  Now that I’ve said all that, I feel the need to say that it isn’t always complicated, and I’ve addressed one situation that could be complex out of many situations that might be much more straightforward.  If you have a simple strategy that is just starting to develop, a simple editorial calendar will work.  A more complex strategy will require a more complex editorial calendar that should consider every aspect of the strategy. 

    • Rachel

      Hi Margaret,

      All great points. I like your point about using an editorial calendar to manage the amount of content you’re sending out – not just your time. It’s important to make sure you’re not oversaturating your audience. Using a calendar or flow chart (combined with your analytics) will help you know if you’re sending out the right amount of content. 


  • Tom Mangan

    One for the newbies to content marketing: before you start your calendar, you have to remember that any marketing message your customer sees is content — tweets, Facebook updates, YouTube videos, blog posts and everything else — and all of it needs to be coordinated. The editorial calendar is where the coordination comes together. (The rest of the comments here are far more savvy, but I thought it couldn’t hurt to have a quickie intro for newcomers).

    • Rachel

      Hi Tom,

      Good point – everything you say or do is your content. I also believe that all content is now social content – even if you’re not involved with social media. Your audience can share and talk about your content on social sites, so all content can now be social.


  • Anonymous

    Great post, Rachel. Know your audience (deeply), and understand their buying process, as that helps you find the Gaps in Your Content. I also liked your idea of having multiple content calendars – one overall calendar and calendars for each special project.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Jeff Ogden, President
    Find New Customers

  • Anna Ritchie

    Love this blog- I’m a big fan of “plan the work, work the plan” and also agree that it can be in something as simple as Excel, with multiple tabs. One thing that I struggle with is spending TOO much time in the prep, and then not being very flexible with the plan. I think that the content plan should be lenient and flexible to adapt to changing business needs, so therefore you shouldn’t get “analysis paralysis” about the plan being perfect from the get-go. I think “good enough” with built-in flexibility will enable you to adapt the plan if unforeseen changes come up.

  • KarenCioffi

    Hi, new to the site. This is a great content marketing strategy – I never thought of a editorial calendar for posting. Connecting posts to your new products is something I should have been doing, but haven’t. Thanks for the reminder!