You’ve heard me talk a lot about producing intriguing content that is consistent and timely for your audience. But between your blog, website, e-newsletter and printed publications, how do you keep it all straight? An editorial calendar is a great way to get started.
What is an editorial calendar
An editorial calendar is a tool used to organize content, article placement, due dates, staff responsibilities and word count. Your own content calendars can be as simple or robust as you need them to be. And, depending on the type of publication and content you’re producing, each content calendar may track slightly difference sources of information.
Your publication type will also determine how far out you should plan within your editorial calendar. For instance, if you have a quarterly magazine or monthly newsletter, you may want to develop an editorial calendar that spans 12 months. If you’re tackling multiple blog posts a week and want to set them up in an editorial calendar, a one-month time frame may work best in order to keep content fresh and relevant.
Keep content organized: master vs. single publication editorial calendars
Master editorial calendar
Setting up a master editorial calendar allows you to track the different outlets used to publish your content. Your master calendar also shows you where you may be able to re-purpose that content. You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel, so to speak, when it comes to content creation. When putting together a master content calendar, consider the following:
- What are all the tools you use to communicate your messages?
- How often are these tools used or messages published using these tools?
- Who is responsible for these tools and messages?
- What are the key words you want to focus your messaging around?
- Who do you communicate to?
- Are there important holidays, events or other dates to consider when developing content?
- How far out will you plan your content?
Now that you have a sense of the information you’ll need, you can start putting your calendar together. This will require a spreadsheet, word processing table, flip chart, desk calendar–anything you feel comfortable using to track and manage all of this information. Keep in mind that you’ll go back and forth between your master editorial calendar and other project calendars. You’ll want to have the flexibility to update the document frequently. I develop all of my master editorial calendars using Excel spreadsheets. Works fabulous.
Here’s an example of a master editorial calendar setup:
Keep in mind that your master editorial calendar’s job is to give you a snapshot of your work, timelines and topics. Each tool you use to communicate your message can be drilled down in further detail to include specific content information. If you’re not comfortable mapping out daily content, you might start with monthly content columns or even weekly columns to track content.
Single publication editorial calendar
Once you have your master editorial calendar set up, it’s time to drill down and flush out your individual publication calendars. Again, each tool you use to communicate your message is different and will vary between information needed and tracked on individual editorial calendars. An editorial calendar for a blog, for instance, may have posting dates, authors, key words, topics, suggested tags and an abstract or description for the post’s general flow. An e-newsletter’s editorial calendar may also include many of these same pieces of information as well as specific outlines for sections within the e-newsletter.
The example below demonstrates what an editorial calendar might look like for an organization’s quarterly magazine or newsletter:
You could also break out this same type of editorial content with exact names of columns and features if your publications have recurring themes, articles or columns.
Use your editorial calendars to compare how often you’re reaching your key audiences and what messages are being shared. Editorial calendars are also great when it comes to marketing campaigns, new product promotions or events. With your editorial calendar in place, you’ll already have a sense of your timeline and where it might be appropriate to talk about these things in various spaces.