How to build an editorial calendar that actually works

Sharing fresh, compelling content that gets noticed can feel like shouting across a crowded room at a party.

There are so many simultaneous conversations going on. Amplifying yours needs a strong, well-executed strategy – not unlike parties, but without the alcohol to help. 

If you’re taking a scattergun approach to firing out content, then you’re already on the back foot. Without a plan, your content could be missing the mark by being ill-timed, inconsistent, or repetitive.

If you want to make your brand the life and soul, or even the sarcastic one people were surprised they enjoyed talking to, you need direction. Otherwise, you‘ll be the wallflower in the corner, the inappropriate drunk who can’t read the room, or the person who’s told the same story three times!

Whether you’re:

An editorial calendar is the best way to make sure your content isn’t misfiring. This post explains how to build an editorial calendar, how to make sure you use it effectively and how to find a template that fits your needs.

What is an editorial calendar and why do I need it?

Creating an calendar for your content marketing is the best way to:

  • store all your ideas
  • manage ongoing content creation
  • quickly reference all your previous, present and planned pieces.

It provides an overview of your content strategy throughout the year. It allows you to allocate tasks, see who’s doing what and, with the right integration, publish to all your social media accounts.

Successful content marketing is never a one-size fits all strategy, but it does follow certain rules – consistency is chief amongst them. Whether you’re posting once a week or once a month, doing it regularly is key to keeping your audience engaged with the brand. 

Staying topical helps too. An editorial calendar can make this easier. Review your scheduled pieces and replace them with something that ties in with the current news agenda or links to key events for your business.

An editorial calendar is also a great way to gather ideas. Whether you’re working alone or as part of a team, you can put content ideas into your calendar, assign them to someone, then see how they develop and progress.

How to manage content effectively

So, now you’re hyped up on the benefits of an editorial calendar, how do you use it to manage content effectively? Like most automated tools or software, what you gain from your editorial calendar depends on the quality of the information you put in. Consider your content strategy carefully – what are you hoping to achieve? Without clear end-goals, whether that’s building a reputation as an expert or getting customers to follow a clear call-to-action, you’re effectively sailing a rudderless ship (which are way more likely to end up smashed against some rocks).

Once you have objectives in mind and you’ve selected the right tool to manage your content strategy, it should be easy to plan sharp, sparkling pieces of content that keep your audience engaged.

How to build an editorial calendar for your blog

Bloggers benefit massively from an editorial calendar. It’s easy to start a blog with great intentions, then run out of steam and go weeks or even months without populating it. Before you know it, you’ve lost followers in droves and faded into obscurity after a promising start. An editorial calendar for bloggers will keep you motivated, organised and provide a record of all your inspiration and previous posts. Here’s how to build an editorial calendar for bloggers:

  1. Know your end goals

Consider what you need from your calendar. How big is your team? Do you outsource to lots of freelancers who you need to keep track of? Do you have lots of projects running simultaneously?

  1. Consider project management software

Do you already use project management software, such as Asana or Trello, that needs to integrate with your calendar? If you have a tool preference, research how your editorial calendar will synchronise with them (or build it in them directly).

  1. Look at your team’s preferences

Choose a tool that works for your team. Whether that’s via Excel, Google Drive or inputting directly into Asana or Trello.

  1. Decide how you want to view tasks

Do you prefer a list view, where you can see all upcoming content and how it’s progressing? Or a calendar view where you can immediately see how the whole year looks? Think about which option best fits into your content strategy. For example, is your approach topic-driven or event-led?

  1. Map your fields

Based on these decisions, map your fields and objectives. Consider the topics you’ll cover, business-led events and forthcoming calls-to-action.

  1. Automate repetitive tasks and duplication

The beauty of syncing editorial calendars with project management tools is automation – can you use your calendar to automate repetitive tasks? Is the template easily duplicated across projects or from one month to the next?

  1. Test your calendar on real projects

Test your calendar on a recently completed project. Walk through the steps and see if it genuinely makes your life easier. 

  1. Test the calendar across your entire team, including freelancers

Test it with your team and check that it’s helping everyone. The biggest obstacle to implementing new tools and software is always getting the buy-in of your team, so it’s crucial that everyone sees what they’ll gain from using the calendar.

Get an editorial calendar template for 2021

Finding the right editorial calendar for your needs is very subjective and depends on the answers to some of the questions above.

I’ve put together a free 2021 editorial calendar template for you to download, specifically designed to get rid of some of the pet-peeves I’ve had with other free templates. This template lets you quickly add content and dates in a list view. These then auto-populate into a full calendar view for planning and team meetings (because I’m all about that duplication-free life).

It includes:

  • A content list sheet – record all your pieces. Manage them from initial idea right through to promotion once they’ve been published.
  • Fields to tag and organise content by status, project owner, content topic, audience journey stage and content type.
  • A key dates sheet – log all the important dates for your business.
  • A monthly calendar view – which auto-populates from both lists, saving you and your team hours.
  • Step-by-step integration instructions – into Asana and Google Calendar via Zapier.

It’s free to access below in Google Sheets format – so try it for yourself:

Editorial Calendar Template 2021 - Burning need

Download the content marketing editorial calendar template – 2021 edition

If you’re planning to use this editorial calendar as part of a content marketing plan, I highly recommend checking out this massive free guide to content planning.

I’d like to know, which calendars have you tried in the past? What works well and what gets on your nerves? Have you built your own? Let me know in the comments.

Leave a comment