Despite our best hopes, there is no content fairy who will magically create the right content at the right time for us. The only way to do that is to form a content operation starting with a content calendar. 

At its core, a content calendar is a way to track what content you will create and when you will deliver it. It is similar to an editorial calendar at a newspaper or magazine or a programming schedule at a television network.

This article walks through why you should create a content calendar and how to develop one. 

Why Create a Content Calendar 

Content calendars, or editorial calendars, make content easier, more efficient, and more effective. They help by:

  • Providing the framework for conversations
  • Aligning roles, responsibilities, and due dates
  • Making it easier to develop continual audience conversations 

Transform your content strategy: A well-planned content calendar can transform your content strategy:

  • It helps teams produce relevant content that corresponds to the organization’s goals for a given time period. 
  • Content moves from one-off articles or videos to conversation streams.
  • Teams can visualize how all pieces of content work together to tell a story and achieve goals.

Overhaul your content creation workflow: With a content calendar, every topic can be planned across different media and created hand-in-hand:

  • Text 
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Infographic

Learn what engages your audience, and what doesn’t: Pairing historical data with key measurements helps teams know what content worked, what didn’t, and what elements play  well together.

Understand how content supports business objectives: Content marketing is (usually) a tool implemented at the top of the marketing and sales funnel. Planning can ensure content supports cross-channel conversions.

How To Start Developing a Content Calendar 

There are numerous items to consider when creating a content calendar, from what your content needs to achieve to the format your calendar should take.  

Start with your goals: As you begin work on your calendar strategy, ask yourself:

  • What are your organizations’ top-level business goals? Acquisition, conversion, sales?
  • What topics support those goals that also are relevant to our audience?
  • What platforms  are available for our teams to distribute content?

Determine team roles: Figure out upfront who will be responsible for items including topic ideation, calendar management, content production, content distribution, and metics. 

Track key items: There are several items that are essential to track in your content calendar, including the:

  • Content topic or idea
  • Person or team responsible 
  • Planned formats
  • Key dates
  • Channels where the content will be delivered or promoted
  • Tags
  • Outcomes/goals

Stick to what matters to you: Ultimately, a content calendar is for you. To help you and your team. So, worry less about tracking the right things and more about tracking what will help you. 

Pay attention to the customer journey: For many companies, it is helpful to map how the content topic maps to a phase in the customer journey. Tracking this can help you see when you have planned too much or too little content for a particular phase and then make adjustments. 

Decide on a document type: It is easier than ever to set up a content calendar because great tools are available. For a basic setup, spreadsheets work well. If you have a large team, a lot of content, or a more complicated content situation then it is worth looking at specialized tools that can make setting up and using your calendar much easier. GatherContent, Kapost, and Contently are examples of these types of content planning tools.  

Content Calendar Best Practices

To maximize your content calendar it is important to pin down your planning cadence, collaboration strategy, and workflow process. 

Plan content quarterly: This will allow you to expedite quick edits based on timely updates. And it will give you wiggle room in publication for newsworthy events. 

Plan content no farther out than 6 months: This helps you avoid overwhelming content creators. You also don’t want to get into a “set it and forget it” mindset that can lead to missed opportunities. 

Work across teams and channels: Doing this will maximize your effort and time. It can be helpful to meet weekly or biweekly to vet topics, realign on messaging, and support the group’s efforts. Be sure to include stakeholders from:

  • Communications/PR/marketing
  • Design/video/audio
  • Advertising/social media
  • Writing

Follow workflow best practices: As content moves through the creation pipeline, it can stumble and hit roadblocks. But there are ways to strengthen your process:

  • Build in levels of review: Aim for the fewest touch points to achieve the best results
  • Avoid editing by committee: The more cooks in the kitchen, the more complicated  and slow the publication process will become
  • Cross-train your teams: Make sure you have more than one person who can be a resource for every platform or task to avoid process breakdowns 

Be flexible: Content calendars are living documents. Be prepared for your content plans to change depending on shifting organizational priorities, pressing news items, or other unplanned issues or opportunities. But if you have a solid calendar setup, it will be easier to see how you can shift your plans. 

Moving Forward

Now that you have an understanding of what a content calendar is and how to start developing one, you’re ready to take the next steps. Here are some suggestions for how to go from idea to full implementation with help from Content Science:

Dig in deeper with a certification course: This article features content from Content Science’s Content Marketing Certification program, which is part of our Content Science Academy. The certification course provides an introduction to content marketing, and covers topics including brand storytelling, growing an audience, and running an effective newsletter. 

Get guidance from The Content Advantage: There are even more content marketing insights and examples in The Content Advantage. You can use the information in the book to help you put together a content calendar that works for your organization. 

Partner with Content Science: We are here to help you. If your organization is ready to get to work on a content calendar and content marketing plan, you can engage Content Science to work with you and your team to develop a strategy that will put you on the path to success. 

This article is part of our ongoing How To series, in which we help you learn how to get started in or improve across key content areas. Catch up with more in this series: 

The Author

Content Science is a growing content strategy and intelligence company and the publisher of Content Science Review. We empower digital enterprises for the content era by taking their content approach to the next level. Customers of our professional services and one-of-a-kind products (such as ContentWRX and Content Science Academy) include the Fortune 50, the world’s largest nonprofits, and the most trusted government agencies.

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