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An editorial calendar is a roadmap for content creation; it tells you what, where and when to publish, and which personas you should be targeting. Keeping the calendar up-to-date, however, can be a struggle.
Whether it’s the team’s workload, confusion on responsibilities or inconsistent publishing, bumps in the road can cause a perfectly good plan to fall apart. Your content marketing is too important to let the content it needs get left behind.
Your strategy for keeping on top of a calendar needs to be in place every step of the way, from generating ideas to hitting publish.
1. Don’t cripple your calendar when you brainstorm
Generating topics is a constant battle between having enough ideas, making sure you don’t repeat topics and keeping every potential post relevant to your prospective buyers. To achieve the trifecta, you can:
Carry out an audit of past content to establish which topics and keywords have been the most popular. Then, using your buyer personas, you can create a three-, six- or 12-month editorial schedule encompassing all relevant content: blog posts, informational videos, white papers, tweets, Facebook posts, etc.
Focus on personas and keywords. Your buyer personas will have keywords associated with them. Those keywords will help you brainstorm plenty of topics while staying relevant to your ideal buyer.
Don’t get caught in the details. Generate titles instead of whole outlines. If you start outlining each topic, you’re taking time away from generating ideas. Try HubSpot’s topic generator. Not always perfect, but a handy tool for getting into the rhythm of catchy blog titles. Enter three words and see what it comes up with.
Encourage continuous brainstorming. Don’t limit ideas to one meeting. You and your staff should log ideas as they come, for example when a customer presents a particular problem or when you find a relevant article.
Branch out. Plan to use content from outside sources to help fill your editorial calendar. Schedule guest bloggers, videos or post links to relevant articles.
Generate the right number of topics. When you get to the planning stage, you don’t want to come up short on topics. Know ahead of time what your publishing schedule looks like and how many topics it takes to fill it.
2. Schedule your content in advance
It’s important that all those great ideas you generate don’t come out looking like creative vomit on your blog and social media channels. You want consistency in both publishing and content themes.
Some recommend planning an entire year at a time, but you may work best on a quarterly basis or thrive when creating monthly themes. There’s nothing wrong with rotating the focus between personas on a weekly or fortnightly basis, either. Whichever method you choose, you need to look at the big picture and plan your content long term. This allows you to capitalise on certain topics for seasons, events or holidays.
3. Include the right information in your calendar
As we’ve said, you don’t need to outline every topic, but a well-planned editorial calendar will always contain certain information, like:
Title. What is the title you generated in brainstorming?
Buyer persona. Which buyer persona is this based on?
Relevant links or keywords. What inspired the topic or should be included?
Deadlines. When do the drafts need to be written and edited by?
Publishing Date. When is the content being published?
Writer. Who is responsible for researching and writing the topic?
Editor. Who is editing the draft, fact checking, etc.?
Platforms. Where is this content going to be published and promoted?
Schedule the final version of each piece of content to be written and edited before the date you expect to publish. This gives you breathing room in case of unexpected projects or sickness and vacations on your team.
5. Make the calendar accessible to everyone
The critical point of a successful editorial calendar is that it must be accessible to the whole team. Use a web-based manager like Basecamp, Asana or even Google Spreadsheets so that the whole team can look ahead to see what’s coming.
6. Stay flexible on your content
It’s a writer’s job to generate relevant, remarkable content before the deadline – even if it wasn’t in the original plan. It’s your task to help them do that. Keep an open dialogue to make sure the content you publish is all it can be. Tweak topics, change the course of research or add in new content as it comes up.
7. Learn to anticipate busy times
Sometimes, your staff is truly busy and lacks the capacity to write remarkably. Use your calendar to anticipate those times and sprint ahead on content writing, or know when it’s time to outsource. The effect of content marketing is well worth the resources it takes to keep up with it.
8. Make time to update the calendar regularly
Don’t let your calendar dissolve into chaos when a few things change. Adapt your calendar as new topics are introduced or unexpected posts are published. If you’ve put your calendar in a web-based manager, this will be easy.
The success of an editorial calendar – and by extension, your content marketing – comes down to strategy. You must be able to generate plenty of strong topics, create a plan to consistently generate content based on those topics and ensure commitment to that plan from the whole team.