Everything you need to consider to create your 12-month editorial calendar
There’s nothing more exciting, or difficult, than embarking upon your brand’s editorial calendar for the year. As we begin to approach 2017, it’s important that we start thinking of what makes an effective editorial calendar.
So much goes into consideration of what your editorial calendar should include (and even what it shouldn’t include). First, you need to consider what the big picture of your editorial vision looks like and how that ladders up to the corporate strategic objectives and MarCom goals. Then you’ll want to understand what your objectives are for the editorial calendar and how they are represented through content verticals and themes throughout the year. But at the end of the day, the brand needs to answer these questions if they want to accomplish good editorial planning:
- Why are you creating content? In other words, what do you hope creating content will accomplish for you? This is where brands must ask themselves about their priorities, objectives and business goals. Are you looking to generate leads? Increase your thought leadership output? Drive people to your marketing site? Your content marketing goals shape your editorial calendar to determine what you publish, where you publish, how often, and so on and so on.
- Who are you creating content for? Obviously, keeping your target audience top of mind is essential to create content and follow through with your content marketing.
- What skills and resources do you have at your disposal? Your editorial calendar needs to function as something your content marketing team can follow through with. Whether it’s a dedicated team of in-house writers and editors or a content marketing agency, the editorial calendar must match the skills and resources you have at hand. Don’t plan for something you can’t properly execute.
Brands need to answer these questions all of the time when planning for an editorial calendar. Here’s what it needs to include.
The major factors you need to include in your editorial calendar
Once you’ve considered the higher-level objectives and themes, you’ll need to understand how other factors play into your content all year round. Think of each of these as a matrix that you can run against your editorial calendar and all the ideas within it.
As you know (or you’ll be sure to find out), whoever’s reading your content is not necessarily who’s using your product or service. Therefore, your brand can’t shoehorn their buyer personas into an editorial calendar. They’ll need to create distinctive buyer and audience personas, though if it helps, you can think of an audience persona as a type of buyer persona, just exclusively for content.
Know your audience, know your channel, know your brand. Whether you are a B2C brand or a B2B brand, the channels your brand would optimize vary wildly. We know that content should live on your blog first and foremost, but what about promoting it on other partner sites or using a discovery platform to drive reach and traffic? What about the type of channel? Is it an inherently social B2C channel targeting consumers, or is the content used in a LinkedIn group on behalf of a B2B executive? No matter the case, the editorial calendar must consider where this content will live and where it’s being distributed.
Location, location, location—it matters, even when you’re marketing to people online. The main question to answer this: where is your audience? “North America” is not the same location as urban cities on the west coast of Canada. And to get back to channels, Facebook is not the same as Twitter, Pinterest, or Etsy. Being as specific as possible can help tailor your content for your audience.
“Stakeholder Objectives”—what does that even mean? Well, this term refers to any parties within your brand who have their own objectives you must consider. Think of the departments that have specific content requirements throughout the year. Does one team need lower funnel content throughout the year while another team needs top-of-funnel content in the spring? These needs will help shape the calendar.
If you aren’t starting from scratch with content marketing , you’re bound to have some historical data. Historical data refers to analytics collected from past periods that can help inform your decisions in the future. Almost all brands collect historical data from a variety of places—third-party software, Google Analytics, Omniture, etc.—so it’s actually quite easy to see how their content has performed in the past. “The past,” of course, can be broken down by year, quarter, month, week, averages, etc. and depending on the expertise of the content marketing firm (ahem), more regression analysis over longer ranges of time can be analyzed to reveal more sophisticated insights.
What’s trending in your industry at the moment—or over the course of 12 months? That’s where researching and discovering search trends come in handy. Through keyword research you can track which keywords are “trending” and which keywords you can capitalize on throughout the course of the calendar year. Tools like Google Trends make this easy, and skilled content strategists and technologists can find insights others cannot.
Just like with personas, your competitors in the content world may not be the same as your competitors in the business world. When we refer to the competitive landscape we refer to identified sites and publications that offer similar content to your brand. Your brand should be well aware of what their competitors are doing in the content space, and, most importantly, what they are doing well in the content landscape. This can be done through a variety of tools to provide an overview of what’s successful in the landscape.
All marketing calendars—including editorial calendars—consider events, holidays and seasons. For example, a lifestyle brand will know that new seasons provide new lifestyle content opportunities, in addition to what seasons are key drivers of sales and revenue. In short, content marketing needs to play to key events, traditions, and seasonal trends.
How to create an effective editorial calendar
So you understand what the big picture needs on a macro level—objectives, resources—and what needs to be included on a micro level—audience personas, historical data, etc.—but how can you create an effective editorial calendar? Better yet, how can you make it all fit together?
There’s no shortcut to do it, that’s for sure. It takes a significant amount of effort to wrangle different priorities, focus efforts based on resources, and clarify how these align to the overall business—but you get out what you put in. Your calendar will be an organic, living document that shapes and shifts as you consider all the ideas and factors that run against them.
And finally, in our humble opinion, it’s best to turn to a content marketing agency that can bring your editorial vision to life. We’re absolutely biased, but in our findings an editorial calendar is too important to leave to chance, inexperience, or mismanaged hands. A great editorial calendar is a roadmap and depending on whose hands it’s in, you can meander off the track, wander aimlessly and lost as you scramble to get back on course. Or you can slowly, but surely, first reach your major milestones and finally your destination.
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