By Michele Linn published August 16, 2010

How to Put Together an Editorial Calendar for Content Marketing

editorial-calendar-templateEditor’s note: We’ve published a newer post on this popular topic, which includes bonus tips and information. Read it now!

As a content marketer, you have no doubt heard that marketers need to “think like publishers,” but how exactly does that translate into action?  (If you are asking yourself this question, read Jeremy Victor’s fantastic post on this very topic.)

Next to developing buyer personas, I think the most useful exercise to help you think like a publisher is creating an editorial calendar. A lot has been written about the need for an editorial calendar, and you can certainly find online magazines that publish their editorial calendar, but I haven’t found many calendars that are geared towards the marketer. 

Regardless of where you are in your content marketing efforts, it’s important to have an editorial calendar to keep your content consistent and relevant. It also helps keep your marketing team on the same page and is a great reference for your management.

While a basic editorial calendar that simply tracks the date and content topics you are planning (like the example we offer here) is a fantastic start, the editorial calendar I like to use tracks additional details to help you see connections in your content, generate ideas on what content to create (or what you can repurpose), and ensure you are including key information, such as SEO.

UPDATE: Some readers asked for the template. You can see a sample below or download the blank Excel spreadsheet of the CMI editorial calendar template

A few notes on editorial calendars:

  • Your editorial calendar is going to differ depending on the type of content you produce and what is important for you to track.
  • The program you use to track this information will likely depend on your organization and its requirements. For instance, while some people like to use Google spreadsheets, some companies don’t allow access to this program. Other companies require that you use a proprietary program. Personally, I use Excel.

As Joe mentions in his post on managing the content marketing process, it’s helpful to have two editorial calendars: a master calendar where you can see everything at a glance and separate calendars for specific activities. I use one spreadsheet with multiple tabs to keep everything together.

Have a master editorial calendar to view all content at a glance

The master editorial calendar provides an overview of all content that is planned by day and by week:

  • Track key dates such as events, holidays or other things that may impact which content you want to share when. If you have an international audience, include holidays in the various countries you serve as well.
  • Include a brief overview of all of the content that is planned by content type.

Here’s a snapshot of the template for a master editorial calendar:

editorial-calendar-template.2015

(click to enlarge)

Looking at all of your key dates and planned topics can give you ideas for topics and help you think about how you can repurpose content in multiple sources.

For instance, if you have a new white paper or case study planned, you can plan one or a series of blog posts around that. Or, if you have an event, you can plan to develop an eBook based on the top 30 takeaways from the event. Seeing the calendar at a glance helps these connections jump out more easily — and helps you remember which dates to avoid.

Need help setting up your editorial calendar or other key processes for content creation management? Download our step-by-step workbook, Launch Your Own Content Marketing Program.

Have separate editorial calendars to track specifics of all other content types

Have separate spreadsheets or tabs for each specific type of content you are creating. For instance, you may have one tab for your blog, another for your newsletter and another for the additional types of content you create, such as eBooks, white papers and case studies. How you break this up will depend on how you manage each of these content types.

Each of the separate tabs includes more specifics about all of the content activities you have planned and will vary based on what you offer.

For instance, if you have a blog, you may want a specific tab that tracks all of the info for each post, such as:

  • Post date
  • Author
  • Tentative title
  • Keywords
  • Categories
  • Tags
  • Call to action
  • Status

Tracking more than topic and date helps you make sure to include the key elements you need for SEO, digital optimization, and conversion.

Use your editorial calendar to track content ideas

While outside the technical scope of an editorial calendar, I also like to track a few other types of content in separate tabs:

  • Existing content I can use as a call to action
  • Ideas for content I can repurpose
  • Ideas for new content (I have an additional tab that I use to track blog post ideas)
  • Content I can curate

Use an editorial calendar to help with complex buying cycles

On a final note, if you are a B2B marketer who is helping customers progress through a complex buying cycle, Ardath Albee has a must-read post on editorial calendars, where she suggests that you track additional details such as the following:

  • Cliffhanger: In what way have you created anticipation for future engagement? (e.g., coming next month we’ll share… Or, sign up for our series on X)
  • Buying stage: Status Quo, Priority, Research, Options, Step Back, Validation, Choice
  • Distribution: website, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, blog, nurture email send, syndication, etc. This will also include notes about linkages to other content on the calendar (e.g., this blog post links to the registration page for that webinar)
  • Accompaniments: Includes messaging for related emails in the case of nurture sends, associated Tweets, landing page content for white papers, webinar invitation text and registration page content, etc.

I’d love to hear how you organize your editorial calendar. What tools do you use? What data do you track? Please share your experiences—or questions—in the comments below.

For a comprehensive guide on working with editorial calendars, check out A Content Marketer’s Checklist: Editorial Calendar Essentials

Cover image by Viktor Hanacek via Picjumbo.com.

Author: Michele Linn

Michele Linn is the co-founder and chief strategy officer of Mantis Research, a consultancy focused on helping brands create and amplify original research they can use in their marketing. Before starting Mantis, Michele was head of editorial at Content Marketing Institute, where she led the company's strategic editorial direction, co-developed its annual research studies, wrote hundreds of articles, spoke at industry events and was instrumental in building the platform to 200,000 subscribers. In 2015, she was named one of Folio's Top Women in Media (Corporate Visionary). You can follow her on Twitter at @michelelinn.

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