What is a content calendar?
A content calendar is a way to address your needs around planning and executing a content marketing campaign. Think of it as a tool to track everything that you need to accomplish to ensure a successful inbound marketing effort.
The most common use of a content calendar is to plan and produce blog posts, but that's not all. Aside from content creation, you can also use a content calendar to address content promotion. The more you plan for success, the more success your inbound marketing campaign will have.
Why You Need a Content Calendar
An editorial calendar will keep you on track. Plain and simple, they'll keep you working towards the goals you've set for yourself and your team. A good calendar will keep you focused on the actions and content ideas that matter. Having a plan will focus your marketing team and result in driving more traffic to your website.
If you've done your job correctly, each task you check off on your calendar should move you closer towards your content marketing goals.
I like to use a calendar to schedule content and track almost everything that my team and I are working through. For us that includes:
- Monthly performance and KPI reports
- Writing and blogging activities
- Social media management including content promotion
- Paid advertising (PPC) management & monitoring
- Digital asset creation and landing page work
- On-page and off-page SEO audits and improvements
With a detailed plan, you'll keep your most important dates in mind. You won't forget to post articles, you'll have your social network posts up-to-date, and you'll increase your inbound marketing leads.
The most important thing to remember is that no matter what calendar tool you choose it needs to support your workflow.
What Tools Are Good for Building your Content Calendar?
There are plenty of scheduling and planning tools available out there. Before you decide which marketing software is best for you, consider how you want to work, and think about your team’s culture and maturity. Are you more of a checklist drive group, or an in-depth project planning, scheduled to the last minute kind of team? The process that you think your team will adopt will drive you to a tool that will make the most sense for you and your comrades. Remember, whatever you choose should help, not hinder your team’s productivity.
My personal preference is to schedule everything out to the day, but yours may not be. Let me walk through a few tools you might want to consider. I'll start with the simpler tools, and then share some thoughts on the more complex tools available.
Think about what type of work you spend most of your time tackling. You may find one solution works great as an editorial calendar but may lacking in its ability to document your social media content calendar. The end goal is to find something that makes planning content easy.
The to-do list or checklist is the easiest way to get started. If you don't have any planning in place, completing a simple list of blog ideas or thoughts will help you structure your tasks. At the same time as you go through the list, you'll feel some level of accomplishment as you mark things off.
This type of approach is suitable for those new to planning. It will get you started, but it doesn't work well if you’re working with others planning a long-term campaign.
If you're looking for some tools, there are plenty of apps for managing checklists. One of my favorites for managing to-dos is Evernote. It has a handy feature to include clickable checkboxes in a note, or you can create individual notes with reminders if you want to get more complex. As you go through notes and lists, you check things off. I find that checking things off provides a huge sense of accomplishment. For someone that needs to feel progress, this is a good thing.
If that even sounds like too much, you can be just as successful using a text editor or word document to keep a bullet list. It’s all up to you.
The Excel File (or Google Sheets)
If you want to take your planning to the next level, an Excel worksheet or Google spreadsheet is the logical next step. If you work on a team with everyone making contributions to the content plan, a shared Google Spreadsheet or Excel file on a shared drive might be right for you. Include at least three pieces of information for each task you identify in your plan. Think about adding columns to your spreadsheet for each of the following:
- Task name
- Who will do the work
- Completion dates
With this level of content planning, you are starting to get into the basics of project scheduling. Having deadlines and assigning accountability will allow you to take your planning to the next level. Don't be afraid to make the jump. Having realistic target dates and deadlines is sometimes exactly what your team will need to stay motivated.
Project Scheduling & Project Planning Tools
If Excel doesn't cut it for you and you want something that is better at planning and task assignments, consider looking to a project scheduling tool. In the past, this would have been something like Microsoft Project.
Project scheduling tools have interfaces and features for managing work across an entire team, and not just for a single person. They often have some reporting features as well. These reports help you keep on track and understand the progress you and your team are making towards your content marketing goals at a quick glance.
Project scheduling tools are best for teams following a rigorous tracking process. If you have a group of specialists where different team members take on different roles, a scheduling tool might be right for you.
If you're looking for a free tool, Gantter is a free scheduling app for Google Drive that does wonders. If you are used to Microsoft Project or something similar, you'll have no problem learning Gantter.
If you want something more robust a tool, consider Teamwork PM. Teamwork PM is something that we use here at Fielday Marketing. Teamwork is a great project scheduling and management tool that works well in several different scenarios. If your team is just getting into project planning, it can be used purely as an online shared checklist. If you have a more seasoned project manager running your marketing campaign, use it as a full-blown project management tool.
Teamwork has a cost associated with it. As of August 2017, you'll spend about $69 a month to get small office access which is more than enough to run any content marketing campaign you'd like to manage. There is a two project "Free Forever" plan that is part of their 30-day trial. While you'll be limited to adding 100MB of attachments, if you aren't adding documents or content and are just using Teamwork for task management, this very well could be all you need.
A Free Content Calendar Template
To get you started on your content calendar and blog post scheduling, we've created an excel template for you.
This template was designed with a 12-week blogging campaign in mind. Depending on how regularly you publish blog posts, a campaign can be condensed or extended as need. Take this only as a guideline and get creative.
Executing Your Content Marketing Plan
Great, you've found a great way to build your schedule. You've got your topics nailed down, and your team excited to get underway. The next step you take will make our break you planning. If you don't get the execution right, all those social media posts will fall on deaf ears.
Top Tips for Staying on Top of Your Marketing Calendar
Want to style on top of your work. Try these top fin
- Meeting weekly with your team
- Schedule and automate social posts at least a week in advance
- Get a bunch of authors lined up, don't be reliant on a single source for our content.
- Carve out time in your calendar for content marketing work
- Take stock of your wins and loses to make sure you are always learning
Sound easy? It isn't too bad. Watch for a new post soon to talk through these top tips to keep to your content marketing plans.