Would you like to know what blog content to produce each week, planned out a few weeks or months in advance?
Today, we’ll look at how to create an editorial calendar to plan out those blog posts.
If you haven’t read the first two parts, you can find them here:
Part 1: The Why - be clear about the benefits and why you are investing the time.
Part 2: The What - how to come up with themes and ideas for your blog content.
PART 3: THE WHEN
People groan when you say editorial calendar. It feels like another to-do on an already too-long list.
But, the less time you have the more helpful editorial calendars can be. The trick is to keep them simple and actively use them.
Editorial calendars are designed to make your blogging life easier and more organised. They help you plan out your blog posts, weeks or months in advance. No more dreading the blank screen. No more wondering what to write about.
The planning process also ensures your posts stay focussed, in line with your strategy, and useful for your customers. Planning makes for fewer filler or missed posts.
It doesn’t matter whether you use an app, a spreadsheet or old-school paper in a binder. Whatever system works for you is just fine. The key is to pare it down to the basics. The more convoluted the system you use, the less likely you are to use it.
Here’s a quick, two-step process for getting those blog post ideas you came up with in Part 2 into a strategic, simple-to-use editorial calendar.
STEP 1: ANNUAL OVERVIEW
No, you don’t have to plan blog posts for the whole year!
That’s not the point of the annual planning phase. You're simply identifying important dates, opportunities and monthly themes at this point. Each entry will be just a few words.
You also don’t need to go a full year ahead.
If your ideas are starting to look a little sketchy as you plan further out, that’s fine and normal. When you regularly review your calendar, ideally on a monthly or quarterly basis, you can tweak things, firm up ideas and add more detail or new opportunities.
So, why do we need an Annual Overview?
Because, you can plan your blogs posts ahead of important dates, give yourself enough time to build up to launches and promotions, identify series ideas, and plan for absences, busy periods or vacations.
Also, seeing the year at a glance makes it easier to spot gaps, repetition and make sure there’s variety in your content.
It also makes a very long year seem surprisingly manageable when it all fits on one page!
Always with your customers' needs and overall goals in mind, make note of:
New product or service launch dates.
National holidays that are important to your ideal customers and have a natural synergy with your business.
Ideas for blog post series (like this one), FAQs, quizzes and challenges.
Key dates specific to your industry.
Any advertising campaigns you have planned.
PR opportunities you would like to explore.
Vacations or absences you or your team have planned.
Be as vague and sketchy as you like at this stage. Ideas will pop in to your head when you’re working, which you can add later.
When you have a specific date in mind, for example a national holiday or product launch, you'll need to work backwards in terms of producing your content.
If you're launching a new product in the autumn, you'll need to start writing blog posts a month or two before, starting slowly and building up frequency leading to the launch week.
If you're a cake designer, chauffeur or florist, and the wedding season is an important market for you, you'll need to start blogging about ideas in the autumn the year before, when people plan their big day.
If you design handmade gifts or greetings cards and Mother’s Day is a big sales period for you, you’ll need to showcase your products earlier in the year (Feb in the UK and Apr in the US).
Over time, you'll find your Annual Overview will become more and more useful. Many businesses find they have a predictable annual cycle to some degree, and you can plan for this.
Remember, our blogs should always be mirroring and supporting our small business strategy and goals.
Consider the Annual Overview as a work in progress. The more you refine it each year, the more useful it becomes.
This calendar should remain flexible. Nothing you put on here is set in stone. If new opportunities or ideas arise, feel free to juggle things, delete ideas and add better ones.
Like I said, the more you use it, the better it will serve you.
Tip: Don’t start from scratch each year. Build on last year’s experiences, what worked, what didn’t, and improve your plan over time. Make sure to capitalise on last year’s evergreen or recyclable content. You’ll find over the first few years of blogging, you create a skeleton plan. All you need to do each new year is add new products or services, and any new promotional opportunities.
STEP 2: MONTHLY PLANNER
This is where you start to go into a little more detail and pull from the list of blog post ideas you generated in Part 2 The What.
It’s also important not to look at your Annual Overview all the time. You need to focus down on what needs to be done now.
First of all, take any key dates or themes you have on your Annual Overview and make a note of them on the Monthly Planner.
This will be your focus for this month.
Now, for each post you write, add:
A call to action (CTA).
Any visuals or multi-media you need.
What category/theme it falls under.
And, if you have a team, note down who is responsible for what.
Once you have a month planned in detail, it’s time to transfer each step into your diary or project management tool.
Tip : If you post once a week, the details should fit nicely onto one sheet. If you post more than once a week, you might prefer a monthly overview with just the post description and dates. You can then produce a Weekly Planner with the full details for each.
FROM CATEGORIES TO CALENDAR IN 3 PARTS
Now you’re ready to start writing and publishing your content.
Once you start this process, you’ll find ideas come more easily and the feeling of overwhelm reduces.
Review your Annual Overview, say, once a quarter. Do a detailed Monthly Planner each month.
If you commit to a simple editorial calendar, based on a small number of customer-centre categories and themes, you won’t be struggling for content ideas or fearing that blank screen staring at you!
Editorial calendars are one of the keys to successful and consistent blogging.
Could an editorial calendar help streamline your process?