After talking about WHY to plan your content in advance in the last episode, in this episode we talk about the HOW. In a few steps, we talk about how to go about planning your editorial calendar for your blog. We then go over several different solutions to use to make your editorial calendar.
6 Steps In Planning Your Editorial Calendar
- List any campaigns or launches you intend to do.
- List any general ideas you want to pursue in the next period (i.e. “I want to do more webinars”, or “I really need to work on ______”.)
- Look at the calendar and see if there are any holidays or events coming up around which you may run a promotion or other campaign.
- Get out your call to action map.
- Starting with your major campaigns or events as your focus points, begin mapping content releases around those dates.
- If there are any “gaps”, fill them in with content pieces which foster the audience relationship, gather market information, or will serve as a long-range content asset.
Hello! Welcome to another episode of Coffee Break Blogging!
Now that “Welcome back” is actually as much for me as it maybe for you. Probably even moreso, because I actually haven’t recorded an episode of this podcast in about a month. And that is because I was on a long trip. So, all the episodes that you guys have gotten in the last 4 weeks were recorded over a month ago. And then I went on vacation with my family. So my intention was to keep it on schedule.
Now I did have a little hiccup, apparently while I was gone. And I apologize for that. So basically, what happened was that iTunes was not updating properly from the podcast feed from the Blog Marketing Academy website. I know why now; it is basically the feed which is too darn big, actually. So I had to fix it from the RV. But long story short, we had about 3 or 4 weeks where the podcast was not being properly updated in iTunes and when I found out about that I was actually up in New Hampshire at the time and I was like, “You gotta be kidding me!” and so I had to drop everything right there in the campground, tethered into my iPhone for internet service and fixed the bad boy… and I did! We got it up and running. 😉
But that brings me to the trip… so I have not recorded an episode, I had to get back to the groove of things because we were gone for about a month in a long RV trip with my family. Went up to the New England area for the entire time; left Florida, drove North, we went to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the New York City area, went from there up in the Boston, we went way around Boston because I don’t want to get anywhere near it with an RV. Went up to Maine; we didn’t actually planned to do that but my father in law lives in Maine and we went up there to see him… Beautiful, beautiful area especially in the summer. They can keep their winters, though, just sayin’. From Maine we went over to New Hampshire; in a place I think is called the White Mountain area, went up top Mount Washington, crossed Vermont, went into New York, went to Watkins Glen… the gorge there; beautiful, beautiful area. Then went from there over to Niagara Falls and then went south again, back home.
So we were gone for quite some time and in theory, the podcast was supposed to keep on going for the entire time except for that little technical hoop-ha.
But actually, what I just told you speaks to what we are going to be talking about today because I put out episodes in advance so the show would remain on schedule while I was gone. In Episode 105 which is the most recent one that came out, talks about why you should plan your content well in advance… Something that I did do because I wanted to maintain that schedule while I was away out in the RV. So I am not going to repeat all the reasons why you should plan your content in advance. What I want to do at this point, now that I am back on the chair and getting myself warmed up again for podcast is I want to talk about how to actually go about it.
So how do you go about actually putting forth a calendar and planning your content in advance so that you can have some rhyme or reason to your content so you can get more traffic and actually plan proper promotions? So I am going to share with you a 6-Step Process that I have outlined. It is definitely a bird’s eye view kind of a thing but we are going to go and run through this:
The 6 Steps (In Details)
1. List out any campaigns or launches that you intend to do.
Now this gets to the business side of things but this is called the Blog Marketing Academy so we are jumping ahead a little bit here in terms of business side of things; and that stuff that is coming up in the future here on Coffee Break Blogging, is getting into the monetization and the money making. But assuming that you have got some of that going on right now, I want you to list out any campaigns or launches that you intend to run in the timeframe that you are planning. Now if you don’t have any money-making stuff going on quite yet, then maybe you can come up with one or you could possibly still come up with some marketing campaigns that are there for the purpose of helping you get traffic.
So for example maybe you want to run a contest of some kind… And so let’s say that you were planning your calendar out for the next 3 months, you will look forward to the next 3 months and you would say “Well, in month 2 I think it might be a good thing for me to run a contest.” and so, that you will put on your list of campaigns to run. But if you are selling anything; maybe you want to run a sale, maybe you are planning your fourth quarter and you see Thanksgiving, Black Friday coming up and Christmas and you want to run obviously, some campaigns around those time, put those on your calendar because it will affect the content that you create during those timeframes.
2. List down any general ideas that you want to pursue over this next time period.
Now, what I mean by that is you just look at your blog and your business with a bird’s eye view point and anything that you think you need to cover or do a better job of, I want you to plan for this in your content.
So let’s say that you know that you want to get in to doing webinars. And you have never done a webinar before but you have got to do that, first one. So you might be looking at the calendar for the next quarter and say “I think I am going to go ahead and do a webinar.” Great! Put it on the calendar for the next quarter.
Let’s say that you want to cover a particular topic and do it with more completeness so that you can rank forth in Google, stuff like that… or just a pure theme to content; great… Put that on your calendar so that you will actually know that during a couple of weeks, you are primarily going to be talking about one topic and all of your content surrounds that one topic; you put that on the calendar.
So at this point, we have got your marketing, your campaigns, your launches, your sales on the calendar; we also have a general theme to some of the content that you are going to be putting on to the calendar.
3. See what’s coming up that you are planning and check for holidays or any events that you might want to run some promo for, or any other campaign.
So I already mentioned earlier the idea of Christmas or Thanksgiving real obvious if you are in business of some kind you probably want to run some kind of a sale… But it can also be “made-up” holiday like let’s say the anniversary of your blog or maybe your birthday.
It doesn’t really matter what it is; you can totally make them up. But if there are any holidays or special events coming up in your niche during the timeframe that you are planning, you might want to have that on your calendar that you can plan content around it.
4. Bring out your call to action map.
Now we haven’t talked too much about this. It is a tool that I came up with. It is essentially a mindmap. And it is a mindmap of potential calls to action that you can run inside your content. And these calls to action could be for any of your products, it could be an affiliate product, it could be as simple as to post a comment or to tweet something; it doesn’t really matter… Opt-in to your list, get a particular lead magnet; it is just a mindmap of potential calls to action. In this step, all you are doing is compiling that and having them in front of you because you are going to want to reference these potential calls to action when you create your content.
I believe I have mentioned it before in the Coffee Break Blogging series that all content should end and probably have interlaced within calls to action. It should have a call to action and you need to know what that call to action is going to be before you create your content so that it jives properly; so that the content actually leads up to what you want them to do when they are done. So you need to know what those calls to action are and if you are unclear about it, then have to call to action map handy.
5. Starting with your major campaigns or events as your focus points, begin mapping up your content releases around those dates.
So what I am saying; let’s put it into other words, everything that we have made a list of; your campaigns, your launches, your general themes, any holidays coming up, all the things that we mentioned already, now I want you to actually pop those things onto your editorial calendar and I want you to map out some content to go around it.
Now let’s say you are doing a timed promotion; let’s say you are going to run a 3-day sale and you see it’s coming up on your calendar in two weeks. Great! You might want to have blog content, maybe even a YouTube video that mentions the 3-day sale. If you are running a podcast, you would want to make sure that whatever episode is coming out around that time period is going to mention your 3-day sale, okay? That is why you want to do it this way. If you are running a launch you might even have pre-launch content on your blog. So… You, knowing that that launch is there, it is going to definitely affect your editorial calendar during that timeframe. And so you need to know what is coming up on your calendar and then you need to sit down at this point and you need to map out the content that is going to go on your blog or your videos or your podcast during that timeframe.
6. Identify gaps in your timeline and purposely fill them up.
Now the last step here is that typically, you are not going to be in constant marketing mode. And so even when you put things on your calendar around this promotions, these campaigns, maybe even themes that you want to tackle; you are probably still going to have some gaps on your timeline. Now a lot of this is going to depend on how often you typically post. If you have a pretty low posting schedule; maybe a week or once every couple of weeks; there’s nothing wrong with that, you might not have these gaps or you might not even care. But if you do have typically a more frequent posting schedule on your blog, then you probably are going to have these gaps where you don’t really have any promotion going on, no particular marketing campaign going on, but you don’t just want to be quiet. So if that is the case, you want to identify those gaps in your timeline and you want to purposely fill them in with things that serve a purpose.
So let’s say that you have a week coming up on month 2 of your calendar and you are like, “Well, I don’t really have any particular marketing campaign going on right there.” Great. So you look at your blog from a strategic standpoint and you will plan content that fills some kind of a need during that timeframe; to fill the gap. And this could be just content on a topic that you want to make sure you got covered really well on your site; you could answer an audience question that you get a lot so you can refer to that blog post rather than type out the answer on your email… It could be strictly a relationship builder where you post something to your blog and the entire purpose of it is to getting engagement or to survey your audience and find out something that you might be able to help them later, whatever it might be. But you use those gaps on your calendar and you put them in there around the other things that you need to get done. Okay?
So that is the basic 6-Step Process on planning out your editorial calendar.
So, How Do We Do It? (in terms of the actual tools)
Now what I have done in the past was I actually used a spreadsheet. And I would keep it on Google Drive and it will just simply be a bunch of columns there. And the columns would be like the date that I intend to publish it, what format it is; whether it is a video, podcast, blog post, whatever… I have the headline there, maybe some keywords that I intend to target with that blog post; a deadline for me to actually have it completed… Things like that. And it would just be basically columns that I would set up in the spreadsheet. It was nothing very fancy. So that is the real down and dirty way to manage an editorial calendar.
There are also plug-ins for WordPress, such is one that is aptly named “Editorial Calendar“. The last time I looked at the Editorial Calendar plug-in, it basically just showed your blog post on the calendar, including drafts. So it wasn’t ideal. There weren’t any additional fields to go along with it where you can talk with your team or manage steps to be done on that blog post or anything like that. It was just kind of a general calendar view of your blog post which is definitely better than nothing. It is called the Editorial Calendar plug-in.
Another one that I am going to share with you and I have mentioned it before is a company called CoSchedule. Now CoSchedule, these are the guys that I use and they are used to pre-plan social media shares of your content in advance to go along with your blog post. But I just recently saw they made some changes to their system that allows you to actually CoSchedule as a full-blown editorial calendar solution which means that you can actually plan content on there and basically have your content, your social shares and all kinds of stuff all on the same calendar. So I am actually very quickly going to look into utilizing this. Like I said I am already using CoSchedule so now I just need to look into the new features and see how I might be able to use it.
But you need to find the solution that works best for you. I happen to know that many people simply use a spreadsheet for this and it works just fine. If you have a wall calendar, you could use that, too. You can literally write your blog post right there, on a wall calendar. I know some people who have gone out to an Office Depot store like Staples, whatever and they get one of those white boards and have the calendar printed on it. And you can just use a dry erase marker and literally just draw out your editorial calendar in advance on the whiteboard and then the next month you erase it and do it for the next month. So that is another way to do it.
I’ve seen other people who would get these big desk pads; the multiple sheets of paper and usually people would put them on their desk and maybe jot little notes on them, here and there; well, you can get those things that have calendars pre-printed on them. And then I’ve seen people who would actually rip every page off that thing, all 12 of them for the year, tape or something, up on their wall so they literally have their entire year in advance, sitting up on their wall with these calendars and that is how they plan their content well in advance. So it is actually a kind of a cool idea to get one of these desk pads with the calendar printed on the whole darn thing and put them all; 12 of them, up on your wall and then start rocking it out with some post-it notes or whatever it is that you want to do.
So that is some information I hope you found useful, on how to develop your editorial calendar. Here’s the thing… The big boys do it this way. The serious people, the people who make good money doing this, they do plan their content down in advance. The neophytes, the newbies, they tend to fly by the seat of their pants. And so you need to ask yourself… Which do you want to be? Do you want to remain in the newbie/neophyte category where you are not seeing that much result from your content marketing or do you want to play a big boy game? If you want to play a big boy game, I highly recommend you started planning out your content in advance. You might not plan it out a year in advance… Start out with a few weeks. And then you can get better at it over time.
So that is Episode 106 of Coffee Break Blogging; I will see you next time where we are going to talk about “Monetization” and how that has everything to do with our traffic to our site.
I’ll see you then! 😉