Timing is Everything: Why You Need an Editorial Calendar

Actionable Marketing 101

If you’re not posting new, fresh content on a regular basis, how do you expect your prospective readers to develop the habit of looking for and reading your content? How you develop a sizable following for your website or blog if they don’t know whether you’ll even be there?

Fortunately, there’s a solution to this problem. It’s called an editorial calendar. You might think that sticking to an editorial calendar takes all of the spontaneity and fun out of posting, but this isn’t true. You still get to put your message out there, but in a way that provides your readers with content that meets their needs on a regular basis.

What is an editorial calendar?

An editorial calendar comes from traditional media, most notably newspapers and magazines. The goal of an editorial calendar is to ensure that media entities consistently provide fresh content on a regular schedule that suits the needs of their content producers, readers and advertisers. Most editorial calendars include the following five types of sections.

  1. Departments for major areas of interest. Every publication includes information across a variety of topics of interest to readers. The more niche the publication the easier it is to target the content. One of these topics can be as basic as “breaking news”
  2. On-going features that appear in every issue. For example, style magazines have a round up of the latest cosmetics while daily newspapers include a crossword puzzle.
  3. Regular columns by staff writers or area experts. These short pieces appear in every issue; columnist covers a topic of interest to readers. In a newspaper, these pieces are referred to as editorials or op-ed pieces. By contrast, e-zines feature outside experts.
  4. In-depth reports. This coverage can take a variety of formats. It may be a special report on a focused topic like technology, it can relate to a trade show like adTech or a calendar event like Christmas. These sections are often spread over the year to entice additional advertisers and readers, like the fall fashion issues. From an advertising perspective, they attract additional and/or special sponsors.
  5. Special promotions. To create additional interest in the publication where possible. For example, a gardening magazine uses planting and growing seasons and a teachers’ magazine would follow the school year. Additionally, it’s helpful to include holidays, category events like major sports matches and business celebrations.

Even if you’re starting small, a subset of these five categories is probably appropriate. Your goal is to lay the groundwork to build your follower base.

5 Steps for Creating Your Editorial Calendar

From a marketing or blogging perspective, an editorial calendar is useful for planning content to ensure that you’re publishing and promoting on a regular basis. It also helps spark ideas for new content and promotions. Here are five tips to assist you in developing an editorial calendar for your content.

  1. Determine categories of interest to your readers. While this should be part of your initial content or blog planning process, it’s important to give your readers information that meets their needs and answers their questions to keep them coming back. A breaking news category ensures that you’re up-to-date with the latest news and events and provides for additional posts where the writer is inspired by what’s happening in his/her life. To find out what readers want, look at which topics and articles are most visited, commented on and/or shared. Additionally ask for feedback but bear in mind that mostly you’ll be hearing from the vocal minority.
  2. Select regular topics or columns. Organize your regular postings by writers, as my ClickZ does with its columnists, or focus on subjects readers want. From a marketing perspective, this means finding where your writers’ background intersects with your readers’ desire for information. Also, consider having a guest columnist section to provide other points of view.For example, a scrapbooking company’s product manager could answer readers’ questions or alternatively could offer a different project every week.
  3. Incorporate additional content. Broadly, this translates into providing planning space for special topics, breaking news and other media formats. It’s important to note that special topics can be tied to outside events such as a major trade show or holiday.
  4. Map out publishing schedule. The goal is to keep fresh content coming regularly. Obviously, the scope of this effort can vary depending upon if you’re a sole blogger versus a marketing department drawing on employees from across your organization. By arranging which columns and features will appear will help ensure that writers submit their stories on a timely basis and get them published when your readers are expecting them. It also gives writers a structure for organizing their thoughts. Further, it’s important for providing relevant content.
  5. Integrate other marketing to maximize your impact. While having a regular publishing calendar is good for getting readers to develop a reading habit, it’s a good idea to increase your content distribution by promoting your new content. This encompasses a wide variety of online and offline marketing communications tools, such as your on-going emailings, your site’s home page, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Also, it’s good to include features that allow for collecting information about what’s happening and/or for guest writers to give readers useful content and different perspectives

While at first some marketers and bloggers find that an editorial calendar constraining, it can be done in such a way as to help provide inspiration for your writers and bloggers. But both publishes and marketers will tell you, an editorial calendar is one of the big differences between a random undertaking and a professional effort. If you want to get the maximum impact from your efforts, you’ve got to get the timing down.

If you have suggestions as to how marketers and bloggers can utilize an editorial calendar, would you please add it in the comments section below.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


Note: Tip of my Hat to Sunday’s BlogChat on Blogging 201 which inspired me to write this column.

Photo credit: Yandle via Flickr

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  • http://ewkemper.com/ Ed Kemper

    I’ve recently started using editorial calendars, mostly on your recommendation. I have to say you are absolutely right! Getting setup wasn’t difficult and it really helps with my direction, especially with multiple blogs.

    Currently I use a spreadsheet I created for now for my editorial planning, and then I use the editorial calendar plugin for WordPress to schedule the content as well.

    Great advice, Thanks.

    • http://riversidemarketingstrategies.com/ Heidi Cohen

      Ed–

      I’m glad that you find this advice useful. In essence, blogs and other content marketing for that matter are like having a media entity. Once you start publishing, it’s critical to keep providing new content on a regular schedule or people won’t return.

      At its core, a blog is a specialized media outlet like the old fashioned print magazines available at newstands. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • http://shamokin.biz Damian Konopka

    I’ve found the monthly productivity sheets that Charles Gilkey provides each week to be especially helpful. One of the documents you can download, for ex., is a simple “Blog Post Scheduler” that provides the Editorial Calendar effect you are writing about. Charlie also offers a monthly Productivity Jumpstarter, a work week scheduler for freelancers, and more. His site is productiveflourishing.com and now that I have just gone back and forth between his site and yours, you folks kinda seem to complement each other in the information you’re disseminating.

    Another great post, Heidi!

  • http://newlywedbliss.com Newlywed Bliss

    I’m using an editorial calendar to make my online magazine a success. I’m hoping it’ll keep readers entertained and coming back for more. Thanks for the tips!

  • Sonja

    It would have been helpful to attach a link to a sample or template

  • Chris Fougere

    Hi, Heidi.

    Great article – thanks for sharing!

    Are there any specific tools you’d recommend for someone starting out with a content calendar?

    Chris

    • http://riversidemarketingstrategies.com/ Heidi Cohen

      Chris–I suggest WordPress editorial calendar plug-in. Good luck. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • http://www.web4retail.com/blog Denise Keniston

    Heidi,
    I participated in my first #blogchat this evening and you posted this link. What great advice. I’ll try the WP editorial calendar plugin and let you know how it works out for me.
    Thanks,
    Denise

  • http://www.glantz.net Keith Glantz

    I’ve taken the more organic approach to having a editorial calendar. Its more of when I can get to it. However, some of your suggestions are quite good. Thanks for sharing.

    • http://riversidemarketingstrategies.com/ Heidi Cohen

      Keith– I appreciate your perspective and have been there myself. The reality is that having an editorial calendar gets those creative juices going. You don’t have to be a slave to the posts–in fact sometimes having to write something can inspire you to write about something else. Give it a try. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen