By Roger C. Parker published August 7, 2012

A 2-Step Editorial Calendar Template that Can Boost Your Content Marketing Productivity

Looking to increase your content marketing productivity? To get yourself started, try using this two-step approach to creating an editorial calendar:

  • Step 1. Use the Monthly Editorial Calendar work sheet (below) to choose 12 monthly topics, or themes, for the upcoming year. This creates a basic structure for your content marketing success.
  • Step 2. Once a quarter, use the Weekly Editorial Calendar work sheet (below) to flesh out each of the monthly topics, identifying and scheduling specific projects for the next 3 months.

Benefits

This two-step approach simplifies decision-making, helping you identify relevant, practical topics and schedule tasks far enough in advance to allow timely production and editing. Benefits include:

  • Perspective: The Monthly Editorial Calendar template creates a birds-eye, big picture view of your editorial calendar, helping you focus attention on your prospects’ key goals and objectives.
  • Easier decision-making: Focusing on 12 monthly themes at the beginning of your content development process helps reduce the number of decisions needed and increase the likelihood of getting a consensus on your ideas — which is particularly essential when multiple shareholders are involved. The monthly themes also make it easier to identify appropriate topics in advance of content creation.
  • Consistency: Multiple projects that address different aspects of each month’s theme reinforces your firm’s key messages on a regular, ongoing basis.
  • Scalability: The two-step approach to creating an editorial calendar is efficient enough for small firms and self-employed professionals, yet can be upgraded to create robust applications for larger corporations.
  • Efficiency: Identifying overarching themes that can be reinforced on a weekly basis also simplifies your efforts to reformat, repurpose, or recycle your key messages across multiple media channels.

(Click on image above to download both blank and filled-in versions of this editorial calendar template.)

Step 1: Choosing monthly topics

Start by choosing a topic, or theme, for each month, using the Monthly Editorial Calendar work sheet (click to download full-sized PDF version).

Success in this part of the process will depend on satisfying three key criteria:

  1. Relevance: Choose topics related to your prospect’s primary goals and the challenges they’re interested in addressing.
  2. Depth: Select topics that are broad enough to be approached from several different perspectives, which will permit a variety of approaches (i.e., articles, tutorials, examples, case studies, pros and cons, profiles, best practices, warnings, etc.). (See the sample Monthly Editorial work sheet.)
  3. Significance: Focus on topics that also reflect your firm’s strongest areas of competence and competitive superiority.

Note that the Monthly Editorial Calendar template sample starts in July, but you can begin using the work sheet at any time during the year.

When selecting monthly topics, look for ones you could return to during the same month each year (e.g., holiday-related themes for December; or themes that coincide with major conferences in your industry). Repetition builds familiarity and comfort. It also makes it easier for you to schedule future promotions around your planned content marketing efforts.

The right-hand column of the work sheet provides space for you to track the results of each monthly topic, helping you quickly identify topics that you might wish to repeat in the future.

(Click on image above to download both blank and filled-in versions of this editorial calendar template.)

Step 2: Choosing weekly topics

Next, use the Weekly Editorial Calendar (click to download full-sized version) work sheet once a quarter to plan your weekly content marketing topics for the next 3 months.

Identify topics that provide implementation ideas, and provide details to support each monthly topic. In each case, list the street date (the day your market will encounter your message) and the necessary deadlines for completing each project in time for launch. In addition, include the content marketing channel, or media, (blogs, guest posts, article directories, etc.) where you will share your message.

Try to fill out the Weekly Editorial Calendar at least 2 weeks prior to the end of the previous quarter, which will give you time to get started on the initial projects.

Remember: The weekly planner is not a strait jacket; it does not limit your ability to respond to time-sensitive issues. It simply specifies the minimum amount of content you’ll need to produce for each week.

Tips & best practices

Here are some implementation ideas for working with these two work sheets:

  • Working with the PDF versions: You can print out PDF versions and fill them out by hand, which is useful if you’re traveling or have a few spare minutes to work during or in between meetings. To schedule additional projects, divide the rows in half (if you’re willing to write smaller in order to fit more in).
  • Format options: If you’re working with the Word version of the Weekly Editorial Calendar, you can insert rows to accommodate additional projects each month. By switching to a landscape (wide) format, you could insert more columns, permitting you to delegate responsibility for each project to specific team members.
  • Filtering and exporting options: You can also recreate the work sheets using spreadsheet or mind mapping software, allowing you to filter your calendar — hiding completed projects, for example, or displaying only the upcoming projects that are due in the next few weeks. You can then export these upcoming events to Microsoft Outlook, online calendars like Google’s, or project management software programs that you use.
  • Links and clouds: Creating specific software-based versions of these work sheets can also simplify file management and enhance collaboration. For example, you and your team could link to the latest drafts saved on your firm’s network servers or online (i.e., cloud file-sharing services like Dropbox).

Above all, make sure you frequently review your weekly and monthly editorial calendars so that you are prepared if updates or changes are needed. Consider printing and hanging them on the wall near your computer monitor.

Would this two-step planning structure work for you? Do you have any comments or suggestions for improving the Monthly Editorial Calendar or the Weekly Editorial Calendar? Share your favorite editorial calendar productivity shortcut or tips.

Want more content marketing inspiration? Download our ultimate eBook with 100 content marketing examples.

Author: Roger C. Parker

A lifelong content marketer, copywriter, and author, Roger enjoys helping clients write books and simplify their content marketing. Follow @RogercParker on LinkedIn at ContentMarketingHelp. Download a free copy of his 4-page 8 Commitments of Content Marketing Success.

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