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Arment Dietrich

How to Create an Editorial Calendar

By: Arment Dietrich | August 24, 2011 | 
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Today’s post is written by Lisa Gerber.

Last week Marijean Jaggers invited me to guest blog about A Day in the Life of a Chief Content Officer. I mentioned our editorial calendar spreadsheet which is pivotal to any content marketing strategy, and thus, my job. It drew a lot of questions, the most popular being, “Can I see your spreadsheet?”

Well, every situation is different, so showing you our Excel spreadsheet won’t necessarily help, but let’s talk about how to develop your editorial calendar.

Let me preface this by saying that there may be better technology out there for managing your editorial calendar. For example, Ardath Albee recommends Mindjet, and WordPress has an editorial calendar plug-in.

We haven’t taken the time to play around with them, and Excel has met our needs quite well. We use this for Spin Sucks Pro, not Spin Sucks. We are building out an entire curriculum in digital marketing so our needs are fairly complex.

Let’s organize your content in Excel, shall we?

  1. Establish your infrastructure. Build out the architecture of your content by creating lists of categories. This is the most important step and it’s the first one so do give it your best strategic thinking.  You can go back, and you likely will, to get it right.
    • Broad topics: Can your subject matter be broken down into a handful (maybe five to 10 or even more) broad topics within which will fall many of your topics?
    • Progressional: I made this term up. Is there a progress in a linear timeline that can be followed? Perhaps it represents a time in your sales funnel, a place in your client process, or a place in the lifecycle of a product, or a customer?
    • Type: Content type can be divided into How-to’s, case studies, opinion pieces, interviews, guest blog contributions, testimonials, and more. Don’t confuse this with format. We’ll get to that in a minute. We all have different ways of learning. Some of us want to be held by the hand (how-to) while other’s want to know who else is doing it well or wrong (case study). And then of course, we all love to share our opinion on the matter!
    • Channels: Blog, guest blogs, YouTube Channel etc.
  2. Build out the spreadsheet. This will take some playing around, depending on what works for your particular situation. We’ve created tabs for each of the broad topics because we have hundreds of articles that will go within each broad topic. Within each broad topic, the columns represent the progressional factors. Each of those columns will have three or four subs-columns where I include publish date (this gets filled in later), deadline for completion, name of person to complete, format (video, article, podcast), channel and title.
  3. Fill in the spreadsheet. Now start adding topic titles as they come to you. Keep it open all day, and as ideas come, you can put them in the right spot. Sometimes new ideas may force you to rearrange things, so it’s constantly being fine-tuned. Keep a notebook everywhere; in the car, by your bed, heck, in the bathroom! So that you never lose an idea.
  4. Schedule it. This is where it starts to get fun. Now you can start to schedule when your content will run. Ask subject matter experts or staff to contribute pieces. You can actually appear to have your act together by release content in blocks with a theme by the week or the month– maybe you have a case study, a how-to article and video on a similar topic. Perhaps you wrap it all up with a webinar You can use guest blog opportunities to push tentacles out further. Look ahead for three months and identify any holidays, or events that are taking place that can tie into what you are doing.You can get super geeked out on it by color coding. I have different colors for content when is complete, content in draft form that needs work, and for guest-authored content that has been submitted but not yet edited.
  5. Cross promote and re-purpose. This is a separate post in itself. But I’ll wrap up by showing you how we cross promote and re-purpose:

For more information on content, read Four Content Ideas for Driving Inbound Leads, which Gini Dietrich re-purposed from a webinar that we held in July. You can purchase the archive of that webinar here for $50.

And lastly, if you’d like to learn how to develop content that closes sales from Marcus Sheridan and Gini Dietrich, then please join our webinar tomorrow (Thursday) at 11 am central time. $50 register here.

What do you think? Have you used an editorial calendar tool that you like?

35 comments
Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

I needed this post just to energize me to plan content for my blog and my website.

Normally I schedule in my head...which is very bad! Bad Alien!

KarlLHughes
KarlLHughes

@biebert great timing on that post. I was just looking for an editorial calendar! Haha

3HatsComm
3HatsComm

This is too much like work Lisa. ;-) Which of course I do with client projects, make sure we're hitting all the topic areas and not ignoring good ideas. For myself, I like having drafts in queue and being scheduled a post or so in advance. But I don't want to miss out on a good hot topic issue, if it's timely and I can get something written quick enough, so I try to keep my 'schedule' fluid. I need to plan more, so will bookmark this for future reference. FWIW.

rosemaryoneill
rosemaryoneill

Here's my issue. I'm a words and language person, and thus spreadsheets scare me. Your clear explanation has taken away some of my trepidation, though. Thanks!

Shonali
Shonali

I love love LOVE the editorial calendar plugin. I tried creating a spreadsheet, using a template I found a while back on Google Docs, but my bloggers didn't seem to take to it, LOL.

Adam | Customer Experience
Adam | Customer Experience

Lisa, I love the tips for organizing the info. I've been trying to work on my categories since doing the topic shift, so this is very timely and useful. Good stuff!

WolcottPR
WolcottPR

Very generous. Thanks for sharing a wonderful system.

SocialMediaDDS
SocialMediaDDS

@Lisa Gerber Great share....and, thanks to your advice, I am now the proud plugger inner of @wordpress Editorial Calendar on each of my sites....I LOVE LOVE LOVE organization....this plug in will help me stay on task and organize the posts in a really user-friendly way. Did I say I LOVE organization? ;-)

EricaAllison
EricaAllison

I heart Excel! I love this approach to creating an editorial calendar and will bookmark this to use in the future. Rather than posting on the fly and as the urge hits me, i do need to stick to a parameter based approach to blogging. Unfortunately, I've never been good at following rules or boundaries, but for creating consistent content, I see something like this as being very useful!

Thanks!

Ameena Gorton
Ameena Gorton

Ah ha! Thanks for sharing your secrets ... I love creating schedules - I just never follow them!

Marijean
Marijean

Thank you so much for your generosity in providing this -- I was fascinated by how many people wanted it (and badly!) I'm all for organizational tools and LOVE excel, personally, but I find that most communicators struggle with organizational tools and have to find what works for them personally. (I once had a client that ran her life with post-its. Messy.) It doesn't matter WHAT you use as long as you use SOMETHING that works for you. Again -- thank you so much @lisagerber !

lisagerber
lisagerber

@rieva Hi Rieva, and thanks! Hey. I need to follow up on an email I sent you... I'll do that now. :)

LisaGemini
LisaGemini

@spinsucks Any Lisa from Chicago who's a PR expert is a friend of mine. Nice to tweet with you!

NancyD68
NancyD68

I needed a post like this Lisa. I am considering expanding my personal blog and creating a new one about a totally different topic. I can see now how that would translate for me. I just did keyword research last night. Maybe will work on topics today.

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

@3HatsComm Oh for sure. we don't use this mack daddy spreadsheet for Spin Sucks. I schedule guest bloggers and it's written right in the guidelines; You may get bumped if, for example, Kenneth Cole tweets something really stupid. that way we do have flexibility. :)

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

@rosemaryoneill I KNOW!!! Us too!! But you should see this! I stare at it in awe sometimes. especially looking at all the RED items (which are complete).

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

@Shonali As I'm sitting here replying to you, I glanced at my new mail and I just got my euro-million notification, so I have nothing left to say. You can reach me in Mexico. bye.

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

@Adam | Customer Experience Oh good. it does take a lot of work at the beginning. the thing is, once the architecture is in place, it's really fun. sometimes I just open it and look at it. :) #geek

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

@wordpress@SocialMediaDDS will you keep us posted? Maybe we'll need a guest review for Spin Sucks if it's something worth recommending!

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

@sean McGinnis wow. Who hijacked Sean McGinnis' livefyre ID?

I can't leave it at that although I'm dying to! Thank you, Sean. :) (see? Now I ruined it.)

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

@EricaAllison I hope helps! That whole advance planning thing is pretty nice when we actually put it to work.

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

@Ameena Falchetto oh me neither! This might be the only exception.

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

@Marijean well thank you for the opportunity to guest blog. It's so funny, we never know what people will latch onto or find interesting. I felt rather self-indulgent sharing my day, but loved the interest I got in my spreadsheet. :)

I seriously hate post-it's, well except for things like leaving a note for someone.

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

@NancyD68 Really? Exciting! Keep me posted, and let me know if you have questions along the way.

Marijean
Marijean

@Lisa Gerber I liked her a lot, but she was a nightmare to collaborate with. Everything on paper -- and everything with a different color sticky note. Argh.

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