Two Reasons to Use a Content Calendar

Content can be overwhelming. There’s typically a lot of it, if a content manager is doing his or her job correctly, and it’s consistently being pushed out to the masses. When developing a content strategy, a lot of elements are involved like meta data, message architecture, keyword strategy and some sort of plan to attack search engine optimization. When just starting out, an element of a content strategy that is sometimes overlooked is a content calendar, also occasionally referred to as an editorial calendar.

Here are two reasons why a content calendar is a must for every content strategy:

1. It keeps you organized:

With so much content flowing in and out, it’s nearly impossible to keep track of it all if not for a content calendar. This is exceedingly helpful when there are multiple people contributing content. If it’s a blog with multiple bloggers, the content will be coming in from all over the place and it can’t just be published as soon as it comes in. A content strategist must make sure there’s an equal amount content coming out daily. There can’t be 10 posts on one day and none the next. All of this is far easier to keep track of when there’s a content calendar keeping track of these things all in one place. Many content management systems, like WordPress, have a function like this built right in. This is most likely because these services realize the extreme importance of a content calendar.

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2. It’s easier to keep strategy aligned:

Keeping the content strategy on track is extremely important because when brands sway away from their strategy, they often lose track of their brand voice as consistency, as well. A content calendar lays out your content and allows you to place it and distribute it in ways that make sense and will contribute to the message you’re trying to get across before you don’t have the ability to control it anymore. What I mean by that is, if you’re just pushing out content that you think aligns well with your brand message, you can’t identify any potential problems until all the content is already out there. With a content calendar, it’s easy to have foresight before the content is published to be sure the message you’re sending is strong and effective.

Content calendars can be helpful for a variety of different mediums, whether it be social media content, blog content, or any other types of content.

Publishing is Hard: Make it Easier on Yourself

You’ve thrown yourself into the exciting industry of content marketing and social media. Hooray! But wait, that means you’re also now a publisher since publishing content is a big part of your new daily responsibilities. And here’s a secret for you—if you didn’t realize it yet, you soon will.

Publishing is hard.

Consistently creating quality, effective content takes a whole lot of work. And this work certainly doesn’t end after you click ‘publish.’ But no worries, it’s time to make it easier on yourself—starting now.

Content Creation

Keeping up with your content creation needs is tough. Photo: Dawolf, Flickr CC

Plan, Then Plan Some More

The more time spent on creating a cohesive content strategy for your web content in the beginning, the easier the entire process will be for you. Don’t forget to include the following elements into your planning. This is, by no means, an exhaustive list but is an excellent way to get started. Be sure to write all this down into a content strategy guide for yourself, as you’ll want to refer to it regularly!

  • Messaging
  • Brand tone and voice
  • Target audience and personas
  • Keywords
  • Distribution channels
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Metadata

Create an Editorial Workflow for You and Your Team

Now that you’ve got a pretty good sense of what your content will be about, who it’s for, and how you’re going to get it to them, it’s time to create some procedures, policies, and a workflow. This will help you to gain momentum and keep up with the complexities of frequently publishing content.

Developing an editorial calendar (Contently has an incredible guide to creating one), a customized content management system (CMS), and your newly developed content strategy guide is going to be what sets you apart from everyone else.

An editorial calendar will keep you and your team focused on creating the right content, for the right people, at the right time. And a CMS customized with page and post templates for your specific needs is a tool that will keep you and your team publishing efficiently. Margot Bloomstein, author of Content Strategy at Work, says it best. “Above all, make it easy for your internal users to produce, publish, and manage great content.”

Kanban Wall For Content

A workflow strategy will get you and your team regularly producing content. Photo: DeanoPower, Flickr CC

Don’t Publish Your Content in Just One Place

Most organizations don’t need to create content for only one channel; that’d be too easy. They have to share their content across several platforms in order to effectively reach their audience. If this is you (and I’m sure it is) make sure you’re not publishing your content in just one place. Instead, take your topic for a blog post and rework it to fit across other appropriate channels as well.

Can that blog post work well on the main website? Should it be a microsite? Or what about a digital magazine, email newsletter, podcast, video series, webinar, ebook, or infographic? And don’t forget about your social channels! You’ll be surprised how much additional content you can create when you’re thinking creatively about its form. Fortunately, Hubspot has lots of ideas for not letting your content go to waste, which is definitely worth checking out.

Like I said, publishing is hard. But the above strategies to plan a cohesive content strategy and develop a workflow will surely help you to create content more regularly and efficiently.

Do you have any strategies to add? What helps make your life as a content manager oh-so-much easier?

Final…

 

Thinking

picture by Moyan Brenn on Flickr

Thoughts

Like any project that involves several deliverables, I initially found the idea a bit scary. This was especially true because this involved an actual company that I would be working with instead of a number of imaginary ones that I’ve used in other classes. Though the deliverable is just a proposal, I know personally I was less cavalier about my choices and recommendations since there could be real-life implications about the decisions I made. All of the imaginary companies and organizations I’ve worked with in the past had few issues and tended to be on their A-game at all times. That’s generally not true with actual businesses. 

Experiences

Although I was not able to connect with the company as well as I would have liked, I really enjoyed the experience of learning more about the company and the area. I imagine that actual content strategists are also challenged with trying to connect with clients who may be out of town or even out of the state. I really enjoyed the chance to use my research skills and techniques that were developed in my library classes along with the chance to be creative when developing the core strategy, thinking of topics, or creating content ideas for the editorial calendar.

Triumphs

My favorite and yet most challenging portion of this exercise was creating the editorial calendar. I loved trying to come up with content ideas. Though the demands of the semester eventually won out, for a while, I enjoyed creating my own editorial calendar for my own Twitter account. For me, coming up with possible topics is fun. I recognize that I was in a unique position because I was the only person coming up with ideas and therefore did not get negative feedback on my ideas from other people.

Although I enjoyed this exercise the most, it was also challenging because I also had to keep in mind that the client and their needs. As much as I would have wanted to add even more content ideas, I had to keep in mind that executing the calendar (assuming that it is accepted as is) is not the top priority of the store. I have worked in retail and even as a store manager, I was afforded little time on the computer and so I had to keep this in mind when creating the calendar for my client. Hopefully, the calendar would also be used as a template for future months so I wanted to create content ideas that could be easily repeated over time.

Tribulations

The only tribulation again was related to not being able to talk in more detail with the client. The Internet is a wonderful thing, but there are just some questions that must be answered by the client. Although there a couple areas where more information was needed for an accurate analysis, I think the proposal should still be of use to the client.

Lessons Learned and Tips from the Slightly More Experienced

  • Be more aggressive when trying to get the information you need from the client. They asked you to do a job for them. Help them get them onboard if they missed the train leaving the station.
  • There is no one right way to do content strategy. Otherwise, there would not be all these books on Amazon.
  • Use all your knowledge, not just content strategy-related, to develop a content strategy. That summer scooping ice cream may be of help when developing your strategy.
  • Have fun! In the end, you’ve created something that can help your client. You might have had a rough go, but if it were so easy, you wouldn’t have had to do the job in the first place.