While there is no one right way to handle content marketing — every company should have a unique strategy — there are a few best practices nearly everyone can agree on. For example, it’s better to have a plan for your content rather than thinking up each piece on the spot.
Setting an editorial calendar for your blog posts and other written deliverables lets you coordinate your efforts. Not only are you giving the content team an idea of what they’ll have to tackle in the days and months ahead, but you’re also helping other groups prepare to support that content.
An accurate editorial calendar, describing what pieces are coming and when, lets social media managers and content managers know how to focus their efforts. Attaining this view of future content also allows other teams to complete their parts of the strategy — for instance, web developers can ensure they have landing pages ready to go on the same date as a new white paper or eBook.
One of the keys to getting your editorial calendar strategy just right is picking the right technology. If you have a reliable editorial calendar tool in place, your whole content team will be able to log in and see what’s coming at a glance. Without such a piece of technology, your best efforts to organize editorial scheduling may come up short.
Editorial Calendar Tools, Explained
An editorial calendar has a relatively simple job to do: It needs to tell all employees — on the content team and beyond — what content marketing materials are coming. It also needs to explain who is in charge of each deliverable, and when each stage of the project should be complete.
Leaders can use these tools to plan out content delivery for each of the content writers, graphic designers and other contributors to the team. Providing this essential information is a way to keep everyone on task, so check-ins between team members can be less frequent, with everyone pushing ahead on their tasks.
The contents of the editorial calendar should make it clear:
- What written content is planned for delivery over the next period, whether that’s a month, a quarter or even longer.
- Who is responsible for each phase of work. Which writer should take each blog post, which graphic designer should provide the accompanying illustrations, etc.? All of that should be noted in the calendar.
- When can editors and other members of the content team expect these phases to be completed? This will help create an overall content marketing plan. If a deliverable is taking longer than predicted, the editorial calendar is the place to note that.
Of course, when looking for a specific editorial calendar tool to power your company’s content marketing efforts, you shouldn’t just settle for any piece of software that can store information about upcoming deliverables.
There are a few traits to be found in especially useful calendar software, ensuring the systems will meaningfully enhance your content creation efforts.
- Editorial calendar tools need to be clear, so there’s no confusion about dates or roles, and no time wasted when employees look up information.
- They should be easy to work with so employees will actively use them instead of ignoring them or finding workarounds.
- These systems should also be cloud-based, accessible and editable from anywhere, on any device, which helps the content team keep their calendars up to date and accurate.
Editorial Calendar vs. Content Calendar
Before you proceed to select a calendar tool and start filling it up with plans and delivery dates, it’s useful to settle a question: What’s the difference between an editorial calendar and a content calendar?
The two concepts, editorial calendar and content calendar, are closely related. An editorial calendar, however, deals solely with written work, whether that means blog posts, white papers, eBooks or other types of articles. A content calendar may deal with all kinds of marketing collateral, including graphics, video content or even audio (such as podcast episodes).
While an editorial calendar is limited to written content marketing, content team members other than writers or editors may still need access. After all, if a graphic designer is scheduled to provide a custom illustration for a blog post, it’s important to track the progress of the written content from initial planning through first draft and onto completion.
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How Can My Team and My Content Benefit from an Editorial Calendar?
When you’re adding any new component to your content marketing mix, you have to ask yourself: Will the benefits of this new addition outweigh the time and effort I’m spending on it?
In the case of an editorial calendar, the answer is nearly always yes – the investment is worth it. This is because the advantages of using a calendar are remarkably straightforward. An editorial calendar is a tool that helps you plan out and organize your editorial deliverables for the future. With a proper calendar tool, you have a dedicated hub to organize the content team’s progress. Without one, the team risks confusion and inefficiency.
The positive impact of an editorial calendar can be broken down into two general categories. First, how will it impact the people on your content team and beyond? Second, what will it do for the written content being planned in the calendar? In both cases, there are a few key advantages.
Helping Employees with an Editorial Calendar
An editorial calendar is a major source of convenience for your content writers — and for everyone else who interacts with their work. The key word is “visibility.” Seeing every assignment and deadline, along with the status of each project, takes a lot of confusion and guesswork out of the content creation process.
If you have an easy-to-use and frequently updated editorial calendar, writers don’t have to ask who is responsible for which deliverable, what it’s about or when it’s due. They can simply get down to work. Furthermore, everyone supporting those writers, from project managers and account representatives to graphic designers and social media managers, gets a similar view into the workflow.
You can also make sure writers aren’t overloaded when all assignments are logged in an editorial calendar. A clear calendar view will immediately reveal conflicts, such as a writer being assigned to complete a half-dozen blog posts on the same day.
Laying out upcoming deliverables in a calendar removes the need for direct communication in plenty of cases. And in others, when there’s a question that can’t be resolved by simply looking at the schedule, using a consistent editorial calendar means everyone is on the same page. It’s easier to get satisfactory answers to questions about topics, timelines and other content details when everyone is working from the same information.
Improving Content with an Editorial Calendar
Having a clear schedule for upcoming deliverables can set your content team at ease and help you coordinate overall digital marketing efforts. More than that, it can also improve the quality of the written content itself.
When employees work without a plan, coming up with content topics right before writing, problems can arise. Multiple writers can unknowingly end up working on similar pieces. Attempts to create thematically unified articles for a series can fall apart. Graphic designers and social media managers may have to scramble to produce accompanying imagery or social media content on short notice. It’s no way to run a content marketing operation.
Content marketing is at its best when it moves in thematically connected arcs. By planning out content for the next month, quarter or year in an editorial calendar, leaders and stakeholders can decide on an overarching strategy. If changes are needed to these plans, it’s easy to go into a universal editorial content calendar and make those tweaks, ensuring they’re visible to all employees.
Though content creation thrives on planning, it’s also valuable to have some flexibility. An editorial calendar can help companies strike this balance, potentially by setting aside a certain number of blog posts each month for breaking news stories. Once writers begin working on these pieces, they can log the topics in the calendar, to ensure their colleagues know what they’re planning.
6 Examples of the Best Editorial Calendar Tools
Picking the right editorial calendar technology for your company means figuring out which solution matches your style of content marketing. If your business runs on frequent, intricate content delivery, it can pay to go for a dedicated software platform, which will give you plenty of tools to track every step and stakeholder. If written content is merely an occasional part of your digital marketing mix, on the other hand, a simple offering may suffice, aligning the written posts with the strategy as a whole.
Integration with your existing tech tools is another major priority. After all, to be truly useful, an editorial calendar has to be something your employees are happy and comfortable using every day — otherwise, the content team may simply ignore the calendar, defeating its purpose.
Fortunately, there are plenty of tools on the market that can serve as editorial calendars. Ranging from dedicated workplace productivity software to templates for more general calendar and spreadsheet applications, these offerings provide a spectrum of approaches to content planning. Here are 6 of the best available:
Airtable is designed to be a customizable workflow tracking solution, meaning it can offer different user interfaces based on the type of work each content team or individual performs. One of its functional roles is assigning work to individuals, ensuring every writer knows what they’re working on next, and when it’s due.
Airtable customization is based on templates — and the company offers one for an editorial calendar. This means getting started building an editorial calendar is as easy as clicking a button.
In addition to letting employees keep track of their schedules for content production, the application is designed to serve as a single source of data truth for a whole team or company. Building an editorial calendar with Airtable provides the level of visibility and flexibility that a modern content marketing team needs.
It’s easy to use Airtable, which is an important first step in getting users to adopt a new productivity tool, and companies can start using it for free with a limited-feature version. The solution is designed to be scalable, so it can grow alongside the company or expand from one team to multiple stakeholder groups. It also integrates with other systems such as the Google suite and Salesforce, to promote accurate real-time data across the content team and beyond.
The idea behind CoSchedule’s Marketing Calendar tool is that it can unite marketing projects, deliverables and materials in one space, making them easier to work with and view. While the calendar tool is aimed at the content creators themselves (rather than department leaders), it is meant for everyone to have visibility into work progress and completion.
The marketing calendar is described as “free for life,” putting CoSchedule in the category of simple, low-overhead editorial calendar options. If content team members are interested in trying out a new tracking process, they can sample CoSchedule with ease.
The more top-down aspects of content scheduling and editorial calendar management come as part of the fully-featured CoSchedule Marketing Suite. This platform has universal calendar functionality, so department members can keep track of planned and underway projects, receiving real-time updates as they move closer to completion.
The Calendar Organizer is customizable, so different types of content creators can use views that reflect the ways they work. The Marketing Suite also allows team members to tie many deliverables together into campaigns for easier cross-team coordination. When a project has to be rescheduled on the editorial calendar, a user can simply drag and drop it, rather than dealing with multi-step scheduling processes.
The Monday.com platform is based on creating visually distinct ways to track workflows so teams can coordinate their efforts. The Monday Marketing suite is the exact set of tools that will be useful to content teams and other related groups, including social media managers and project managers.
As with Airtable, Monday.com users customize the system with the help of templates to access the functionality they need. One of these templates is designed to generate editorial calendars or other kinds of content calendars.
The calendar template creates a useful top-down view that shows the expected timeline for each project along with the jobs’ owners and status. Other important parts of editorial content delivery — such as direct links to in-progress documents — are also accessible directly from the calendar view.
Similar to other alternatives, users can start with Monday.com for free, and “individuals” (teams of two or fewer) can use it free forever. For teams of 3 or more, the Monday Marketing toolset is paid software, licensed through the cloud at a monthly rate. Several tiered plans add more features, but all the paid options include not just templates but the ability to customize those templates as well.
Trello is another management platform that emphasizes a simple, visually striking design. Its clear, tile-based look is designed to show users the status of all their various projects at a glance. Users build out a board (essentially a blank space) by filling it with cards and lists consisting of deliverables in progress.
Trello is aligned with Monday.com and Airtable, in that an editorial calendar template, designed in-house by the Trello team, is available. Using this template equips teams with a ready-made blog post workflow, allowing writers and editors to guideposts from their early brainstorming stages to their publishing as finished web content. Any other activities that go into publishing a blog post — from design to development to social posting — are noted on a post’s card.
Users can attach files to Trello cards, which means the editorial calendar can also become a simple content management system. A card can contain the draft text for a work-in-progress blog article, along with an accompanying image generated by the design team. It’s also possible to add people to cards, meaning when a project progresses to a new stage all relevant stakeholders will receive a notification.
Trello is available in a free version, though with limits on the number of boards users can build. Increasingly powerful plans are billed per-user, per-month, with the most restriction-free package being the Enterprise version.
5. Google Calendar and Google Sheets
Google’s suite of office productivity tools is so ubiquitous, it has started to feel like the default when it comes to everything from email to spreadsheets. Can something so simple really be one of the top options for organizations building out editorial calendars? In truth, it can, at least for small teams that work quickly and efficiently.
The secret powering so many other content platforms is that they integrate with Google products such as Calendar and Documents. Content teams working on a small scale can cut out the proverbial middleman and build their editorial calendars in Google Spreadsheets, sharing sheets with conditional formatting that allow stakeholders to view and log progress and coordinate their content creation efforts.
Consider the advantages of Google Sheets: it’s free to use, simple and customizable. Offices that already use Gmail as their work mail solution don’t have to create new login details for their employees. Because the system is cloud-based and mobile-friendly, workers can log in to a Google sheet from anywhere to check the status of work or make updates to the calendar.
Using a content calendar template — such as the free one from Brafton — is a great way to jumpstart your editorial calendar or any other type of content marketing calendar. While your team may outgrow the Google solution, it can fuel your efforts as you get your content creation up to speed.
6. The Brafton Content Marketing Platform
The content marketing tools available in the Brafton Platform include an integrated editorial calendar feature that makes sure projects stay on track. When using the Brafton Platform, writers, content marketing strategists, project managers and other key stakeholders share a unified real-time view of calendar, which keeps everyone aligned and on task.
Users have a view of deadlines, tasks and delivery dates for each step in a project, helping content teams track deliverables from planning to completion. The steps are blocked out by an artificial intelligence algorithm, making sure there’s enough time assigned to every part of content production.
Using a tool specifically designed with marketing content creation in mind means the system is built to manage issues such as peer review, editing and search engine optimization — all in one place. Each of these phases is clearly labeled and blocked out on the calendar view, and can be adjusted as needed.
The editorial calendar is integrated with the rest of the content marketing platform, which means users can click through from this view to view all their active content marketing campaigns. Every piece of content, from outlines to finished assets with graphic design elements are accessible on the platform, making it a one-stop content marketing destination.
There are even more options beyond these 6 — for instance you can create a customized editorial calendar in the Hubspot marketing software platform or plan out your editorial strategy in the organization tool Asana.
The key to selecting an editorial calendar creation tool is that you find a platform that suits your workflows and that your employees will be comfortable using every day. Even the most feature-rich editorial calendar planning solution will be useless if the content team would rather ignore it than make it work for them.
Making the Most of Your Editorial Calendar Tool
Once you’ve chosen your editorial calendar tool, it’s time to make it into a useful part of your content marketing ecosystem. This shouldn’t be too hard — after all, this is what the technology was built for.
What does it look like when you put your editorial calendar to work? It could mean adding valuable new capabilities to your content marketing efforts, such as:
- Timely posts based on holidays and more: When there’s a holiday or a date significant to your company on the horizon, it pays to plan out your related content well in advance. That way, you’ll have blog posts and supporting content ready to go on the day, without scrambling at the last minute. With an editorial calendar, you can take the long view and match these posts with writers, giving them plenty of lead time.
- Evenly distributed workloads: Planning out workloads on an editorial calendar is a way to make certain work is spread evenly among your content team for months to come. Dedicated editorial calendar tools let managers monitor assignments on the writers who create blog posts, as well as the designers responsible for illustrations and the social media management teams tasked with promoting the content. This can ensure no one’s time is going to waste — and no one is overloaded.
- More precise planning: Even workload distribution isn’t the only aspect of content strategy that benefits from a clear editorial calendar. Department managers can take a top-down look at assignments for months to come, moving people to where they will do the most good and ensuring there are clean handoffs between the different stages of content production. From topic brainstorming to writing, editing, design, publishing and promotion, it’s possible to chart a clear path for each piece, as long as the plan is being plotted out on a calendar.
The central value proposition of an editorial calendar is clear: it’s better to have a plan than to make it up as you go. If you’re ready to take content marketing seriously and make it an ongoing part of your strategy, you owe it to yourself and to your content creators to pick the right editorial calendar tool.