If you need a tool that helps with strategy, organization and project management, then an editorial calendar is probably right for you.
When working as editor of a monthly trade magazine, our annual editorial calendar helped us define the overarching themes we would be covering each month. And our paper-based monthly calendar (hey, it was a long time ago) broke that down into actual content that we planned to publish.
We wrote in pencil so we could easily shuffle content around. Today’s content marketers face the same content management challenges; that’s why using an editorial calendar to make sure your content strategy actually happens is a no-brainer.
What an Editorial Calendar Can Do For You
For marketers, an editorial calendar comes in handy for:
- Scheduling your own blog posts.
- Scheduling blog post contributions by guest authors.
- Scheduling the creation and deployment of other content such as ebooks, presentations, infographics and more.
- Tracking events that can generate content, such as conferences and holidays.
- Gathering ideas that lead to content.
- Managing and scheduling social media posts.
Done right, an editorial calendar gives you peace of mind because you never have to panic about what you will be writing about or sharing socially—you will always know in advance.
How an Editorial Calendar Works
Every editorial calendar is slightly different, but from a content marketer’s viewpoint, a good one will include:
- Details of who is writing content.
- What type of content you are publishing.
- Where you plan to publish it.
- What you hope to achieve and how you will measure it (KPIs).
You can even build in tracking by inputting data from your chosen analytics tools to see how successful your content has been.
Ideally, your calendar will also be able to track inspiration—ideas you know you want to build content around but haven’t yet decided how to execute. As Gloria Rand says, an editorial calendar can be a great counter to writer’s block.
The best way to get started with editorial calendars is to look at others for inspiration, seeing what works and discarding what doesn’t. We’ve rounded up some free editorial calendars to get you started.
WordPress Editorial Calendars
Since a lot of marketers work primarily with WordPress, it seems a good place to get started. Here are three WordPress editorial calendar plugins to help you.
- EditFlow combines a calendar with the ability to make editorial comments and keep track of your content budget. Some writers have even used it to organize their external content development as well.
- Editorial Calendar gives you an overview of scheduled posts, which you can move via drag and drop and makes it easy to track post status. You can also create and manage drafts easily. MakeUseOf has a great guide to using this plugin.
- CoSchedule is one of the tools I’m most excited about in the WordPress editorial calendar space. That’s because it’s supposed to take the functionality of other editorial calendar plugins and makes it even better. Check this video to see what’s coming.
By the time this post is published it should be in open beta. In the meantime, closed beta testers are using it to schedule social media posts—something it does very well.
Online Editorial Calendars
Some people have shared their editorial calendars via Google Docs. Here are two examples.
- CrackerJack Marketing’s Stephanie Schwab has a Google Docs template aimed mainly at bloggers, which covers content, platforms and audience. You’ll have to opt in to get access.
- The MuseyRoom site shares the template used by the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, providing some context in this post.
9 Free Downloadable Editorial Calendars
In addition to those based on Google Docs, which you can download to Excel if you want to use them offline, there are several editorial calendars already in Excel and ready to download. Here are some of them:
- Web Search Social has a free (opt-in) Excel spreadsheet that details types of content, key delivery methods and main channels. It allows you to craft social media statuses up front and then copy them into your delivery mechanism, such as Hootsuite or Buffer.
- The free calendar from Bob Angus incorporates product launches, events, marketing campaigns, promotions and key milestones. It includes several content types and has an idea tracker too.
- Janet Aronica offers a year-long calendar on the Shareaholic blog (opt-in) which incorporates post due dates and published dates, topic, keywords, call to action and events. It also has fields for tracking social shares.
- The CMI spreadsheet has sheets for blog posts, ideas, and existing content. The first for blog posts include topic, keywords, call to action, category and tags, as well as the post author.
- My Marketing Café has a simple template with some pre-filled data to guide you.
- Pam Moore has an editorial calendar template (opt-in) which covers monthly and weekly themes, post titles, authors and editors, key target audiences, the targeted purchase cycle, supporting media, syndication and conversion to white papers.
- Vertical Measures has an in-depth template which covers business goals and selling cycles in addition to some of the information covered by others. A full explanation is in this post on Marketing Land.
- Brandeo’s editorial calendar is marketing focused with emphasis on goals for each period.
- MarketingSavant’s template is a social media content planner that includes a mindmapping section.
Use these 14 editorial calendar templates as a starting point for creating your own. Be sure to come back and share when you do!
Image credits: Oschene/Ontario Wanderer/Simon Doggett