It's not the sexiest part of your digital strategy, but creating a content calendar is essential for marketing success. It sets you up for consistency internally, promotes flexibility and innovation when it comes to content, and helps your audience know what to expect from your brand and when.
You've already done the work of creating and adapting original content for distribution, and understanding which channels your content is appropriate for. The final step before your content reaches your audience is putting in place a plan for regular but varied ways to disperse it. It might take some time and resources, but it's a worthwhile venture.
If you're still not convinced, here are five reasons you should invest some time in finding a calendar template that works for your team.
1. Strategic Goals Require Strategic Tools
Content marketing itself is a strategic venture. Decisions about content and its creation happen in terms of big-picture goals and small-scale pivots, which can get confusing. Having an editorial calendar is a place where you can see a panoramic view of your entire content marketing strategy.
2. Focus Allows Your to Reach Your Goals
In the sometimes scattershot world of social media and digital marketing, it's easy to lose focus, especially if you don't have a large, dedicated team. For many nonprofits, focus is the main challenge when it comes to digital marketing, but focus is often half the battle when it comes to reaching goals. There is something powerful that happens when you write down your plan: it becomes tangible for everyone, and something to ground yourself with when the strategy gets
3. It'll Make You More Consistent
As with your content strategy in general, consistency is the number one rule. Content marketing is all about consistency: providing useful content in a consistent manner helps you slowly but surely work your way into the loyal hearts of your customers. If you find your team is losing steam after the first push, a calendar is a great place to double-check you're following through on promises.
4. Your Team Will Thank You
There is a good chance that your team could benefit from better communication. Many teams use such a wide variety of tools that they often have a hard time staying on the same page. A good editorial calendar will bring them to a single place to visualize and execute their shared goals, and provide accountability.
5. Your Audience Will Love it
One of the easiest ways to please your audience is to give them something that they'll love on a regular basis. With a calendar, you'll create better content that is more focused on what they need, and is always there at the same time in the same place. While it often seems like digital is all about speedy climbs to the top of viral charts, slow and steady is a strategy I've seen pay off time and time again. A content calendar helps you be strategic and steady in making sure quality content reaches the right audiences.
How to Get Started With a Calendar
Of course, how you design, share, and access your editorial calendar will ultimately depend on your particular marketing goals and available resources. But at the most fundamental level, I recommend that your editorial calendar include the following fields:
- The date the piece of content will be published
- The topic or headline of the content piece
- The author of the content
- The owner of the content - i.e., who is in charge of making sure the content makes it from ideation to publication and promotion
- The current status of the content (updated as it moves through your publishing cycle)
Depending on your organization's specific goals, your content team's workflow, the formats, and platforms with which you plan to work, and the volume of content you will be creating, you may also want to track these elements to help you stay organized and on track over the long term:
- Channels: This can include only your owned channels (such as your blog, Facebook Page, website, YouTube page, email newsletters, etc.) or you can expand your tracking to include paid and earned channels, as well.
- Content formats: Is it a blog post? A video? A podcast? An infographic? An original image? To get more mileage from the content you create, you might want to consider repurposing it into other formats at some point, so it's handy to keep tabs on the types of assets you have right from the start.
- Visuals: Speaking of assets, it's important that you don't overlook the appeal that visuals can lend to your content, both in terms of social sharing potential and overall brand recognition. Tracking the visual elements you include in your content efforts - such as cover images, logos, illustrations, charts - will make it easier to ensure that your work has a signature look and cohesive brand identity.
- Topic categories: This helps make your calendars more searchable when you are looking to see about which target topics you already created a lot of content - or which you haven't covered often enough.
- Keywords and other meta-data, such as meta-descriptions and SEO titles (if they differ from your headlines), which will help you keep your SEO efforts aligned with your content creation.
- URLs: This info can be archived as an easy way to keep your online content audits updated, or to link to older pieces of content in the new content you create.
- Calls to action: This helps you ensure that every piece of content you create is aligning with your organization's marketing goals.
- Bonus tip: it may be helpful to have more than one editorial calendar - for example, a master calendar where you can see everything at a glance, and separate calendars for specific activities.
Below are a few templates I found useful in researching content calendars, but really, anyone with simple Excel skills and an understanding of the brand's bigger content picture can create a customized one.
Your calendar could be organized around timing during the day, as well as days of the week:
Or it could be organized around channel and platform:
Or it could be organized around theme and message:
A digital content calendar gives you and your team a framework for being deliberate and intentional about how you are reaching and building trust with your audience. In part, it is a strategic marketing tool. In another way, it is a place to keep your team organized and on top of things. Both of these things are going to be very important if your digital strategy is to propel your brand forward.