Editorial calendar. You would hear a lot about it especially around New Year time – when the enthusiasm is at its peak.
I remember myself hunting for editorial calendar templates around Christmas so I can plan the coming New Year ahead – and blog like a pro!
I’m sure you should also have faced such situations.
You’d download, and print the editorial calendar templates you find online and religiously start filling in the details.
And keep up with the calendar for a week or two and then get back to your usual publishing schedule.
It could be regular, irregular or fly by the seat of your pants.
Here’s the thing – not all editorial calendars are same. And not all bloggers and their blogging schedule are the same.
Everyone is different. So is their business, and its purpose. So is their blogging style and blogging frequency.
I am not certainly against downloading editorial templates. I love them. Especially the one by Co-Schedule, where they have yearly, monthly calendars and idea sheets.
But you should first know what you want and how to make any editorial calendar work for you!
Without that knowledge it is totally useless to download or hunt down for editorial calendar templates, because you could simply end up not using them!
Here are 5 key things for your editorial calendar to work for you.
I cannot emphasise enough the importance of attaining clarity before you start doing anything with your blog.
Most bloggers miss out on this very crucial step and end up wasting time and resources; and end up quitting blogging because they don’t get any results.
This isn’t surprising!
Without clarity, anything you do could be easily wasted. Leaving you with no results.
Allow for flexibility
I’ve talked about having a strict blogging schedule in this post. While it is super important to have a strict blogging schedule, you should also allow life to happen.
Life happens all the time and at unexpected times. You could get sick, your kids could get sick, it could be a bad day – whatever.
Things never go as we planned 100%. And its totally OK.
You should allow your editorial calendar to be flexible. Remember, it is just a guide to help you avoid procrastination, and beat (the so-called) writers block – and of course, plan your content ahead!
Have a content strategy in place
Without this, you will be writing and publishing random pieces of content that are loosely connected.
And over the time, your editorial calendar will become useless and you will start publishing random content.
Having a content strategy in place helps keep everything in clarity. More importantly, it is only when you have a content strategy, your content marketing will work.
Include (only) as much details as you require
Simply having a blog post title associated with a date won’t help you much. Well it can say that you have an idea ready for writing. But that’s it.
As you know, creating content has various stages.
Idea conception, outlining the blog post, writing the actual blog post, finding appropriate images, doing on-page SEO, formatting, writing a killer headline, and much more – before you can hit that Publish button.
So a simple blog post title won’t help you, right? That will make your editorial calendar useless.
In order to make your editorial calendar useful this way, you have to include all the essential details in your calendar.
For instance, after fixing on a working title, you should have an option to mark every step as Y or N depending upon whether that step has been complete or not.
Using a spreadsheet for this purpose would be highly helpful since you can have columns for every step.
Example column headlines: Post outlined?, Post completed?, Image(s), Formatting, Headline, Published?
Each of these columns can be either filled with Y or N, or with a deadline, especially if you are going to assign certain tasks like finding images and formatting to a VA!
Don’t overdo in terms of tools
Well, we all are fans of tools, right? We want to work smart with the use of technology.
But using too many tools will actually contribute to waste of time, and chaos – which is just the opposite of what we expect from tools.
At the same time, you must embrace technology and use tools in order to get things done in a smart way.
The same applies to your editorial calendar.
While just a calendar with post titles won’t help, you should also not seek 10 other tools to keep all your ideas, strategies and deadlines – this will lead to chaos and will soon make your editorial calendar unusable.
May be you can use an idea sheet for collecting ideas. Evernote for organising references and writing the actual blog post. And the calendar to give you the dates of publishing.
That’s how I do it.
What are the editorial calendar tools available that you could use?
Yes, there are quite some tools that you can use. Here’s a short list.
It is a calendar! So it can very well be your editorial calendar. It is not an official editorial calendar tool, but since this is a calendar, you could very well use it as your editorial calendar.
And it is a Google product. All you need is a Gmail account, and I am sure you have one already.
If you already use Google Calendar, all you need is to create a new Calendar and you’re set. It is also much easier to share the calendar with your team mates, if you want that.
WordPress Editorial Calendar Plugin
If you are using WordPress, and if you want to be able to visualise your editorial calendar just within WordPress dashboard, you’ve got this plugin: Editorial Calendar.
Once installed, you can create Draft posts on specific dates. You can drag drop posts to different dates.
And of course your editors can have access to the Calendar too.
Trello is not exactly a calendar. But if you want to get your team into the picture it is a great tool!
In Trello you can create boards. It is totally up to your creativity on how you can use your tool.
You could have separate boards for your content management, idea list, social media management and so on.
And of course, you can invite your team to the boards. You can also discuss via the comments feature.
If you are willing to spend some money, DivvyHQ is something you should definitely consider.
It has quite some awesome features for you and your team. And you can manage your campaigns, ideas, calendar etc. right within a single dashboard.
There’s a free trial if you want to see this will fit.
GatherContent is also a premium solution, but quite effective. If you want you and your team to have and visualise everything in one place, this is a great option.
Again, you have a free trial so you can try out and see if you like it before purchasing!
I cannot wind up this post without mentioning CoSchedule – another premium solution.
You can manage all your content creation process and promotion process in one place – you and your team that is.
You have the option to go for a solo plan or a plan with a team. You have a 14 day free trial to try it out!
How to make your editorial calendar work?
That’s the most important part here, right? There can be various fancy tools, and you could have hundreds of content ideas.
But executing everything right and in an organised manner is the challenging part.
Using too few tools can make you clueless, and using too many tools can make you confused.
From my personal experience, I’ve found that both these extremes have actually prevented me from using my editorial calendar, no matter how beautifully planned!
I personally use Evernote for collecting/brainstorming new content ideas. And I also use Evernote to write my blog posts.
I create a Notebook for every blog post I write, and put all the relevant images, screenshots etc. in the same notebook and share it with my VA.
I use Google Calendar as my editorial calendar which is also shared with my VA – so he knows when a blog post is due and when he has all the info (the Evernote notebook), he processes the post and schedules it for that day.
So basically, I use 2 tools. And it works.
Apparently I cannot give you 2 or 4 tools to make it work for you. You have to try it out yourself and figure out what works!
It depends on how you actually do it – how you find it comfortable, how you want to bring your team members into picture and so on.
All that said, having a functioning editorial calendar is highly crucial for the success of your content marketing efforts. So you should figure it out ultimately (without forgetting those 5 keys discussed in the post).