It’s good to start thinking about your next year’s content strategy around August or so, on an annual basis – which I blogged about here. Of course, once the strategy has been finalized, we need to get on a schedule and into implementation mode.
One way to turn your strategy and editorial planning into implementation is through the effective use of an editorial calendar. Of course, there are many different tools, and even some varying theories, on how best to get going.
After working with over 50 clients on content marketing and storytelling strategies, I’ve found there to be five basic steps that organizations can take to get their editorial calendar going, updated and used as efficiently as possible.
Modern marketers rely on editorial calendars to help define, streamline and visualize content plans.
So how should you go about creating an editorial calendar? And what tools can you use to make the process simpler. So let’s dive right into the five essential steps.
View our webinar on this topic here.
1. Develop your editorial content strategy
Editorial calendars work best when we have a strategy to use them! This really goes back to Content Marketing or Content Strategy 101, but to create good and useful content focus on these pillars:
- What’s unique about you? Don’t just share the same old stories everyone else is already sharing.
- Who is your target audience? Also, consider who is an underserved audience. My favorite example is when everyone tells me they’re going after the CMO because you know the CMO makes decisions. But if everyone is going after the CMO, it’ll be impossible for many to reach that person. Go after related or tangent audiences. Figure out who the other decision makers are.
- What are your overall goals?
- How will you measure their success? At the very least I would recommend Google Analytics, but there are certainly other ways to keep track of progress. Great content creators check their metrics often because they want to.
2 . Create and update your content marketing workflow
Make sure to align skills! Who on your team actually has the skills to help plan and track content creation. Of course, we also need content creators and distributors. Planning is its own important discipline and any good-size content project needs a content project manager.
In addition to a good content project manager, I would also highly recommend an ongoing strategy meeting for the team. In that meeting review:
- Recent performance
- Upcoming content and how it aligns
- Share ideas
- Add short-term action steps
- Quickly review long-term plans
Be crystal clear and transparent about roles and timelines. Don’t allow meetings and timelines to be derailed. This is why it’s so important to have somebody own the process.
Related: Process for creatives
I talk about some of the specific roles below when I help teams align, but keep in mind to set time lines. For example:
- Content planning – Day 1
- Subject matter interviews – Day 2 and 3
- Content production from interviews – Days 4 to 7
- Content review and edits Days 8 to 12
- Publication – Day 13 onwards
Of course, this repeats in an ongoing content marketing strategy and can be adjusted. I do recommend that teams agree on timelines for accountability purposes and of course so things can get done.
3. Assign team roles and responsibilities
At the very least you need these roles:
- Editorial Director
- Owns the overall strategy
- Web Producer
- Publishes content and aligns assets
- Editorial Planner
- Somebody to manage the process (on some teams this is also the web producer)
- Content Producer
- Whether it’s writing, podcast or video production, or something else, somebody has to produce it the content
- Project Manager
- Not absolutely necessary but I highly recommend this role
I also recommend having an executive sponsor who can get you the right budget, assist with executive-level sharing of content, and help you overcome barriers.
For teams with the right skill sets, it’s certainly possible to have some of these roles be combined into one person’s responsibilities. But it all depends. It depends on what their background is and their actual skill level. For example, I might be a good content producer but I’m definitely not the best editorial planner. And I’m certainly not a project manager by any definition of the term.
That’s also a sign of a good team: When team members have open and honest discussions about their skill sets and how they can fill the different roles needed.
4. Choose the tools to manage your calendar
The landscape of tools ranges from teams using a shared Google Calendar or a Spreadsheet where dates are simply dragged down the column.
Certainly there are many tools out there to choose from – including ScribbleLive’s editorial and strategy planner. As you consider which tool to use, I would recommend a question process like this:
- Determine your pain points! How do you currently track what’s coming up?
- Get a current overview of your process!
- What’s your budget?
- What are your goals?
- Is the strategy in place?
- How do you currently map content to strategy?
I still see a lot of teams who create strategy in one place and then content in another. While that’s possible and I’ve done also that, it’s not very efficient because content creators end up creating content that doesn’t align with a strategic objective.
Also keep in mind that tools are constantly evolving, so be sure to work with a company that also constantly evolves its products.
5. Measure content marketing performance
Of course, to measure any kind of performance you have to know what you’re after. Certainly, those of us in content marketing are looking to make money, and we do want to see return on investment. But the best content marketers that I’ve seen out there build audience first and then monetize the audience as quickly as possible.
So the first thing to measure is really the size of your relevant audience. That still happens through what some people call vanity metrics. How many people are reading my content and so forth. But that is indeed where we want to start. After all marketing is a bit of a numbers game.
Then, as you’re moving along be sure to refine your measurement and the way you measure success.
Content marketing works when done well with a purpose and with constant refinement. An editorial calendar tied to a strategy can help you get there.