For time-starved marketers, sitting down to create an editorial calendar can feel like a monumental task.
There’s always a deadline looming or a publishing date approaching that needs your attention ASAP.
So, it’s no wonder that 46% of marketers don’t have a documented content strategy.
The irony is that creating an editorial calendar can actually save you time. So, we’re going to walk you through the process of quickly creating an editorial calendar. Here are the cliff notes:
- Determine your overall content goals
- Decide which platform to use to build your calendar
- Determine your content workflow
- Determine your content distribution plan
- Assign relevant tasks to relevant people
Before we dig into the details, though, let’s cover the basics:
What’s an editorial calendar and why is it important?
An editorial calendar is a long-term timeline for planning and executing your content marketing strategy. Closely related to other planning tools like publishing schedules and content calendars, an editorial calendar often serves as the primary or master calendar from which more detailed plans are derived.
As for why it’s important, Michele Linn, co-founder and chief strategy officer at Mantis Research, puts it this way: ”Regardless of where you are in your content marketing efforts, it’s important to have an editorial calendar to keep your content consistent and relevant. It also helps keep your marketing team on the same page and is a great reference for your management.”
Here are a few other perks of having a good editorial calendar:
- Reduces the amount of time spent writing and scheduling because your team isn’t constantly planning on the fly or re-inventing the wheel when creating content.
- Makes it easier to handle unexpected events because you can see the big picture and move things around accordingly.
- Improves collaboration within your marketing team, with management, with other departments in your company, and with outside stakeholders.
- Provides the vantage point needed to repurpose your existing or evergreen content and use your resources more efficiently.
- Allows you to measure results based on your marketing objectives and change course when needed instead of winging it.
What does a good editorial calendar template look like?
As you can see in the editorial calendar example above, a good template details how various elements connect to your overall content strategy. It often takes major events or campaigns occurring over the next 12 months and breaks them down into the following categories:
- Tactics and frequency
- Person or department responsible
- Important collaborators
- Key distribution channels
- Publishing deadlines
You can use a variety of tools to make your editorial calendar. Many large marketing teams use content calendar software, but you can also use spreadsheets (as shown above), traditional calendars, whiteboards with markers and sticky notes, Kanban boards, or other project management tools.
Wondering why there are so many options? It’s because different tools allow you to visualize your editorial calendar in different ways. You should also consider things like ease of use, personal preferences, size of your team, integration with other tools, and scalability before deciding on which method to use. (We’ll go into more detail on how to choose the best one for your organization in a bit.)
How to create an editorial calendar quickly
Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to get into some details. In this section, we’ll cover five steps to creating an editorial calendar as fast as possible.
Step 1: Determine your overall content goals
Since your editorial calendar is a plan for executing your overall content goals, figuring out what those goals are is the best place to start. What are you trying to achieve? What outcome defines success?
If you already know the answers to these questions, take a minute to jot them down. If not, you can use the following common content marketing goals as a starting point:
- Building brand awareness
- Educating your audience
- Building credibility and trust with customers and industry peers
- Generating demand and leads
- Nurturing subscribers and leads
- Building loyalty with existing customers
- Driving attendance to events
- Generating sales and/or revenue
- Building a subscriber list
- Supporting the launch of a new product
You may have multiple goals, and that’s okay — in fact, it’s probably the most likely scenario. But it makes it even more important to clearly identify them now so you take them into account when planning out your calendar.
After all, your goals are going to determine everything from the type of content you create to the distribution channel you choose to the language in your CTA. Sometimes different goals require a different approach; other times, there may be areas of overlap or opportunities for synergy.
For example, let’s say you’re trying to build a subscriber list while simultaneously supporting a new product launch. You could approach them both separately, using different blog articles and social media ads for each goal. Or you could develop a webinar designed to both attract subscribers and promote the new product.
Step 2: Decide which platform to use to build your own editorial calendar
Once you’ve determined your goals, the next step is to choose a platform to build the actual calendar. So, let’s take a deeper look into the tools we mentioned earlier to figure out what’s best for your team.
Whether you build them through Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets, spreadsheets are a favorite tool for many content marketers. Besides being free, they have a relatively short learning curve and can be paired with calendar apps and other planning tools.
However, spreadsheets can be a bear to maintain—especially if you have a large content marketing operation. They’re also not great for collaborating as comments can be hard to keep track of, often necessitating another form of communication that’s not tied to the calendar itself.
Digital calendar apps like Google Calendar or Apple Calendar are a straightforward way to keep tabs on content deadlines and publishing dates. They’re free, easy to use, and familiar to just about everyone.
The main problem is that there’s a lot more to editorial calendars than just the key dates, and you’ll have to find a separate way to track that information.
Back in the day, editors would use whiteboards to keep track of everything. And this method does still have its uses, including brainstorming content ideas and providing a visual representation of the editorial calendar. However, whiteboards fall short when it comes to communicating the information on them to anyone else on your team.
Project management tools
Visual Kanban boards, Gantt charts, and other project management tools are great for managing your editorial calendar once it’s created. There are a number of kanban software programs out there, like Jira and Trello, that provide templates to set up a board quickly.
The main downside of going this route is that it’s often just another siloed solution — disconnected from your other marketing tools, calendars, and communication methods.
Content calendar software
As you’re probably picking up by now, many tools tend to solve one problem while ignoring another, often leaving marketers to hobble together an inefficient solution. For this reason, many teams are switching to content calendar software to create and manage their editorial calendars.
For example, Welcome’s content calendar software is custom-built for marketing teams, bringing together all the tools you need in one easy-to-use platform. If you’re thinking you probably can’t afford it, even the free version of Welcome’s software includes the following:
- Spreadsheet planning
- Monthly editorial calendar
- Timeline and Gantt views
- Kanban boards
- Collaborative messaging
- Project management
- Flexible workflows
- Alerts and notifications
For a better idea of how content calendar software can improve your efficiency, take the case of Orolia. Like many others, Orolia’s marketing team was struggling with visibility and collaboration, mostly caused by a haphazard collection of point solutions and a mar-tech ecosystem that wasn’t strategically integrated.
As Patrick Bark, Senior Marketing Coordinator at Orolia, explains: “The team as a whole had hit a roadblock. We were using multiple tools; each solved a specific problem and had limited interaction with another. We resorted to an excel file to track campaigns in one place and soon enough, it had 8 tabs! It took us up to 4 hours of meetings every week to align everyone. We were at a critical point — but we needed a better way”
So at the end of 2020, Orolia decided to try out Welcome’s content calendar software. Here’s what happened:
- Shared calendars helped align stakeholders with campaign plans and important details.
- Customizable workflows allowed Orolia’s marketing team to define a repeatable content creation process.
- Content optimization tools enabled subject matter experts (SMEs) to collaborate in real-time and ensure compliance.
To date, team productivity at Orolia is up thanks to centralized planning and streamlined collaboration. Plus, 87% of the time previously spent in weekly meetings is now used for productive work.
Step 3: Determine your content workflow
Once you’ve chosen your platform, the next thing to think about is your workflow for content creation. Specifically, how does a piece of content move from the first to the last draft in your organization? What steps does it go through before it’s ready to publish?
Often, this depends on the size of your team and the amount of content you’re producing. For small teams with minimal output, your content may only go through one or two touchpoints before being published — from the writer to the content strategist, for example.
For larger teams that generate loads of content, your pieces may pass through many more stages between the first and last draft. In this case, your workflows are going to have a lot of dependencies, meaning certain tasks can’t be started until another one is complete.
Let’s say you’re creating a long-form blog post in conjunction with the product development team. Here’s an example of what a workflow may look like:
- Research keywords
- Interview SME from the product development team
- Develop title and outline
- Write article based on research and SME interview
- First round of edits
- First round of changes
- Final round of edits
- Final changes
- Final approval
- Add visuals and graphics
- Publish article and/or send to client for review
Fortunately, you don’t have to begin assigning tasks for every single piece of content while creating your yearly editorial calendar. That can be saved for the monthly content or editorial calendar, which is more focused on day-to-day task management.
However, you need to have a general idea of how long it takes a piece of content to move from start to finish. Otherwise, you’re likely to create a publishing schedule that’s either impossible to execute or way too lax.
Step 4: Determine your content distribution plan
The next thing to wrap your head around is the distribution channels you plan to use to get your content in front of your audience. To do this, you’ll want to back up a bit and think about where your target audience usually hangs out online.
For example, if you’re targeting B2B buyers, LinkedIn is going to be one of your best options. If you’re targeting B2C Gen Z buyers, on the other hand, platforms like TikTok and YouTube are typically a better bet.
Whichever channels or mix of channels you select, it’s important to identify them during the editorial planning process because they can dictate the type of content you produce. Using the example above, long-form blog articles, short-form thought leadership content, and white papers are better suited for LinkedIn while short, fast-paced videos are better for TikTok.
Another consideration for content distribution is frequency or publishing cadence. Each channel has its own rhythm and expectations for how often you should be posting content. Even within social channels, each platform has its own ideal frequency:
- Instagram: 3-7 social media posts per week.
- Facebook: 1-2 posts per day.
- Twitter: 1-5 tweets per day.
- LinkedIn: 1-5 posts per day.
It’s important to get this right — otherwise, your content may not have the impact you’d expect. In fact, 27% of consumers say low-quality or infrequently published content would lead them to believe that a brand is out of touch or not up to date with customer habits.
Step 5: Assign relevant tasks to relevant people
Now that you have a general idea of workflows and channels, you can begin to assign tasks to the appropriate people. Going back to the blog post workflow we outlined above, here’s an example of what this might look like:
Content strategist or SEO expert
Interview SME from the product development team
Content strategist or writer
Develop title and outline
Content strategist or writer
Write article based on research and SME interview
First round of edits
First round of approval
Final round of edits
Final approval and/or changes
Add visuals and graphics
Graphic design team or creative director
Publish article or send to client
Producer or content strategist/manager
As we said before, you don’t need to assign each step in the workflow at this point. However, this is a good exercise to go through on a general level to make sure you have the staff necessary to execute your plan.
For example, let’s say you have one writer on staff who has the capacity to handle two articles per week. If you’ve planned to publish five articles a week, you know right off the bat that you’re going to need to hire additional writers.
Editorial calendar FAQs
What does an editorial calendar include?
A 12-month editorial calendar typically includes key elements that connect to your overall content marketing strategy, focusing on the who, what, when, and where of content production. Examples of such elements include tactics, content ideas, deadlines, posting frequency, publishing dates, collaborators, and distribution channels.
What is editorial calendar management?
Editorial calendar management refers to executing the plan laid forth in the calendar itself. It’s like creating a schedule for the year and then making sure everyone is following it on a daily basis.
What’s the difference between an editorial calendar and a content calendar?
In short? Scope. An editorial calendar focuses on the big picture whereas a content calendar gets into the finer details. Another way to think of it is that an editorial calendar is a zoomed out, long-term plan for executing your content strategy. In contrast, a content calendar zooms in, outlining a day-by-day plan for meeting the deadlines in the editorial calendar.
That said, many content marketing professionals use the terms editorial calendar and content calendar interchangeably. Oftentimes, this is because the editorial and content calendars are combined into one tool or spreadsheet.
In this case, the editorial calendar acts as the primary calendar, allowing marketers to see everything at a glance. Separate calendars or tabs are then integrated within the primary calendar to allow marketers to dig deeper into each task, seeing what needs to be done on a daily basis.
There you have it! Now you know how to create editorial calendars in a snap. We know you’re busy, so we’ll let you get to it. Best of luck out there!