Are you looking to increase your productivity in content marketing? To get started, try using this two-step approach to creating an editorial calendar:
- Step 1. Use the Monthly Editorial Calendar worksheet (below) to choose 12 monthly topics or themes for the coming year. This creates a basic structure for the success of your content marketing.
- 2nd step. Once per quarter, use the Weekly Editorial Calendar Worksheet (below) to flesh out each of the monthly topics, identifying and scheduling specific projects for the next 3 months.
This two-step approach simplifies decision-making, helping you identify relevant and practical topics and plan tasks well in advance to enable timely production and editing. The advantages include:
- Perspective: The Monthly Editorial Calendar worksheet creates an overview of your editorial calendar, helping you focus your attention on the key goals and objectives of your prospects.
- Easier decision making: Focusing on 12 monthly themes early in your content development process helps reduce the number of decisions needed and increase the likelihood of getting consensus on your ideas, which is especially critical when multiple shareholders are involved. Monthly themes also make it easy to identify the right topics before content creation.
- Consistency: Multiple projects that address different aspects of each month’s theme reinforce your business key messages on a regular and ongoing basis.
- Scalability: The two-step approach to creating an editorial calendar is effective enough for small businesses and freelance professionals, but can be upgraded to build robust applications for large businesses.
- Efficiency: Identifying broad themes that can be reinforced each week also simplifies your efforts to reformat, reuse, or recycle your key messages across multiple media channels.
Step 1: Choice of monthly topics
Start by choosing a topic or theme for each month, using the Monthly Editorial Calendar worksheet (click to download full size PDF version).
The success of this part of the process will depend on meeting three key criteria:
- Relevance: Pick topics related to your prospect’s main goals and challenges they want to tackle.
- Depth: Select topics broad enough to be approached from several different perspectives, which will allow for a variety of approaches (i.e. articles, tutorials, examples, case studies, pros and cons, profiles, best practices, disclaimers, etc.). (See sample monthly editorial worksheet.)
- Importance: Focus on topics that also reflect your company’s strongest skill areas and competitive superiority.
Note that the sample Monthly Editorial Calendar worksheet starts in July, but you can start using the worksheet at any time during the year.
When selecting monthly topics, look for ones you might come back to in the same month each year (for example, holiday-related topics for December; or topics that coincide with major conferences in your industry). Repetition builds familiarity and comfort. It also makes it easier for you to plan future promotions around your planned content marketing efforts.
The right column of the worksheet gives you space to track the results of each monthly topic, helping you quickly identify topics you might want to repeat in the future.
Step 2: Choice of weekly topics
Then use the weekly editorial calendar (click to download full version) a quarterly worksheet to plan your weekly content marketing topics for the next 3 months.
Identify topics that provide implementation ideas and provide details to support each monthly topic. In each case, list the street date (the day your market meets your message) and the time frame it takes to complete each project in time for launch. Additionally, include the content, or media, marketing channel (blogs, guest posts, article directories, etc.) where you will be sharing your post.
Try to complete the Weekly Editorial Calendar at least 2 weeks before the end of the previous quarter, which will give you time to get started with the initial projects.
Remember: the weekly planner is not a straitjacket; it does not limit your ability to respond to urgent problems. It just specifies the minimum amount of content you will need to produce for each week.
Advice and good practices
Here are some implementation ideas for working with these two worksheets:
- Working with PDF versions: You can print PDF versions and fill them out by hand, which is useful if you are on the go or have a few minutes free to work during or between meetings. To plan for additional projects, divide the lines in half (if you’re willing to write smaller to fit more in).
- Formatting options: If you are working with the Word version of the weekly editorial calendar, you can insert rows to accommodate additional projects each month. By switching to landscape (large) format, you can insert more columns, allowing you to delegate responsibility for each project to specific team members.
- Filtering and export options: You can also recreate the worksheets using a spreadsheet or mind mapping software, which allows you to filtered your calendar – by hiding completed projects, for example, or showing only upcoming projects that are due in the next few weeks. You can then export these upcoming events to Microsoft Outlook, online calendars like from google, or any project management software you use.
- Links and clouds: Creating specific software versions of these worksheets can also simplify file management and improve collaboration. For example, you and your team can link to the latest drafts saved on your company’s network servers or online (i.e. cloud file sharing services like Drop box).
Most importantly, be sure to frequently review your weekly and monthly editorial calendars so that you are prepared if any updates or changes are needed. Consider printing them out and hanging them on the wall near your computer screen.
Would this two-step planning structure work for you? Do you have any comments or suggestions for improving the Monthly Editorial Calendar or the Weekly Editorial Calendar? Share your favorite productivity shortcut or editorial calendar tips.
Want more content marketing inspiration? Download our ultimate eBook with 100 examples of content marketing.