If a content strategy is a document that defines your business goals and objectives, the editorial calendar is the action plan that spells out the process by defining the tools, tactics, timeline, and responsible parties.
Whether you’re working alone or as part of a team, an editorial calendar is essential for maintaining consistency with your content marketing objectives. And the more specific you can be in defining each editorial calendar project, the more effective it will be in serving your goals.
There are no etched in stone rules for how an editorial calendar must be written, but each project in your editorial calendar should answer the following questions:
1) What’s it about?
Every piece of content we create should have a clearly defined purpose. When I work with clients on content strategy, our research goes beyond just keyword research. We also delve into what actual search queries that are commonly used. Tools such as Ubersuggest and Ahrefs are great for this.
From there, we determine how to best address those queries given the target audience and the client’s expertise on the subject matter. The result is your content topic.
Begin your blog editorial calendar with the following:
- Target keywords
- The goal of the content
Topic + Keyword(s) + Goal of Content
Related: Creating Pillar Content for Optimal SEO
2) Who is it for?
Most businesses have more than one target audience, so before planning your content, you need to define the buyer personas. For any given topic, the most effective engagement strategy can vary greatly depending on the characteristics of the buyer persona.
Add another column to your editorial calendar:
Topic + Keyword(s) + Goal of Content + Target Persona
3) What’s it for?
Each stage of the buyer’s journey represents the activity the buyer is likely to engage in with regard to your content. What stage of the buyer’s journey is the content intended for?
- Awareness - High level content: industry research, blogs, ebooks
- Consideration - Increased detail: demos, guides, podcasts
- Decision - Product specific: comparisons, case studies, demos
- Re-engagement - Service-oriented: value adds, upgrades
Topic + Keyword(s) + Goal of Content + Target Persona + Buyer’s Journey Stage
4) What’s the format?
Once you’ve defined the topic, audience, and buyer’s journey stage it’s much easier to determine the most effective format. For simplicity, I prefer to have separate calendars for my blog and social media, but do whatever works best for you and your team.
Examples of content formats include:
- Social Media Post
Topic + Keyword(s) + Goal of Content + Target Persona + Buyer’s Journey Stage + Format
5) When will you publish it?
Finally, we can’t have a calendar without a time element. When is the best time to publish? It depends... Consider your format. Blogs are typically published less frequently than social media posts. However, this is also where you want to go back to your buyer persona. A consumer facing business (B2C) will likely need to publish more often than a business that's targeting other businesses (B2B). Ultimately, the frequency is far less important than consistency relevance, and quality.
Publish Date +Topic + Keyword(s) + Goal of Content + Target Persona + Buyer’s Journey Stage + Format
For social media, include columns for platform and hashtags. For teams of more than one, I recommend determining who will be responsible for each piece of content and noting that on the calendar as well.
As a result, your editorial calendar should include the following:
Publish Date +Topic + Keyword(s) + Goal of Content + Target Persona + Buyer’s Journey Stage + Format + [Platform]+[Hashtags] + [Author]
Finally, the calendar format. I prefer to kick it old school with an Excel spreadsheet. However, if digital is more your speed, there are apps such as CoSchedule and Asana. For a happy medium, HubSpot offers a free spreadsheet based editorial calendar that you can integrate with your Google calendar. Whichever method you choose, just get started. Research, plan, document, and create!