How To Turn Your Editorial Calendar into a Well-Oiled Content Machine

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The biggest problem most blogs face is consistency.

Consistency means not only how often you publish content, but what kind of content you publish. It's difficult to keep up with content creation and stay on track with those topics that your audience cares most about without losing sight of what your brand and blog is all about.

The only tool that can make consistency happen, in the long term, is an editorial calendar. It is the only way that you can effectively combine ideation, publishing, and team workflow into one.

Here's how to turn your editorial calendar into a well-oiled machine.

Finding Content For The Editorial Calendar

If an editorial calendar is like a puzzle, then you can’t put the puzzle together without having the pieces on hand first. It’s helpful to have ideas, topics, themes, and content types ready to go so that you can plug them into your calendar during your planning meetings. To track blog posts, podcast episodes, marketing campaigns, and more use this free content calendar template provided by Coda.io.

Topics and ideas. We’ve previously talked about a few ways that you can find great content ideas, using everything from Google’s autofill to doing specific searches on social media networks. Another tactic is to use brainstorming techniques, a finely tuned RSS reader, or curated social profiles.

There are other great places to find ideas for your editorial calendar, too, particularly if you aren’t new to the web and have a little track history to put to use:

  • Reviewing data from your website to see what readers are interested in.
  • Social data that shows what posts and topics get the most engagement.
  • Referring to buyer personas to see what problems your readers need help with.
  • Talking to your support staff to see what questions or comments customers often have.

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You’re looking to compile a list of both specific headlines as well as broad topical themes. These will be fine-tuned later, as the planning gets underway.

Types of content. You can plan to create different types of content, such as:

  • blog posts (which can be broken down into further types, such as list posts, interviews, or how-to)
  • videos
  • podcasts
  • infographics
  • online courses

Ensuring that you're publishing different types of content is a great way to extend a single topic and get more mileage out of a solid idea. It’s going to make your job easier in the long run.

Important note: You may want to combine your annual calendar planning meeting with broad idea generation since, as I’ll explain next, they go well together.

Learn More: Never Run Out of Ideas: 7 Content Creation Strategies for Your Blog

Adding Your Content to The Editorial Calendar

Once you know what kind of content you’ll be publishing, it’s time to plug it into your editorial calendar. When it comes to setting up your publishing schedule, you’ll take a four-pronged approach—annually, monthly, weekly, and daily.

Annually: Planning an annual editorial calendar gives you a big-picture view of your content. Thinking about the coming year helps you map out broad themes and plan for specific events or holidays. Think of the annual plan as the foundation for your editorial calendar, so make note of:

  • Holidays and commemorative months
  • Industry or niche events. (e.g. conferences)
  • Brand events (e.g. product launches)
  • Broad themes you want to cover (e.g. in January your content will focus on resolutions, changes, and reviewing the previous year’s success)
  • Specific content campaigns
  • Labor-intensive content types (e.g. ebooks, email autoresponders, classes, videos)

You’ll notice that trends aren’t on this list. It's difficult to plan for trends on the annual calendar, since they tend to flash up and die away without advance notice. Not all content pieces should follow a strict yearly schedule, but the structure is particularly helpful when writer’s block hits.

If finding ideas is proving difficult, it might be easier to lay out your annual calendar first, go through the ideation process mentioned at the start of the post, and then move onto the monthly calendar.

Monthly: Planning a monthly calendar allows for a bit more fine-tuning than the annual plan you’ve created. Monthly calendar planning helps you map out which team members will be writing specific content pieces, which themes will fit into the larger yearly plan, and which headlines or topic ideas work best. Your monthly schedule will plan for things like:

  • Twitter chats or Periscope campaigns
  • Brand promotions and sales
  • Content campaigns

It’s a good idea to work at least a month ahead, particularly if you have a large team, a high-rate publishing schedule, or complex content pieces. They take time to execute.

Weekly: The weekly editorial schedule is the detailed plan. This definitely has the upcoming topics and headlines, and you probably want your team members to be working a week or two ahead by providing outlines or some summary content for what they’ll be writing. Your weekly schedule will include:

  • Specific blog posts, with headline
  • Trends you’ve observed on social media
  • Which team members will create the content

Flexibility at the weekly level is important, particularly when it comes to trends. If you’re so locked into a specific schedule that you have no room to capitalize on appropriate trending topics on social media, your editorial calendar is hurting you.

Daily: Your daily schedule is a bit different than the previous three. It consists mainly of the times of day when blog posts and individual social messages are posted, with specifics based on what you planned at the weekly level. It is more of a repeatable timetable that you apply to specific days throughout the week. I’ll talk about that more in the next section, since it mostly applies to social media publishing.

Choosing Your Publishing Frequency

How frequently you publish content is based on two things: your audience and your capabilities.

When it comes to your audience, you have to know when they are online, and when they are most likely to read and engage with your blog. That will help you understand how much new content you should publish on your blog each week, how much new social content you should publish each week, and how much social promotion of that original content should happen each day.

All of that is limited, however, by what you and your team can handle. If your readers want five new blog posts a week, but you can only feasibly create three, you should publish three with an eye towards growing your calendar to five. A well-planned calendar can stretch three original pieces of content into five by how it is shared on social media as far as changing the format and the context.

When you review your editorial calendar, publishing frequency should be on the list of things to assess. Your audience and your team will change over time.

Free Bonus Download: Get a list of first steps to drive effective content creation with efficient production workflows – actionable info not found in this post! Click here to download it free.