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Creating an editorial calendar in 7 easy steps

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We’re delighted to have Henry Reith, Editor in Chief at Fridge Magazine, show our readers how to create an editorial calendar in 7 actionable steps.

In this article, I’m going to show you how to create an effective editorial calendar. First off I’m going to talk about why you need a content calendar, secondly I’m going to look at background work you need to have done before you create a calendar and finally I’m going to go through 7 easy steps to bring all your work together.

Most companies believe their content marketing efforts are ineffective – hardly surprising given only 32% of B2B Content Marketers and 38% of B2C content marketers have a content plan.

So it’s time to get some direction and create an effective content calendar, to produce well thought out content, that converts.

Content marketing has matured from writing ‘blogs’ to creating ‘content’ and we are on the cusp of an era I call Preference Content. This means that potential customers expect to be able to access your content in the medium they want! Today, there are many more elements involved in effectively sharing your message, than just a short old school blog.

The opportunity to create great content marketing has never been easier.

However, the majority of content marketers think their content fails. Even in 2013 it was suspected over 50% was never seen, and that percentage is continuing to rise as more and more content is created.

Why? Because marketers don’t have a plan. They don’t know why content will be helpful for their audience, they don’t publish at the right time, and they don’t ultimately invest adequate time creating content that matters.

So take action today and create a content calendar. Sticking to it will give you immediate competitive advantage.

Creating an editorial/content calendar isn’t a hard task.It can involve some thinking to get right; however it’s just a matter of following a simple step by step process.

What is a Content / Editorial Calendar & Why Should You Have One

A content calendar is simply a plan!

I’ll say it again ‘Only 32% of B2B Content Marketers and 38% of B2C content marketers have a plan!’
You could make it all up at the last second and hope you get results. Or you can plan your content and have a strategy that you can stick to that gets results.

An editorial calendar (‘a plan’) will give you something to reference when it comes to working out the ROI on any marketing.

Central Document For The Team To Reference

Rarely is content creation just left to one person in an organisation.

Whether you are a blogger, solopreneur who has an outsourced team, or business with a whole marketing department, an editorial calendar is a great tool. By having a central document that the entire team can access, it gives everyone a common place to see what everyone is working toward.

Some may believe their ‘blog is too small’, to make it worthwhile. However, that’s probably because you don’t have a plan to grow it in the first place. So having an editorial plan is more important than for you than for anyone else.

By having a central document that the entire team can access, it gives everyone a common place to see what everyone is working toward.

When You Write Then You’ll Commit

Writing anything down turns it from an idea that ‘may’ be done at some point, to a tangible task that has to be done.

After deciding on your plan, just having it written down allows you to commit to it. And focus your effort on completing the plan.

Whoa, Whoa, Whoa – Before We Continue Do You Know What Your Goals Are?

It’s fine having a plan to create content. However, before it’s worth planning, we must know what we want it to achieve.

Your Sales Funnel Will Create Your Content Goals

Let’s use some examples to explore different types of sales funnel and as a result, what the content is looking to achieve.

Your focus may be to get people signed up to a free trial. The aim of the content is to get people onto the website, then sign up for a free trial by themselves.

Or another commons sales funnel is to get an opt-in (someone gives you their email). Once you have their email, you use content give value & market your product to them. This is used when products have a barrier to entry, such as immediately costing money.

And last of the main sales funnels is for companies who are looking for an ‘enquiry’ either via email or phone. Organisations who use content for this purpose can be diverse; solicitors, insurance firms or a windshield replacement company.

For my personal goals I use an opt-in focused funnel for Fridge and most of the clients I work with, so we aim to use content for three purposes:

  • Traffic – we want traffic to come to the site
  • Opt-in – we want people to sign up to our newsletter
  • Conversion – we want to convert them to buy a product

To recap, in order to create an editorial calendar, you need to be aware of what your content is going to achieve for your business.

What Should You Create Content About?

As mentioned above when I create content I only look to create Preference Content. So content to me isn’t just a written piece or a video. ‘Content’ is a multimedia rich mix of written content, video, images and maybe audio.
Based on my tests, it is better to create 1 piece of Preference Content a month, that is well promoted. This always outperforms many small ‘bite-size’ pieces of content that have no profound impact on people’s understanding of a subject.

Work Out Your Top Level Categories

Given that one excellent piece of content is better than lots of smaller pieces of content, you’re going to have to spend some time narrowing down your ideas. The first thing to do when narrowing your content options down to a manageable size is deciding what categories you’re going to create content around.

My general rule is that for any business, outside of magazine/news style businesses like Fridge, is create content in a maximum of four top-level categories. And write them down.

Content Types/Ideas

A study by Noah Kagan found that Infographics and list articles were the most shared types of content around.

I look to create content that, first can be easily found and second content people will find useful and interesting so want to share. So for me my go-to types of content are:

  • List Posts
  • Infographics
  • How To Articles
  • Ultimate Guides
  • Why This Happened (Opinion)
  • Case Studies
  • Checklist’s
  • News/Trends
  • Research

This is certainly not a definitive list of content ideas; there are many more out there. However, for me, these are easy ones to put together and work for my audience.
I’d recommend you follow a similar exercise so you know what types of content you’re going to produce

Remember The Times Of Year And Your ROI

One way to fill up your editorial calendar is to look at the content you can tie into certain times of the year.
You could create themed content for:

  • Festive Season
  • Summer
  • Easter

Having said this, I mainly focus on creating ‘timeless’ content. Why? Because when I invest the time and money into creating great content, it takes a few months to see a positive ROI from it. So if something just has a life span of a week, it is worthless to me.

However, for resource-rich companies who have the budget to create great content, and can see an ROI in just a few days then this is a must-do strategy when it comes to filling up your editorial calendar.

Write Content For The Customers You Want

Make sure you are writing content for the people who will eventually buy from you.

This is one of the most valuable lessons I have learnt to date. Six months ago I started an experiment to see if 1 in-depth and a well-promoted piece of content has more an impact on traffic and opt-ins then lots of short articles. I did a piece about why OptimizePress Fails Markers. Why? Because I had just seen too many bad OptimizePress sites that week and wanted to get my point of view on the poor OptimizePress templates out there.

However, to my horror, for the next few months all the enquirers I received for conversion optimisation help were from OptimizePress users who had found the article :/. That was the last thing I wanted.

So, now I’m writing content for the audience I want, and I’m getting messages and enquirers from people I want to work with.

Lesson learnt; you get what you talk about. This can also be seen with a recent article we did for one of my clients on how to choose the right BMW windshield. We talked about the premium parts that should be used in a BMW windshield replacement. And guess what…. LVS Glass is now getting equines from BMW owners who want their premium services and parts service.

So I’d suggest you write down your various different personas, and in your content calendar, you’ll be able to see if the content you want to writes, fits with the content your customers want to see.

Know Your Keywords (and Social Audience)

There’s a key difference between people finding content via search engines, and finding content via social.

People go to Google (or Bing, Yahoo, Duck Duck Go) to get their questions answered. We all go there to type a question in/find an answer to a problem. And Google’s job is to get us the best answer to our question as possible. They do this by finding us informative content to read.

When people are browsing social media, they are looking to be entertained. We don’t go to social media to ask a question (not normally anyway). So if you are doing social specific pieces, it’s got to be entertaining.

The more we become a resource where we answer the customers questions, the more trustworthy we will become.

So it’s good to find out what kind of words and phrases people search for when looking for your product/service. I use Market Samurai, as it’s worked for me for years. However, there endless ways to do keyword research from the super simple, to the detailed and complicated.
You can check out this video below for more info:
https://youtu.be/ZfPhzh7q1O8

After I have a list of keywords and phrases people use to find my services, I save them to a Google Doc to use later when we brainstorm content ideas.

Putting the editorial calendar together in 7 easy steps

Now with your goals in mind, we can start working on putting the actual calendar together.

I plan my content of my personal website, my company’s website Fridge and clients sites in 12-week blocks. I have found that planning ahead in 12-week blocks is the most efficient way to stay ahead when it comes to content creation without just having to make any random stuff up, based on a general idea of what might be going on in six months’ time or whenever.

To either start a brand-new editorial calendar or plan the next 12 weeks I follow the below steps:

1. Brainstorm

The first thing I do when bringing together a content calendar is start by brainstorming ideas.

I take the main types of articles I am good at and comfortable creating, that in my case is, how to’s, ultimate guide and list articles. And then spend 15 minutes on each type, just brainstorming/listing out every idea that comes into my head without stopping. I do this straight into a Google Doc, so it’s easy to access later on any device.

Next, I close the documents, but leave the task open. So as ideas come to me over the next couple of days I add them to the lists.

Takeaway Advice: Get crazy with your ideas, and don’t look at what others have written initially before you have a solid list in place. Only then look at others for some inspiration to keep extending the list.

2. Decide On The Publishing Frequency

The amount of content you should publish comes down to resources and time. It’s about creating a plan that works for you, not one you think should be doing.

For me, based on this research, I only look to create in-depth content. The detailed, long-form content style is something that works for me and my audience.

So with my resources, I plan to do one piece of content a month on my website, and one guest piece of content somewhere else as well. This gives me the time to not only create but most importantly promote the content to a high level.

However, it depends on your audience as to the type of depth your content should go into and the frequency you should publish. And if you have the resources to be producing & promoting quality content 24/7 go for it!

Many of the leading content marketing content creators including Brian Dean and Bryan Harris, followed the once a month schedule for a long time before growing enough to ramp up content creation.

For Fridge, I plan to publish two long form pieces of content a week, plus a podcast.

And for most of my clients who follow the entirely outsourced Preference Content Strategy to Content Creation I teach, can publish and promote one high-quality piece of content a week or every two weeks.

Takeaway Advice: Come up with a frequency of posting that works for you. Do not try to publish content twice a week if you don’t have the resources, and remember you need time to promote the content you publish as well.

3. Focusing Down On The Good Ideas

In most niche’s I typically end up with 50+ ideas for each type of content / per 12-week block. So I then narrow them down to just 10 – 20 or so ideas, depending on the publishing frequency and copy them to the bottom of the Google Doc.

Next, I compare, the maybe 40 to 60 ideas throughout the types content, with potential keywords to see if any fit in.
For those that look as if they might correlate with a keyword or ideas I just like the sound of because be fun, I move them on to the next step.

4. Add Content To The Formal Plan

This is the big step takes content from an idea to publication.From the remaining set of content ideas, I add them to my content planning spreadsheet (get it here free). I look to mix-and-match the content types up over the next 12 weeks (so it’s not just, list, list, list, list, how to, how to, how to…).

5. Sign Off, Get The Big YES!

Next step is to get it signed off by everyone who needs to know about it.

Granted, this may only involve a few people, but when working in a team, it is always good to ensure everyone understands where the marketing and the company are going.

In my case where I am in control of my marketing, so I just opt for the JFDI method of working, so everything just gets done and finalize quickly.

6. Add To Project Management System

The next step is getting it into a task management system, and assigning tasks to everyone needed to create the content.

To do this, ideally, you want a repeatable content creation process which has already been templated in the project management system. This means for each piece you can just duplicate the content creation template and add the relevant due by dates to it.

I follow my preference content formula when it comes to the content creation process. However, if you don’t have a process that you can replicate to create content, it’s going to be well worth you creating one. The smaller steps the better. Then there are no barriers to getting started creating content.

7. Create Cronycle Boards

This is the last and most important step. I create a board in Cronycle for every piece of content for the next 12 weeks.

For any content to be great and stand out from the crowd, it needs to be unique and include angles that haven’t been touched on before.

The easiest way to research content, and get the input from multiple people in an organisation is by creating a board in Cronycle.

By having a repository to save facts, figures, and other relevant and exciting articles as you go is invaluable. Saving content and notes to boards make it very easy to reference other resources as you put your story together.

Also, where content creation is outsourced, having a board allows me to give my outsourced content writer more background information on the facts, figures, and reference information on the key points we want to get across.

Conclusion

In this article, I have gone through the background information needed to create an editorial calendar. Plus the seven step process I go through to create my editorial calendar and ensure my content ideas, become published landmark pieces of content.
It’s over to you to create an editorial calendar and create excellent content. If you have any questions as you go, feel free to drop them in the comments below and get back to you or reach out to me by Twitter @HenryReith and are more than happy to help.

My only question to you is what awesome content are you going to create?

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