Your Go-To Guide for Creating an Effective Editorial Calendar

Clean up your content marketing efforts with this critical tool

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When you lack a documented content strategy and schedule, the landscape gets messy. There’s no coordination or consistency. Your channels get cluttered. You miss opportunities and deadlines. No one shares the responsibility. Content creation evolves into chore instead of an opportunity.

It’s time to choose a different path – one that puts joy back into the content marketing process.

Tidy up your content

If you’ve learned anything from Marie Kondo this year, you know that organization fuels your ability to achieve personal goals. While her “KonMari” methods are designed to transform living spaces, you can apply the same approach to your content. When you’re organized, the work gets easier. You find new inspiration. You achieve your business goals.

Our content organization method comes in the form of an editorial calendar. This critical tool allows you to brainstorm ideas, create and maintain deadlines, and track progress. It also gives the entire team – marketing strategists, writers, sales, product managers and C-suite executives – visibility into your storytelling priorities.

Most importantly, it encourages you to take a strategic approach to your content. While many agencies and companies see their calendars as a tactical scheduling tool, we add more depth to ours to ensure key messages align with broader business objectives. More on this later.

Transform your calendar

It doesn’t matter where you build your editorial calendar. You can use a sophisticated digital tool or a simple Excel sheet. We use Google Sheets. What’s more important is the quality of the information that goes into it.

Follow these steps to ensure your editorial calendar makes content development – and your life – much easier.

1. Uphold your content mission

The pillar of your strategy, your content mission or tilt is your guiding light. It’s a simple statement that clarifies: 1.) Your core audience, 2.) What value you’re delivering to them and 3.) What outcomes they can expect. As Joe Pulizzi says, it’s not about “what you sell, but what you stand for.”

While you crystallize your content mission in your strategy, post it inside your editorial calendar so it’s always top of mind when deciding what content to create or not. If the content doesn’t pass the mission test, ditch it.

2. Take a thematic approach

Don’t organize your content calendar around product promos. Instead, develop monthly or quarterly themes that address your customers’ needs throughout the year. What’s important to them after the New Year? Are they stressed about back-to-school in August? What do they need to know heading into the holidays? The more you know about your audience and their interests, the easier it is to construct those broader categories.

Of course, you can’t forget to coordinate your themes with product launches, campaigns and company milestones. They’re important, too! But those activities shouldn’t dominate your editorial direction. Otherwise, your channels overflow with information about YOU versus THEM. You need to create value before you extract it.

Take cues from how some of the greatest news media platforms organize their themes: “The Body Issue,” “Sexiest Man Alive,” “Most Innovative Companies,” “Person of the Year,” “Tech and Culture Collide,” “New Year, New You.” These themes don’t spotlight advertisers or products – they speak to audiences’ interests first. The money – in the form of advertising and subscribers – follows.

3. Specify topics and SMEs

Add more dimension to your calendar with specific topics that connect to your themes. This step works best as a collaborative effort. Form an editorial committee made up of people from sales, customer service, product development, research, etc. to help you brainstorm smart ideas. Anyone who understands your audience can offer great nuggets of insight.

You also need to identify the subject matter experts (SMEs) who can either consult your writers on the topic, especially if it’s a highly complex issue, or draft the content themselves. If they’re going to write, make sure your calendar spells out article abstracts, deadlines and deliverables so they know what’s expected of them.

4. Diversify content form

Don’t settle for one type of content. Blogs and social media posts are great, but expand your portfolio with videos, e-newsletters, infographics, curated lists, eBooks, slideshows and photography. Sure, these assets aren’t cheap, but planning ahead gives you time to allocate resources.

One note: If you’re creating a high volume of different assets, consider creating separate calendars for each type of content. Whatever works – just stay organized.

5. Define the call-to-action

Perhaps one of the most important elements of your editorial calendar – where do you want your target audience to go after they consume a piece of content? Everything you do must be designed with that destination – the call to action (CTA) – in mind. Are they ready to talk to a sales person? Should they read a case study? Do they need a product tutorial? These are all valuable ways your content can support your business objectives.

When your content creators understand the CTA ahead of time, they can write/ design the piece in a way that ensures the audience reaches the next stage of the decision-making funnel.

6. Spell out deadlines

Successful content requires consistency, making timelines and deliverables super important. You might consider more than one deadline to keep you and your writers on track, including draft due dates, design due dates, internal review dates and, most importantly, a target publication date. Commit to your target publication dates, otherwise it’s easy to procrastinate.

7. Save those flashes of insight

Brilliant content ideas pop into your head that don’t always align with current priorities. Don’t push them aside. Keep track of them in a “Parking Lot” section and revisit them when you’re ready to plan next year’s amazing editorial calendar.

Find the joy in your content

You can further customize your editorial calendar by adding keywords, buying funnel stage, personas, notes and research, KPIs and results. Whatever information you need to make content creation easy and organized – add it in! Just remember to keep it fresh, timely and clutter free.

Remember, it’s not supposed to be a tedious tool. It’s all about helping you and your team stay organized. And find the joy in your content marketing efforts.

Are you ready to create a new content strategy? Get a fresh perspective from our team.

About the Author

Alex is the Content Manager at Muse. In this role, she develops editorial strategies, brand stories and press pitches that fuel Muse clients’ marketing activities. Prior to Muse, she worked as a content marketer and strategist for nonprofits and large corporations, including University Hospitals, Flash Seats® and the Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE). She earned her Master’s and undergraduate degrees from University of Dayton.

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