Burnout is the bane of the content creator. You nurture ideas into words and images; review, rework and reenergize them; and publish them into an endless digital stream of status updates. The cycle can get mighty wearisome, particularly when it’s unclear whether your target audience is even listening. A robust editorial calendar is among the best ways to catch their attention more often than not. A simple spreadsheet will do the trick. Write down the kinds of content you plan to create, down to the day or even hour, and the seasonal themes you might embrace, from the holidays to current news events. You’ll use this spreadsheet to keep content production on track, from initial idea through to final delivarable and publication. Top-notch editorial calendars blend predictability with flexibility, offering up posts people have come to expect at certain times of the year while delighting them with the unexpected. If you’re running a blog, you’ll want to be sure to be able to respond to news within your industry and you’ll want to make sure you’ve always got a post lined up for a rainy day. So how can you quickly inject life into your editorial calendar? Try these 5 ideas for starters.
Tip #1: Embrace the Unusual
Weird is a winning form of communication in the modern era. If you don’t believe us, just check out this executive summary of the “Digital News Report 2014,” a research project from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. It found the popularity of fun or weird news is on the rise thanks to websites such as The Huffington Post and Buzzfeed. Among U.S. news consumers, for example, the fun/weird category enjoys a 1 percentage point advantage over the ever-popular category of entertainment and celebrity news. There are plenty of content applications here. If your organization rescues cats, don’t fret over looking silly for sharing the occasional heroic feline rescue story or the smash-hit, piano-playing Mr. Mittens. Lighten up and watch your audience engage.
Tip #2: Spotlight Real People
If you’ve seen the classic holiday movie “Miracle on 34th Street,” you’ll recall Kris Kringle makes a point of telling Macy’s shoppers where they can go to buy toys that his employer doesn’t stock. It’s a simple touch with a powerful message: consumers appreciate interaction and transparency in business. That sentiment is just as true today as it was back in 1947. For some good guidelines on marketing to individuals, check out this Entrepreneur.com post from brand strategist Debra Kaye. Find space in your company’s editorial calendar to create content highlighting your customers—and team members who provide a high caliber of service. Doing so puts a face to your organization and helps you avoid becoming a product-hawking monolith.
Tip #3: Word Up
If your message isn’t resonating in the marketplace, it might be time to evaluate word choice. A seasonal piece of content that seems clever to you and your colleagues might seem silly, confusing or downright useless to your audience. Some sound advice on choosing proper words can be found herefrom Messages That Matter, a practice specializing in message strategy development. Among other recommendations here: maintain a consistent message, be clear and be original. Explore what your competition is saying and resolve to be tastefully different. What makes your organization, product or service different? Identify key talking points, write them down and incorporate them into a targeted timeline in your editorial calendar. Then survey your audience to learn which ideas are resonating and which can be set free.
Tip #4: Ask for Ideas
As with social media—and networking in general—content creation requires a host of people and interactions to function well. That’s why you should test the waters with crowdsourcing as part of your editorial calendar. Don’t be afraid to ask fans for quick written reviews or photos of your products in their native environment. This allows them to become further invested in your organization, a key perk of any crowdsourcing as extolled by David Bratvold over at ConvinceAndConvert.com. Just make sure it’s clear how you’ll use your audience’s responses to share the news with others. This type of content is not only genuine but easily repurposed into social media updates, blog posts and e-newsletter testimonials, among other virtual venues. The mere act of asking for candid feedback reveals you actually care and are always listening for ways to improve.
Tip #5: Be Vulnerable
No one likes a snob. But if you aren’t careful to take your fans behind the scenes every now and then, you risk entering that category. Instead, find ways to show how your company and colleagues do business. If your business hosts a Thanksgiving meal for staff, shoot 15 seconds of video from the event, post it online and ask your fans to show you how they’re celebrating. For Memorial Day and other holidays that pay tribute to members of the military and their families, a simple thank-you message or flag imagery can serve as a tasteful expression of genuine gratitude. Make note of these pointers from MarketingLand.com about the art of intentionally being more vulnerable. Whatever you choose to enliven your editorial calendar year-round, remember its purpose should tie back to your overall business goals. Do you want to educate? Excite? Elicit laughter? What works in one season might not go over well in another. Be sensitive to the topics and ideas that grab your attention throughout the year, take your fans’ pulse and blend your findings to structure the best calendar possible. In partnership, you can drive your business forward. Nate Birt is a multimedia journalist, social media enthusiast and copy editor with experience at a variety of print and digital publications, and a Certified Journalist at the Visually Marketplace. Follow him on Twitter at @natebirt.