If you’re anything like me, you’re consistently working out of at least 20 browser tabs, four journals, a yellow legal pad or two, and myriad Post-it notes stuck around your computer monitor.
To the average director, it’s nothing short of chaos. To the blogger, it’s evidence of a (desperate) need for an editorial calendar.
What is an editorial calendar?
An editorial calendar is a visual workflow that helps a team of content creators schedule their work on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Editorial calendars can help you track content types, promotional channels, authors, and most importantly, publish dates.
Without a mutually agreed-upon system for planning, writing, and scheduling content every week, you can find yourself in a pile of missed deadlines, unedited blog posts, and a fair amount of team tension.
There’s no such thing as a perfect editorial calendar — it all depends on the needs of your team. Nonetheless, there are several questions you should ask yourself to determine what your editorial calendar should look like. These include:
- How frequently are you publishing content? Do you have stuff going live every day? Once a week? Perhaps multiple times a day? Find out how often you publish to figure out the best way to visualize your editorial calendar.
- Do you create more than one type of content? If you upload as many videos to YouTube as you publish articles to your company blog, your editorial calendar will need to distinguish between the two.
- How many people will use this editorial calendar? The best editorial calendars allow multiple people to brainstorm, collaborate, and offer feedback on assignments in real time — directly on the calendar.
- What are the various stages content goes through before it’s published? How complex is your content pipeline? Is there a substantial review or approval process that each piece of content goes through? Make sure your calendar can distinguish between two similar assignments that are in different stages of creation.
- What format will you use to organize this calendar? You’ll want to choose the system that best aligns with your goals and your team’s workflows.
Put these points into practice by learning how to create your content calendar. Or, keep reading to learn how an editorial calendar can boost your business.
Editorial Calendar Benefits
While an editorial calendar can take time to organize and put in place, this strategy can make a huge impact on your content marketing.
Improves content quality and consistency.
Planning content in advance makes it easier for you to create consistent content your audience can rely on.
Plus, an editorial calendar gives you a structure for creating batches of content. This lets you focus on ideation and content creation separately, giving you more energy and focus to create quality content.
More chances to innovate.
According to 2022 HubSpot research, more than half of marketers pivoted on strategy in 2021. Of those, 83% pivoted two to four times.
Change is the only constant in marketing strategy. With an editorial calendar, you have a clear view of what content aligns with your new strategy and where to innovate.
This approach also gives you time and space to think of creative angles for each piece of content.
Content marketing has a lot of details. Not everyone needs to know what blog or hashtag gets posted when, but an editorial calendar can help every member of your team stay accountable for their pieces in the puzzle.
As your business grows, you might find some processes will also grow more complicated. HubSpot research says that marketers spend an average of 5 hours a day on admin and operational tasks.
But an editorial calendar can simplify these processes. It can give your team an easy overview of an entire project, quarter, or campaign from start to finish. This helps different departments and teams coordinate and streamline their efforts.
18% of marketers have a hard time finding top talent and 17% struggle with team training.
Simplified processes and better accountability mean that your team can work better together. This lets each member of your team spend more time using their unique abilities to create great content for your business. It also simplifies training and retaining your best employees.
Improves your team experience.
According to 2022 Reclaim.ai research, 76.6% of surveyed marketers say more time for focused work would resolve their burnout.
An editorial calendar creates a consistent plan and a better employee experience. This reduces the stress and uncertainty that can lead to burnout in marketing teams.
Offers clearer data insights.
Editorial calendars offer a clear record of:
- Content types
- Assets to include in published content
- When to publish
This record makes it easier to track content performance. With this tracking in place, your team will be set to optimize and improve your content to meet your goals.
How to Create an Editorial Calendar
A successful editorial calendar is a living project that your business will change as you grow and scale your social media and content strategy. To start the process of creating your own, we have some resources to simplify the process.
With all the different types of calendars you can create, we’ll discuss the types you can choose, and how to plan the rollout of your content.
1. Define your target audience and content themes.
Before you begin plugging content into your editorial calendar, be sure to review your content strategy. Scan for content topics, buyer persona needs, and training your team might need to create winning content.
These details can help you schedule the right content at the right time.
2. Outline content goals and KPIs.
For effective resource management, use your goals and metrics as a jumping-off point for your editorial calendar. This can simplify reporting and make it easier to quickly gauge the performance of new strategies.
3. Choose a format for organizing your editorial calendar.
Talk to your team about their preferences and work habits before picking a format. Ask each team member:
- Where they’re working from
- What tools they’re using
- How they organize their content creation
- Collaboration needs
Editorial Calendar Formats
An editorial calendar is essentially a planning tool. There’s no such thing as a perfect editorial calendar, but some formats will be better than others at helping you solve your team’s goals.
Here are some of the different ways to format your editorial calendar, and the pros and cons of each format:
Editorial Calendar Spreadsheet
A spreadsheet is a simple way to organize your content.
- Easy data aggregation and organization
- Short learning curve and accessible, making collaboration easy
- Easy to customize
- Integration with calendar apps and content management tools
- Hard to visualize your calendar
- Limited options for collaboration
- Difficult to get a clear breakdown at a glance
- Can be clunky for tracking multiple channels
A content calendar is a more detailed version of the editorial calendar spreadsheet and helps users visualize content timing.
- Makes it easier to organize content details
- The most straightforward way to know what’s going out and when
- Can include keywords, color coding, tags, assignments, and content types
- There’s more to project and content management than publishing dates
- Can be time-consuming to put together
- A calendar may not always be effective on its own
Project Management Tool
- Presents a clear editorial workflow
- Designed for complex project management
- Offer collaboration and visualization like a Kanban board
- Can be overwhelming
- Has a steeper learning curve for new team members
Editorial Calendar Applications
- Offers easy access to your editorial calendar
- Has choices for content creation, planning, and assigning
- Includes collaboration tools and analytics
- Can be expensive
- May be difficult to customize
Choose the best format and decide on how you’ll implement it. Pick the tool or platform that offers the features or interface your company needs most.
4. Designate your main marketing channels.
Most businesses will be creating distinct content and messaging for each marketing channel. So, choose carefully. Once you’ve selected your top channels, make thoughtful decisions about how you want to organize this content in your editorial calendar.
Editorial calendars are highly visual tools. If you’re not a visual thinker, keep in mind that 65% of people are visual learners, so other people on your team may be.
Make your editorial calendar easier to interpret with visual cues. Differentiating your calendar with a different color for each channel you post on can cut confusion for your team. You can also divide post types or subject matter using visuals to make sure you schedule the right content at the right time.
5. Assign roles and responsibilities.
Roles and responsibilities can seem obvious when a content strategy launches, but this clarity can fade over time. So, be sure to details like writing, editing, publishing, and image creation in your calendar.
This simple step makes processes, roles, and deadlines clear. It also creates accountability for every member of your team.
6. Study your competition’s posting frequency.
Look to other businesses posting in the same industry or niche as yours. Then, study which competitors are successful in capturing attention and how they got to that level of success.
By no means should you copy others’ content subject matter or the exact dates or times they post. Instead, pull inspiration and make your own editorial calendar to grab attention on the days or times competitors aren’t posting. This tactic can also help you find gaps in your content strategy.
7. Plan your posts consistently.
Content planning is an incredibly important component of any strong marketing strategy.
As Carsyn LeClere, Strategist at Blue Frog, told me, “Content planning helps provide a better view of all your marketing initiatives and how they play into each other. It’s important to have because it ensures you don’t duplicate content efforts, cannibalize a topic, miss any initiatives, or neglect any part of the buyer’s journey.”
She adds, “Being able to plan content at a high level allows you to focus on content that matters and makes it easier to produce content that’s consistent with your brand story.”
Organizing your editorial calendar for posting on the same weekly schedule can drive exposure for your content and improve engagement.
Posting on a frequent basis keeps your followers coming back for more. Social media platforms reward profiles that drive this engagement with more visibility. And search engines reward content that searchers love to click. After all, these platforms want to capture and maintain people’s attention too.
When you create a patterned or consistent posting cycle, you’re using each channel in an optimized manner.
For example, if you publish email tips on Tuesdays, your audience will rely on those tips and look for them. If you publish the same useful tips at random, your target audience might miss that content. So, regular posting keeps your audience engaged and builds a stronger connection with them.
Creating a content calendar that has a clear schedule of posts will help you stay consistent and maintain a steady flow of content.
8. Audit and adapt your editorial calendar as necessary.
It may take some time to perfect your editorial calendar.
If you begin with low engagement in the first couple of months, run a content audit and adapt your content calendar to better engage your followers.
Then, schedule regular audits to measure your content performance and use your content calendar to track the value of any strategic changes.
This is how creating an editorial calendar will make your content marketing more streamlined, organized, and effective.
Editorial Calendar Examples
To help you implement an editorial calendar, we’ve also included real examples from a few of the most successful content teams out there. Check them out below and find out what makes their calendar so useful.
The interactive HubSpot Editorial Calendar Template was built for writers and content strategists to outline their posting strategy.
Included are prompts for the content’s title, meta description, URL, CTA, and more. This template is completely free and can be used on both Google Sheets and Excel.
2. Buffer’s Editorial Calendar
This is the actual editorial calendar of Buffer, a social media content scheduling platform.
Naturally, the company’s content is supported by an editorial calendar that describes an assignment’s author, title, publish date, and where it is in the company’s editorial workflow. Content can be in the “Ideas” stage, in the “Pipeline,” “In Progress,” or “Editing”.
Each rectangular tile shown above represents an individual piece of content — whether it’s a blog post, video, or even a podcast episode.
As you might be able to tell, Buffer’s editorial calendar is built on Trello, a popular project management tool.
And although you can use Trello more than one way, Buffer uses most of its available features so everyone has the information they need within a few clicks — regardless of what they do for the company and how the calendar affects their work.
3. Unbounce’s Editorial Calendar
Platform: Google Sheets
This is the editorial calendar of Unbounce, a creator of landing pages and related conversion tools for marketers as well as a HubSpot integration partner.
Unlike Buffer, this company uses Google Sheets to manage its entire content production, and the way they’ve customized the spreadsheet above would be pleasing to the eyes of any content creator.
In addition to organizing their projects by month, what you might notice from the screenshot above is that Unbounce also sorts their content by the campaign they’re serving — as per the first two columns on the left-hand side.
This allows the business to see what multiple assignments — listed vertically down the third column — have in common, and track content that extends beyond the Unbounce blog.
Shown below, the Unbounce blog has a separate editorial calendar in Google Sheets that allows the blog to work alongside the larger company initiatives. Nonetheless, using spreadsheets for both content workflows has proven to be the best choice for the company’s growing operation.
“We’re a small content team, so other platforms would likely overcomplicate things,” says Colin Loughran, editor-in-chief at Unbounce.
Ultimately, this editorial calendar keeps Colin’s team in sync.
“While we try to lock dates a few weeks in advance,” he explains, “the reality is that sometimes we need to make changes very quickly. A product launch might move into a slot we’d planned for something else, for instance, or a guest contributor will be delayed in delivering a revised draft. When that’s the case, having a centralized resource that everyone can check is a necessary safety blanket.”
4. Digital Authority’s Content Calendar
Digital Authority, a marketing agency that specializes in content and social media, distinguishes between its big-picture content goals vs. smaller content-related tasks.
Digital Authority uses CoSchedule to plan out timelines for pieces such as blogs and social media posts. The advantage of this is the color categorization, calendar and task views, and the ability to create social posts across platforms from within one portal.
There are also features to keep the team actionable, on the same page, and agile with drag-and-drop features.
5. Hootsuite’s Content Calendar
Platform: Google Sheets and Hootsuite Planner
Hootsuite, another social media scheduling platform, has a ton of content to publish both daily and far out in advance. That makes their content calendar a major component of their production strategy.
Due to the volume, the Hootsuite team creates content far in advance using Google Sheets to plan and organize across channels. Once the strategy is created and executed, posts that are ready to be published are represented on Hootsuite Planner.
Content Calendar Sample
Ready to make your own editorial calendar?
No matter which platform you ultimately want to work out of, a spreadsheet can help you take inventory of what content you have and how quickly it moves from start to finish.
Try our free Blog Editorial Calendar Templates.
Use the templates linked above to organize, categorize, and color code. These templates can help you target the right readers, optimize posts with the best keywords, and pair each topic with a killer call-to-action.
In this download, we’ve included three different templates for you to choose from.
Why three? We recognize that not all content teams are the same. While some feel most efficient with a centralized editorial calendar solution, others may need the gentle push of an upcoming deadline right on their calendar.
So, you’ll have access to all three templates in Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, and Google Calendar.
Plan Out Your Editorial Calendar with Ease
With a little customization, your blog calendar will be running smoothly, leaving you time to be the content-writing, lead-generating machine you strive to be.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published May 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.