Why You Should Be Using an Editorial Calendar
Are You Using an Editorial Calendar Yet?
This is my public service announcement for the day: you absolutely need an editorial calendar. You're welcome.
You can either run your business (and your life, for that matter) foot-loose and fancy free, happily going about your daily routine, content in knowing that you own a fire extinguisher and love putting out small fires, constantly sniffing the air for smoke, always a little on edge. Or you can buy fire insurance, take little steps that ensure you probably won't have a fire, hold fire drills, etc.
Yes, the second way might be boring, and yes, no one likes fire drills, but seriously. Grow up.
When I ran a print magazine, one of the first things we did was put together an editorial calendar. It set the stage, gave context to who we were and what we were about. At a more practical level, it was standard to provide an editorial calendar to advertisers so they could plan their advertising. And it was also a great help to freelancers, who would know what topics might be appropriate for which issues.
I think the reason I believe so strongly in content strategy alongside content development is because of this background. But I notice that for many people, content seems to be nearly an afterthought.
It's not like there isn't a dearth of great resources out there to help you decide to use an editorial calendar. Copyblogger, as you may suspect, does a great job. And, of course, Pam Moore at Social Media Today sums up her reasons succinctly.
But I suspect that you need more persuading, or you wouldn't be here.
My Editorial Calendar Pitch
I guarantee that if you gather your team, sit down together, and try to write an editorial calendar, you will find out, fast:
- Whether you need a content strategy
- What your marketing strategy is in the first place
- What your marketing goals are
- What you need to measure in order to get there
- What success will look like
From there, an editorial calendar will give you these incredible results:
- You will be developing your content around themes, and these themes will make sense. You probably already designate December as "Christmas Month" -- but you'll quickly see that there are many other dates that you should be planning around.
- You'll use your content more efficiently. By developing around themes, your team will quickly realize there are groups of posts that each specialist could write about, from a different angle, or in a different format, which together would be more than the sum of its parts.
- You will be able to take advantage of trends in your industry. You'll refer to Google Trends or other metrics and decide what content would be a great fit for emerging trends. You'll then match those posts to appropriate themes.
- You will gain clarity. You'll have the vision down, on a spreadsheet, and you'll immediately see holes in that vision. You'll fill them.
- Your team will gain clarity. You'll find out whether your vision matches that of your social media person or your design guy. Your team will start communicating (to each other and to clients) as a team with one clear voice. (This makes it sound like the Borg, but it's a lot more human than that. :) )
- Your clients will "get" you because you will be speaking to them. People have a tendency to think of themselves first, and without a clear plan, they'll write from their perspective about things that they want to communicate. With an editorial calendar, you have that small extra step of planning, during which time you are thinking about your client and focusing on them. They'll thank you for this.
- You'll have measurable KPIs that you take back to your calendar and apply to future content. You'll be able to track what works and what doesn't and adjust your content in a careful, considered way.
- Everyone will be happier. And happy is good. I think of editorial calendars as one of many kinds of "fire prevention tools" you should have in a company. You can run a company 2 ways: In crisis mode, with a guy carrying a fire extinguisher running through the halls all the time "putting out fires" or "the boring way" where you take a few minutes to make sure that smoke alarms work, that no one's throwing lit matches into waste bins, that the coffee pot is turned off at night and doesn't have a frayed cord... (how's that for a strained metaphor?) You can either plan to be in crisis, or plan.
So that's my pitch. Are you in? If so, I'll share a few tools I like in a future post. I hope you share this as your public service of the day and let me know if you use an editorial calendar... and if so, what benefits have you seen?