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In: Content Marketing

Content Strategy From Start to Finish: An Editorial Calendar That Actually Works for You

by Priscilla Liang - Apr 05, 2016
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Creating a content strategy for your brand can feel like throwing spaghetti at the wall and praying something sticks. Not only is this process messy, even when something does work, there’s no way to determine how or why it did. We’d like to help you take the randomness out of the equation. In the coming weeks, our comprehensive content strategy series will teach you how to develop your brand narrative, set up a pristine editorial calendar that actually works, and track how impactful your content is.
 


Part III: How to Set Up an Editorial Calendar That Actually Works


 
If you work in Content Marketing and don’t have an Editorial Calendar that actually works, we feel for you. Because of how quickly a schedule can get cluttered and bloated, you might find yourself resorting to updating your blog ad hoc. And though this may seem freeing at first, whimsical even, it gets old fast when you’re swimming in a sea of “we oughta post that”s and “are we doing enough?”s. Today, we’re here to help you and your team set up an Editorial Calendar, using simple tweaks that will help take the stress out of scheduling, clarify your intentions for different posts, and ensure you aren’t being redundant.
 

(Note: Today we’ll cover setting up an Editorial Calendar specifically for a branded blog. You can apply these same principles to any other channel, from Social Media to Email Content.)

 
Last week, we talked about choosing the right types of content to tell your brand story. If you went through that brainstorm, go ahead and gather your findings. If you haven’t gone through it yet, take an hour to do so. We promise, it’s painless and will help the rest of this article make a lot more sense.
 

The Perfect Ratio

 
Now that you’ve determined the 5-7 types of posts you’d like to use to tell your brand story, it’s time to formulate your ratio. Why is it important to set up a ratio? Because once you have this structure set up, it completely removes the chances of overthinking and stressing out. Having trouble determining whether something is “right” or not or if you’re doing something often enough? You can point to your ratio and post types and know immediately.
 

Ratio Exercise #1

 
So what is a good ratio for your brand? Try this quick exercise. List out the 5-7 different types of content posts you’re set on using. Next to each of these, put down how relevant/important this is for your brand, 1 being not at all, 10 being very. Then put down how relevant/important this type is for your readers, 1 being not at all, 10 being very. Some of these may align, which is great, and some of these will differ. Use this to help you decide how often certain posts types should occur.
 

Ratio Exercise #2

 
Determine the number of posts you’d like to publish in a month. Let’s say you’ve determined you’d like to publish 10 posts a month. Using the post types you’ve set, assign each to a specific number of posts a month. For example, if DIY posts are important to your brand and receive high engagement, you might decide to post them three times every ten posts, thereby setting a 3:10 ratio of DIY posts. Prioritize post types that are useful to both your brand AND your readers. Those will likely occur most often and require the most amount of effort. Then, factor in posts that are important to your brand. These will be more sales or product focused and can include branded partnered posts. Finally, consider posts that will just be fun for your customers. While these don’t have to occur too often, they’re an important customer relationship building piece and will often overlap with social media content.
 
Remember, the content you’re creating is for your loyal customers, readers, and followers. They should be able to feel like they're a part of your story and that they can get helpful information, relevant to your brand’s area of expertise. The trick is balancing what’s important for your brand to relay and what will keep your readers coming back for more. Of course it might be tempting to talk about your product or services non-stop but think for a moment about how you feel when you decide to follow a blog. If a blog kept shoving their sales pitch down your throat without providing any relevant or useful information to you, you’d simply stop following it.
 

Frequency

 
After setting up your ratio, you’ll undoubtedly be faced with the question of frequency. Depending on the type of content, the effort required to put forth said content, and how quickly your brand is utilizing the content, your frequency will differ. There isn’t a hard fast answer to this, the only solution is to test test test until you find a balance between effort and engagement.
 
If you’re on a daily publishing schedule (20-30 posts per month), try increasing the number of posts by 20% for 2 weeks. Track how big of a difference in traffic this makes. Was there a big increase or drop? Was there more or less interaction on each post? Then see how much it increased your team’s workload. Was the content just as strong? Were your teammates feeling the pressure? Use this information to help you decide whether to increase or decrease how often you’re posting. It’s really up to you and your team to decide what’s ideal for you.
 

The Format

 
If you’ve decided what types of posts you’re going to employ for your brand story and set your perfect ratio, you’re already 90% of the way there. Everything from here on out is based on calendar formats that have worked for us, feel free to insert your creativity and pinterest-worthy organizational skills here to make a calendar that truly works for your team.
 
While the fancy Editorial Calendar apps out there are great, a simple Google Spreadsheet tends to do the trick. It’s free, easy to collaborate on, simple to keep organized, and allows you to make changes quickly and efficiently. We find it easiest to have separate Editorial Calendars for each month. Whether you’d like to separate them out with tabs or separate docs altogether is up to you. List the days of the week alongside the dates going down the first two columns. We find it helpful to add an extra row between each week so it breaks it up visually. Then in the third column, using Google Doc’s conditional formatting and data validation features, we’d recommend making a color coded drop-down menu that includes the different post types. This will help you quickly gauge whether or not you’re sticking to your ratio. Next, create the following columns: blog post title, blog post status (this will denote if this blog post is being drafted, in production, or has been published), author name, and post link.
 
An additional column(s) you may want to consider is one for Social Media post copy. If your content copy is great, you want to make sure your social copy is just as stellar. You can create columns for 2-3 different Twitter posts and 1-2 Facebook posts. Highlight each one as you use them so you can keep track of which ones have gone live.
 

Put It to Good Use!

 
Whew! You’ve put in some amazing work. You’ll be happy to find your Editorial Calendar will feel like it completes itself. Create calendars for the next 4-6 months and slot in all the recurring post types and your schedule will begin to take shape. With this format, you can plan months in advance which can really help you get ahead. Ever curious about whether you’re sticking to your ratio? Check the color coded column and it’ll immediately be clear. Ever feeling unsure whether you’re doing enough of a certain type of post? Take one glance at a few past Editorial Calendars and it’ll be plain as day.
 
Up Next: Now that you’re an Editorial Calendar wizard, we’re gonna show you how to track exactly how successful your content is.
 
Still need help with your editorial calendar? The team at ATAK can get you up and running with a content marketing strategy.

 

Priscilla Liang
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Priscilla Liang, a Los Angeles native, is a Content Marketing and Social Media consultant. You'll find she's more than a little obsessed with good eats, barrel-aged whiskey, and helping clients find creative solutions for reaching their goals.

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