As you can imagine, keeping track of all the details of content production in your head doesn't make a lot of sense. There’s no doubt that an editorial calendar is a must to keep your content organized and running smoothly, whether you're just a one person show, or a you're a Fortune 100 company.
The thing is, if you want to produce consistent content - a key piece in establishing your brand voice - you’ve got to have an editorial calendar. A calendar will help you to manage all of pieces of the content creation process, and will quickly become a strategic tool for creating audience-relevant content. Another benefit of having an editorial calendar is the ability to share your content more efficiently across multiple platforms - not only only on your blog or website, but also on various social media platforms.
Have you noticed just how many tools there are out there for editorial calendars? Do a quick search of “editorial calendar” on Twitter and you’ll be inundated with more templates and tips than you can possibly take in. But I have found that the key to implementing an editorial calendar with your team is to use a tool or platform that you’re already very familiar with, AND that every member of the team is using everyday. The last thing you want to do is go through the effort of creating a calendar that never gets used!
If you’re just starting out - think about your team and your needs. Do you need to be able to collaborate virtually with team mates? Do you need to manage a long approval process? What tools are you all currently using that could be leveraged for your content creation?
One caution is that you’ll absolutely want to choose a tool that allows for version control, especially when multiple team members are involved. You’ll be accessing your calendar and making changes and additions on a very regular basis, so it’s a must that everyone has access to the tool and can make changes simultaneously.
Project Management Tools
I’m mentioning Asana first because over the past year or so it’s become my favorite online project tool. Here at BrandVox, my team and I use Asana to manage all of our projects, so it was a natural fit for our editorial calendar. It works well for us because it allows us to collaborate and assign the various tasks associated with a piece of content to different people. You can also upload documents for editing and review. In addition, we use it for brainstorming to capture new ideas alongside our posts that are already in development. Here’s a peek at our calendar below. What you’re seeing is a high-level view of all of our editorial calendar post and ideas:
Each week, Becky and I get together and go through our list of ideas. We move content around to different categories as it makes sense. And here’s the drilled-down look at the tasks associated with a blog post we recently published:
Basically, our content process goes like this:
When we’re ready to develop an idea, I give Becky a detailed run-down of my thoughts. Sometimes, we’ll record the conversation and have it transcribed using Rev.com, but mostly Becky will take detailed notes and then type them up into a draft. She then assigns a task for me to edit and review what she’s put together. I make sure it accurately reflects my thoughts and I make any changes to make sure it’s in my voice. Then, Becky takes over again to publish the content up on our blog. This has been a HUGE time saver for me, especially since BrandVox’s sister company, Corgibytes, has been needing so much of my attention lately.
Another super popular online project management tool that can double as an editorial calendar is Basecamp. The calendar function on Basecamp has a traditional monthly grid view, so you can visually see all of your content laid out per month. Check out this post from Tiffany Nix on Nactafy which walks you through the steps of setting the calendar. Have a lengthy approval process? She suggests easily managing this by using two calendars - one for drafts and the other for publish dates - both right there in Basecamp. Here’s what the monthly view looks like with the two calendars pulled together:
What’s also cool is that you can set up some handy reminders for each item due that will automatically ping team members on the day of.
Have you heard of Trello? It’s a popular online project management tool that is definitely worth checking out. It let’s you organize your ideas in a virtual sticky note format. One of my Skillshare class participants, Vicky Cassidy, shared how she uses Trello for her editorial calendar by grouping ideas by topic and then assigning them to specific dates. She then keeps track of how well developed each idea is by color coding each one. Get the scoop on how she uses it here.
Oh, and here’s another good resource from Adrienne Erin over at Markerly on streamlining your content with Trello. She gives the example of how an alcohol and rehab center in Florida uses 5 lists - idea, in writing, to edit, ready to post, and promotion - to track the stages of their blog content. Here’s how it looks in Trello:
I love Google spreadsheets! When I was in charge of managing all the social media content for a Fortune 100 brand, this was my tool of choice. Each week, I would export the spreadsheet to excel and send it to my client for review. She loved this because the company had a strong firewall and it was difficult for her to access web-based tools. I also had six community managers who would go in and add content for their area of expertise. I liked Google spreadsheets because I could lock specific cells and see the complete history of changes if I needed to.
Google spreadsheets are free and easy to use, especially if you already have experience using a similar program, like excel. Plus, I’ve created a free 2015 editorial calendar template based on the one I used for my Fortune 100 client that you can use for your blog. This calendar includes holidays, seasons as well as sports and entertainment events happening throughout the year to help you plan your content. Just be sure to create a fresh copy before you start editing.
Evernote is designed as an online note-taking system. Because it’s such a powerful tool for curating ideas, if you’re already in the habit of using Evernote to clip things off the web or capturing your light bulb moments, you may want to seriously consider adding your editorial calendar. There’s a lot of power in having your ideas side by side with your content plan. Want more tips on creating an Evernote content calendar? Check out Natasha Vorompiova’s idea-packed post over at SystemsRock for a rundown on how she uses it.
One last note: Wordpress also has some powerful plug-ins with really cool features to use for calendaring. But just remember, unless you're a solo content creator or your whole team is logging into and using Wordpress everyday, it’s probably not going to cut the mustard.
Want a little more help getting an editorial calendar off the ground? I've put together an online class to help you do just that! Check it out here. And if you’re a Skillshare member, you are in luck - I offer the same class over on Skillshare.
Do you have a special tool you use for your calendar? Any tips on what’s worked and what hasn’t? I’d love to hear from you - share with me in the comments below!