How to Create an Editorial Calendar

Written by Newspaper Humor Columnist & Social Media Expert

August 18, 2023
How to Create an Editorial Calendar

When it comes to content marketing, you can't just throw out a few blog articles and tweets and call it a day. You need to plan your work much in the same way a magazine plans out what future issues are going to cover.

For example, as I write this in July, some magazines are already making plans for their October and November issues, and some are even making early plans for their December and January issues. In that same way, retail stores are well underway for their holiday season shopping and they're shooting their catalog and advertising creative materials right now.

Magazines and retail companies know what their content is months in advance, and there's no reason that smaller companies can't do that, too.

In fact, you need to do it.

A company that wants to promote itself through content marketing needs to plan an editorial calendar in the same way a magazine or retail chain does. You should know what you're going to write about and share on social media a few weeks or even a few months in advance.

How NOT to Create an Editorial Calendar

Many times, people who want to create an editorial calendar think it means you have to plan out and write out every single social media update you want to make for an entire year.

They write 52, 104, or even 260 tweets in advance*, scheduling them on Buffer, CoSchedule, pr TweetDeck.

  • That's once a week, twice a week, or one for every business day in a single year.*

They write months' worth of blog articles all at once, and post them on their blog, ready to drop at a specified time. And they shoot hundreds of photos and record hours of videos and store them up until they can be pushed out to Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok.

This is entirely the wrong way to do it.

For one thing, it takes way too long. You'll spend weeks and weeks writing blog articles and shooting videos, and a few days to write those tweets, all to the exclusion of everything else you need to do.

There are marketing agencies and companies that insist on doing this, but these are usually companies that don't quite understand how fluid everything needs to be. Worse, they're the ones who believe in busy work for the sake of staying busy.

They believe in "work harder, not smarter," and feel you're not being productive or effective unless you're grinding away at mundane tasks. They don't believe in finding the most efficient and agile method of getting things done.

Here's WHY You Shouldn't Pre-Plan Your Editorial Calendar

Let's imagine you've spent weeks and weeks writing blog articles 12 months in advance. (Seriously, I've known companies that do this!) You've written a couple hundred tweets and pasted them into a spreadsheet to refer back to. And you've taken a raft of photos and videos for your Instagram and TikTok channels.

You're all set. Your managers are happy, your creators are exhausted, and your other clients are waiting for their 12-month content stockpile.

Everything's great, right?

(Narrator: But everything was not great.)

This is about the time where the whole thing goes belly up and everything you spent the last six weeks creating is all in the toilet.

The industry is disrupted with new technology. Or there's a new law that changes the way your company works. Or the client merged with another, or got bought out completely. Or the Chief Marketing Officer got replaced by someone who wants to revamp the entire department with their own vision of how things will work.

And what happens to all your brilliant work?

It's gone. Gone forever. Flushed away by an uncaring world and an unsympathetic CMO who doesn't even remember your name, let alone care that you poured your entire soul into this enormous pile of content.

All that work will go unused, its potential unrealized, your genius unappreciated.

Think it won't happen to you? It's happened plenty of times. And there's only one way to prevent it.

That is to build an editorial calendar framework without actually creating the content until the time is right. It's flexible, agile, and lets you pivot regardless of what happens to the industry or the company. And if things change too drastically, it takes literally minutes to come up with a new framework, so everything isn't lost.

That doesn't mean flying by the seat of your pants either. You're not just making things up as you go along, flitting from topic to topic or idea to idea.

Rather, you're going to build a framework that focuses on themes and ideas, topics and categories. The framework will be what guides your content marketing, so you know what to focus on in a particular week.

This article will show you how to create a quick-and-dirty editorial calendar in less than 30 minutes.

For this example, let's assume we're creating a content marketing calendar for a renewable energy company. We're going to pick monthly themes, break it down into weekly topics, and then come up with a schedule.

1. Select Monthly Themes

The first thing is to pick a theme for each month for our renewable energy company. Start by looking at special days that are celebrated in a particular month, like Earth Day on April 22 or World Environment Day, which was celebrated on June 5 of this year.

Each day will tell us what that month's theme is about. April will be Earth Day month and June will be World Environment month. Our content will be focused on that month's topic, even if it's on the periphery.

If we don't have a particular day to choose from, then we can pick a theme based on the characteristic for that month. Like focusing on how the Winter Solstice (December) is the shortest day of the year, so that month will focus on alternatives to solar energy. Or since autumn is when people start burning wood in their homes to keep warm, November's focus can be on coal-burning alternatives like corn silage briquettes.

Each month, we'll provide an in-depth look into our chosen theme and our content will be focused mostly on that topic. It doesn't have to be exclusively about the theme, but that should be the throughline of what we're sharing. So during Solar Alternative month, our content should focus on wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, and biomass.

2. Break the Month Into Weeks

Break the Month Into Weeks

Once we've identified the monthly themes, we want to break everything down into manageable weekly topics. Each week of the month will have the same topic, so the first week of each month is always the same, the second week is the same, and so on.

This way, you always know what that week's blog article will be about. Many of your tweets can be curated from news sources and other blogs about that topic. And the content you create can be all be centered around that one topic.

For our calendar, we'll break it down into the following topics:

  1. New technology in the renewable energy industry
  2. Legal and regulatory issues about renewable energy
  3. Business cases, case studies, and testimonials
  4. Environmental and financial advantages of renewable energy

During week 1, we'll explore new developments and inventions about specific technologies, like solar power, wind energy, water turbines, and so on. We can write (and share) news stories about a new development, reactions and analysis about new technology, or even predict what this new piece of technology will do for the future.

We can talk about large-scale solar farms being built around Florida or about how one homesteader uses a small water turbine in a stream near her house to provide all the power she needs. We can even look at new battery technology, or how van lifers use alternators and driving around to fill up the batteries in their living spaces.

In week 2, we'll focus on that particular topic, and the same for week 3, and so on. Then, when a new month rolls around, we're back at week 1 and we're talking about new technologies again.

We could also create a different schedule that focuses on the industries our renewable energy company serves.

  1. Residential usage
  2. Manufacturers
  3. Commercial properties (strip malls, office buildings, warehouses)
  4. Agricultural applications

You only need to create a single schedule to use for the entire year, or you can switch it up after a few months. Or you can get extra creative and create a 6-topic schedule that doesn't flow with the months. Instead, you just run 1 through 6, and start over again with 1.

Creating a schedule like this will help you deliver a continual flow of valuable information that won't overwhelm your readers, and it will serve as a guide for the entire year.

Writing and Optimizing Blog Articles

Each week, you should write one or two informative and interesting blog articles. Each article should be roughly 1,000 words long, and they should focus on exactly one very specific topic.

That is, don't just write about Solar Energy as a blog topic. Instead, write about "Five Ways to Use Solar Energy If You Live In an Apartment" or "How to Use Solar Energy If You Rent a Home."

Conduct thorough research, read what others have said about the topic, gather important data, and speak to the subject matter experts around you. If you're working for a company or for a specific client, your subject matter experts should be the ones driving the information on these topics, not the marketers, so latch onto them.

Yes, marketers know a lot about their products or services, but the subject matter experts — the engineers, the developers, the founders — are the ones with the in-depth knowledge. So interview them about your weekly blog topics (should take 5 – 10 minutes per article) and have them dictate all the good information. Then rewrite it to make it interesting, and you've got a blog post!

As I said, each article should be at least 1,000 words long, professionally edited, tell a good story, be optimized for search, and written in a simple, easy-to-understand manner.

Social Media Updates Should Follow Your Weekly Topics

You'll want to post social media updates, at least three per week. Whether it's Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, or even TikTok and YouTube. Whatever you do, make sure each update aligns with your weekly topics. They can promote your blog posts or they can be something completely different.

Share news articles about each week's topic. Did you find an article about a new house battery for solar installations? Share it during technology week. Did a manufacturing magazine write about using compressed corn silage briquettes to operate coal-fired power plants? Post that to your social media channels.

Write clever captions, use relevant hashtags, and add eye-catching visuals like photos, illustrations, and infographics. The whole point is to engage your audience with interesting information.

However, the updates should not always be about you. Your "New blog post on our website" messages can be about you, but everything else should be about someone else. Don't be one of those companies that uses social media as a free advertising channel. No one engages with those accounts, they don't see any sales results, and pretty soon the brand decides, "Social media doesn't work!" and they go away.

Engage with other people, especially in your industry, answer and ask questions, and leave replies and comments. Re-share/retweet other people's information, and serve as a source of information about your chosen subject.

Create a Content Distribution Strategy

Now that you've written your amazing blog articles, you need to share them. Create a content distribution strategy to extend your reach. It's not enough to just post the blog articles and hope for the best; you need to drive traffic to them. This is where you're going to get your potential customers looking to you for information.

Re-publish your articles in your company newsletter. (You do have a company newsletter, don't you?) Share them to your various social media channels. (Be sure to share one article at least three times per week on Twitter.) Post them to your LinkedIn Groups, Facebook Groups, industry forums, and other online gathering places (called watering holes).

Encourage readers to engage with the blog articles by leaving comments or sharing your articles to their own networks.

Collaborate with industry experts and influencers to create original content you can both share. Tap into their audience and introduce them to yours.

A content distribution strategy will amplify its impact and grow your readership.

Measure Everything and Adjust

One of the benefits of digital marketing is that we can now measure everything. We couldn't do that 30 years ago — you never knew how many people looked at a newspaper ad, watched a TV commercial, or heard a radio ad. Sure, we could guess, but that's all it was. We didn't actually know how many people read, watched, or heard anything.

These days, we can tell exactly how many people saw a tweet, read a blog article, clicked a link, shared a TikTok video, and on and on and on. So take advantage of that.

At the end of each month, evaluate the performance of your content. Analyze the key metrics, such as page views, time on site, click-through rates, retweets/re-shares, and conversations.

Also measure which pieces of content led to people subscribing to your newsletter, visited your product pages, filled out a form. And measure which of those items led to a sale. Ultimately, you'll be able to tell which tweets and blog articles generated the most revenue.

Identify the most popular themes, topics, and article formats that your audience liked. Use that information to refine and improve your future calendar, and create more content that matches the popular themes and topics. Adapt it to better meet your audience's preferences and interests.

Finally, don't wait until the year is over to make changes to your calendar. If you see that people love the theme of week 1 and barely react to week 3, change out week 3 to something else. If list posts have tripled your audience, write more list posts. If 2,000-word blog articles outperform 1,000-word articles, guess what you need to do.

Remember, data is your friend and it will help you make the continual improvements you need to build a successful content strategy. Of course, it should not drive your content strategy: the content itself should do that.

Content first, analytics second. Write content, measure the results, and refine everything based on the results you see.



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Final Thoughts

You now have a content marketing editorial calendar that you created in a matter of minutes. All you really needed was the framework to know what you need to do.

And you, being a good marketer to begin with, already know how to write blog posts, write social media updates, and engage with your community. Now you just have to write new content and new updates each week (or a week in advance) to fill up your content engine.

Write interesting blog articles, optimize them for search engines, distribute your content on your social media channels, and measure the results.

With this simple framework, you can drive your editorial calendar for years to come, all without writing a year's worth of tweets in a single week.

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