Use your favorite search engine or ChatGPT to learn about editorial calendars or find a template and you'll get tons of results from businesses, blogs, content strategy and content marketing professionals, social media managers, etc. I'm not here to add another template to the mix, although I do have one I really like. I'm not going to give a step-by-step in how to build one. There are plenty of those available too. You can even ask ChatGPT to create you one.
Why then am I writing about editorial calendars? Because they're one of the most useful and logical tools in your arsenal as a content strategist when it comes to getting organized. Let's take a step back to what content strategy is so we can better understand why this organizational tool is so useful. Look no further than Kristina Halvorson's Braintraffic for some evergreen definitions of content strategy. For the purpose of this post, I'm going to use the tried and true:
"Content strategy guides the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content."Kristina Halvorson - https://www.braintraffic.com/insights/what-is-content-strategy
The editorial calendar is a tool that helps guide content creation, understanding of delivery timing, and governing what content you're putting out into the world. It works for non-digital media and is especially great for digital publishing. Whether it's merchandising and acquisition, proactive support notifications, social media, influencing, or otherwise, having a plan in place allows you to publish content on a regular schedule and be prepared for those moments when something happens in the world that makes sense for you or your brand to speak out on.
When I decided to start blogging again, the first thing I did was start brainstorming topics and potential posts. What am I passionate about? What did I want to talk about consistently? My family - my amazing wife, three kids, and one silly puppy - are my priority. They're my favorite topic, but I tend to reserve that topic for social media; Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter predominantly. They will no doubt find their way into this blog on many an occasion. But I want to write about ideas, problems, and opportunities in the content strategy, digital strategy, leadership, AI, and other work-related areas of mine. I also want to write about hobbies and my nerdy passions, like Electric Vehicles and sustainability, technology, video games, sports, running, travel, and any other thing I get inspired by and excited and a little OCD about.
I originally started a "Note" that syncs across my iOS devices so I can capture ideas whenever innovation strikes. When it was time to start my editorial calendar, I included an ideas tab where I can keep more detailed information. There's some redundancy between this tab and the actual editorial calendar, but the rest of the details allow me to keep the editorial calendar focused on WHAT and WHEN my thoughts are planned to be shared.
Now for the actual editorial calendar. Here's an early glimpse of the very basic editorial calendar I'm using for this blog. The goal is to keep me on track to post at least once a week so that once I hit my stride and have more of the backlog in draft status, I'll be able to better populate this tab and increase my output. I'll probably add some additional metadata to the tab, such as keywords, where I'm promoting it (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.), whether or not it will be a scheduled post, and anything else that's relevant. That said, I plan to keep it pretty basic, something I can give a quick glance to when reviewing my drafts folder so I prioritize making progress on what I plan to share next.
This very basic template works well for something like this blog. If it evolves and expands, I'll do a follow up post. For now, here's one of my favorite editorial calendar examples from work. Not long before the COVID-19 pandemic started, we had just wrapped up a planning session for the upcoming year. One of the priorities we identified was the need for increased awareness about content strategy and how it can fuel our digital transformation efforts.
Shortly after that planning session, Bekah Rigby and I started geeking out on what this content series could be and how we could operationalize it. After a brief brainstorming session, Bekah created an early draft of an editorial calendar that would help guide our work and next steps to content creation.
We then got to work on mapping out an entire calendar year of topics, optimal media for presenting the information, potential partnerships outside of our organization, further reading at external sources, and a number of other details. This was one of my favorite projects to work on and one of my favorite editorial calendar templates because of how it evolved from a simple, quarterly model draft to something that really provided the groundwork for our Content Education Series. Recruiters and hiring managers looking for more information on that project, please reach out. I'd love to chat with you.
As you can see, an editorial calendar can be extremely simple, very detailed, or anywhere in between. It's a great organizational tool that every content strategist should be familiar with, whether you're starting your own blog or running an enterprise content strategy practice. Do you have other examples or editorial calendar templates you prefer? If so, drop me a comment or share them with me on LinkedIn. I've love to check them out and include them in my toolkit.