It creates an organised, structured approach to content creation which will prove invaluable when things don’t go to plan.
Here, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about creating and using a content marketing calendar, so you can set one up for the new year. Why not give it a whirl?
What is a content marketing calendar?
Many people – industry experts included – confuse content marketing calendars with content marketing strategy. It’s fair enough – they sound similar, and the whole thing gets even more confusing when you throw content strategy into the mix. However, all three are actually very different:
- Content marketing calendar: An organisational tool that tells marketers what content they’re making and when.
- Content marketing strategy: An outline of the vision an organisation has, and the story it wants to tell.
- Content strategy: A set of processes for managing content as a business asset.
As you’ve probably guessed, a content marketing calendar is an editorial tool that’s primarily used to keep things on track. It works alongside your content strategy, ensuring all your content is created and delivered on time.
Why should you use a content marketing calendar?
A content marketing calendar gives marketers a bird’s-eye view of their plan for the year. While it might not be very detailed, it provides a great summary of what is being created and when.
A good content marketing calendar helps you stay on top of all your marketing efforts. It also allows you to plan content around key company, industry and public events, and to prepare for the year ahead.
A content marketing calendar ensures that all members of your team are on the same page and have a manageable workload. In addition, it can speed up your content creation process as you’ll already know what type of content you want to create and which direction to take it in. Who can say no to that?
When should you think about creating one?
If you don’t have a content marketing calendar, you should put one together straight away.
Luckily for you we’re approaching the New Year, so you’ll have a completely fresh start to work from if you get organised now. Give it a go!
Start off by looking at last year’s performance. Conduct your own mini-audit, then review the entire content production and publication process, looking for areas to streamline and improve. If there were any hold-ups or bottlenecks, think about how you could fix them.
This is also a great time to assess the effectiveness of your content, as this could determine the types of content you choose to schedule in your calendar for the coming year.
How to create a content marketing calendar
So, we can all agree that a content marketing calendar is a useful tool. However, creating one can be a little tricky. But don’t worry, we’ve created a step-by-step guide to help you out.
1. Create a content strategy and document it
At present, only 37% of marketers have a documented content strategy. This makes no sense, as having one is often attributed to content marketing success. Why? We’ll tell you!
Having a clear structure in place for content creation improves efficiency and allows a new level of control over the content creation process. Put simply, it prevents anything from falling through the cracks.
You must document your strategy so the whole of your team is aware of what you’re working towards. There are plenty of templates to choose from, so find one that works for your business and your team members.
As part of this process, create a workflow depicting each stage of the content creation and publication process. Make sure to put (realistic) limits on how long each stage should take, otherwise the process may take too long!
Bear in mind that you might need different limits for different types of content; for example, a 500-word blog will take much less time to write, or edit, than a 4000-word white paper.
Once that’s done, assign roles and responsibilities to your team members to make sure everyone understands his or her role within this new process.
2. Create a monthly output schedule
Publishing regularly is the key to creating a strong following online. So, you need to put a plan in place for how much content you’re going to publish each month. This could include:
- Blogs and related social media/third-party site promotion
- Email campaigns
- Social media campaigns
- Online advertising
- Written guides
- Email series
Establish how long it will take to create each type of content using the workflows you compiled earlier. Select a ‘delivery date’ for each piece of content and work backwards from there to create a monthly schedule.
Check with your team that it’s feasible to complete the desired volume of content each month. Try to make sure you have scope to include additional extras if needed, and incorporate a plan to help you measure whether your content was effective.
3. Find a content marketing calendar template to suit your business
Your content marketing calendar needs to be easy-to-understand and accessible for all your team members. It should also be simple to input new tasks and follow the workflow for each piece of content.
There are hundreds of calendar templates, you just need to find one that’s the right fit, or one you can expand/tweak to suit your company’s needs.
Templates come in many formats, including PDFs, Google docs, Excel sheets and online calendars. However, you may want to consider using an online platform like Co-Schedule as it includes notifications, warnings and an easy-to-read view of all your content.
Once you’ve decided on a template, you can add your regular monthly content to it to make sure it works.
4. Consider how your content marketing strategy could add extra content
Now we’re starting to move towards the ‘creative’ side of the content marketing calendar.
This is your chance to choose 5-7 core categories to focus on, and plan when in the year you’d like to address them. You can also brainstorm topics within each category to act as a framework when it comes to planning your content later.
In this part of the process, you should consider three things:
- Who is this content helping?
- How can you help (in a way no-one else can)?
- How will you know if you’ve been successful?
You should also use this opportunity to identify your key content marketing goals for the year and come up with ways to achieve them.
At this stage, marketers often decide to add in extra pieces of content to support topics or campaigns. That’s fine, just make sure you schedule them well in advance, so your team can make provisions for their extra workload.
5. Identify key dates in your company calendar
This is another stage of the process where you might decide to add some extra content to your schedule. For example, you might want to send out a few special offers at Christmas via email, or shock your followers with a spooky social media campaign at Halloween.
This is a great way to prove your company is relevant and engaged in your customers’ lives, not just focused on the hard-sell, so it’s well worth doing. Here are just a few dates to slot into your content marketing calendar:
- Industry events: Tradeshows, awards ceremonies.
- Company events: Parties, new openings, slow times, busy times, bank holidays.
- Public events: Holidays (Christmas, New Year, Easter) the World Cup/other major sporting events.
6. Start planning content around your content marketing calendar
So, that’s it; your content marketing calendar is complete! However, remember it’s a working document so you can (and should) always come back to make changes. This is particularly true if your content marketing strategy or overall business goals change.
Once your calendar is up and running, you can start developing plans for individual campaigns and pieces. We’d suggest trying to work a month in advance, that way if any additional content crops up you’ll have the capacity to deal with it without panicking too much.
It’s easy enough to create a cracking content marketing calendar, sticking to it is the hard part. However, if you keep your eye on it and your team, you should get the year off to a flying start. Good luck!