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Content Marketing Help: What is an Editorial Calendar and How Do I Use It?

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As the business world heads deeper and deeper into content marketing, various tips and tricks have arisen to make the process easier. Keeping up with timelines, content, research, and branding can get a little challenging — and that’s if you’ve just got one business to worry about. If you’re in marketing or public relations at an agency, or if you have multiple product lines, you’ve got to rinse and repeat several times.

One tool for organizing the sometimes messy world of content marketing is an editorial calendar. This tool, which can be shared among employees or between you and a client, is the “master list” for upcoming content. Use it to schedule topics, deadlines, promotion channels, and responsibilities. Even though I’ve used it before, a handwritten “Blog Topics” list isn’t the most efficient way for keeping up with content. Make things easier by scheduling deadlines into the next few months and communicating those deadlines with your employees.

Follow these practices for optimum use of your editorial calendar:

Share it with anyone (and everyone) who needs to know the information:

Communication is important for any business, so keep the channels open by sharing the calendar with anyone who will write, research, edit or produce content. Deadlines are important in the marketing world, and the last thing you want is a missed opportunity because someone didn’t have access to the information he or she needed.

If yours is a client-oriented business, you should also share the calendar with your clients so that you’re both on the same page. I would recommend that you only let them “see” the calendar and remove the ability to “edit” the calendar. That way, you still have control, and they aren’t able to randomly move deadlines without notifying you (unfortunately it happens, trust me).

Schedule eight weeks out into the future:

It doesn’t have to be exact, but as the date looms, your goal should get increasingly defined. Eight weeks out, you can simply write “White Paper.” Six weeks, that could turn into “White Paper on Social Media Advertising,” and four weeks out it could become “White Paper on Things to Avoid When Promoting Tweets.” You get the idea.

The benefit of scheduling things so far into the future is that it will allow you to develop themes. For example, you can decide that for the month of June, you will focus on Twitter, allowing webinars, white papers, blogs, etc. to be unified. This will allow for content set up in multiple installments — a useful technique for keeping your audience coming back for more. If you get really into it, you can even start a hashtag. “Keep checking our Twitter feed in June for your #TwitterTips!”

On a side note, be sure that you stick to the deadlines. They’re not “guidelines;” a due date is a due date, especially in the eyes of a client.

Include deadlines for step-by-step tasks:

No one just sits down and writes a white paper in an hour. Research, planning, writing, editing and design are all part of the process. Unless you’re blessed with diverse talents, you’ll likely be working with other people to complete the process. Make sure to schedule out the steps you’ll need to get the content out on time, along with the name of the person who will complete this task. (i.e. – Week 1:  Research from intern Mary due; Week 2:  First Draft written by Susan due, send to John to edit; Week 3:  Susan will finalize edits and send to design team, etc.)

See why it’s important to share the calendar with everyone?

Don’t forget that marketing your content is also a key step in the process. If you’re hosting a webinar, you’ll need to advertise in advance. If it’s a white paper, you’ll likely have a large social media push after publication. Schedule these things too.

Stick to it:

It may be annoying to adapt to a new process at first, and you may run into disagreement from other calendar users. Be sure to get your management team on board and communicate the benefits the calendar is providing: no more missed deadlines, smoother communication, better planning, more efficiency, etc.

I once worked at a company that adopted the editorial calendar process while I was an employee. My boss posted a huge copy of the calendar on the wall with a notepad next to it for feedback. Once everyone realized she was trying to work with them, they received the change well.

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