Marketers know their campaigns need two things: direction and consistency. All the best marketing efforts, whatever their end goal may be, are the product of a proper plan. Knowing how great holistic content can be has emboldened many marketers to create a content calendar.
Though everyone has their own unique approach, a content calendar is essentially a plan detailing the specific times when content will be posted and promoted. This schedule can include various forms of content and cover a span of time, whether it’s weeks or even months.
Blogs, email newsletters, and print media are often released according to a calendar. Building a schedule means knowing how to coordinate content research and creation with forecasted publishing dates. But how do you create a great content calendar without investing all your time?
Let’s cover some tips for making a great calendar in 2019, and then provide some template options you can use to create your own.
Understanding the full content development process
Whether you do most of your work on the planning, creation, or management side of content, you’re aware how involved the process can be. From concept to content is a long journey, with multiple steps.
The first is essentially content planning. This consists of topic research, keyword strategy, and competitor analysis. Remember, when your calendar’s content is focused around a theme or connected series of topics, the same amount of research can offer multiple benefits.
The next phase is content creation. This consists of setting up templates, copywriting, graphic/video design, and editing. When you think about this process in the context of calendar building, it pays to create pieces that flow well together. This can produce a better result, while also requiring less work than a series of separate, unrelated content pieces.
The final phase would be considered the publishing phase. This is where your content is actually released to audiences. Good content publishers know it’s never good to keep your audience waiting. These deadlines are the calendar’s focal point, though they don’t symbolize the end of the work. It’s also necessary to monitor, update, and promote content after it’s published.
3 critical decisions to make about your content calendar
Your content calendar will be like everything you create in that it represents what you want to deliver to your audience. Here are three important decisions you’ll need to make, and how each will affect your calendar’s success.
1. What types of content will you focus on?
A good content calendar could be focused on a single type of content or multiple types. Maybe you’re putting out magazines? Or maybe you’re planning out a long-term email newsletter?
Source: Really Good Emails
If you’re looking to give your calendar some variety, consider those content types that flow well together. For example, why choose between email and social media when you can have both? If your newsletter is the focus, highlight top data points and post them to build awareness.
2. When will you publish content?
Arguably the most important part of your calendar is the times when content will be published. You may even see these times used in promotion, so it’s important to stick to them. To determine your schedule, refer back to the content development process.
How long would it take you to research and create content? Based on that number, you can get an idea for a publishing date. Here’s where planning ahead comes in handy. For a series of related content pieces, a lot of the research and even some of the creation may overlap. This means less work and ultimately, less resources expended in the creation of your calendar.
3. How will you adapt your calendar in the future?
This one is last (and for good reason). As you develop your calendar, you may make discoveries about challenges with your current format or even opportunities to improve it. Make sure you take time to review your results and assess whether each piece from the calendar is offering some type of return.
Let’s say your calendar for the month of January has three blog posts per week and multiple Twitter posts per day. If you implement a new social platform, consider whether you have the resources to do multiple on that platform per day, or whether you should split the load between them.
You can also adapt the direction, tone, and style of content to alter your results. If one format doesn’t work, what other formats could your company use to fill the spot?
Exploring template options for content calendars
Rather than creating content completely from scratch, many creators rely on a template to help them. This is a great idea, so great it can also be used with calendars.
Using a template for your content calendar is great for a few reasons. The first is that it enables you to begin planning more quickly. When you want a great calendar, but you don’t have the time and finances to spend too long planning it, templates set you up for success.
Another great time to use a template? When you need direction. Many companies have great content, but they aren’t sure about how to craft the perfect schedule. Considering scheduling options longterm can simplify this process.
In the same way content creators are inspired to create pieces, they can also be inspired to build calendars. Let’s look at some examples and how they can be used as templates.
The sheet-style social template
This format is one you can create yourself in Google Sheets, Microsoft Excel, or any other spreadsheet application. The template is great when you’re still choosing what will go on and what information you’ll include.
As seen here, this creator focuses solely on their social platforms. However, these categories could easily be adapted to include email, blogs, and more. Along with writing in what they’ll post, they also include spots for an image link and the post time. Other things you may want to include are meta information, hashtags, and CTAs.
The general multi-channel plan
This schedule may not look as much like a standard business plan as the sheet example, but it covers all the bases nicely. This chart provides a simple layout of general goals, per channel or platform. The idea is to aim for a certain number per platform.
Remember when we said to adapt your content calendar as needed? This template is very helpful. The simple design is more of a loose layout than a detailed spreadsheet. This makes it easier to use if you’re just starting out with a calendar or an idea for a new one.
The complex multi-date plan
Our final example is a bit simpler on the content side, but more complex when it comes to dates. If you want to be meticulous with your schedule, you may have the same approach to building your own calendar.
If you’re trying to keep on a strict schedule for the development process, you could set one deadline for completing the research, one for finishing the content, and one for publishing it. If your content list is a bit more complex than the one here, remember that a lot of your research could potentially overlap, helping you get faster over time.
These are just a few of the template options you may want to consider when it comes to planning out your content. Even a loose schedule to start can be a great idea, as it provides your audience with a consistent flow of related pieces.
Even if they aren’t part of a specific sequence, content from a calendar establishes your brand as consistent. You build on your success, keep your audience engaged, and develop momentum by sticking to your schedule.
When you’re operating a business, you’re used to working on a schedule. Content calendars put your publications on that same rigorous timeframe, and with potential for great results.
You want to have a consistent brand. Consistency in terms of content marketing means publishing on a regular basis so your audience comes to expect content. When they expect it, they’ll stick around. That leads to the traffic, leads, and followers brands seek. All of these things ultimately drive the ROI you want from your content.
Scheduling content doesn’t just give your audience an idea of what to expect—it does the same for you. You learn how to be more consistent with the processes of your research and creation phases. When you do this, you produce better content and spend less time (and money) doing so.
- Remember to consider content research and creation timelines when picking publishing dates
- Know the type of content you want to focus on, and be ready to adapt it as necessary
- When in doubt, start your content calendar off an existing template
The content calendar is a marketer’s guide. It keeps you on track, and lets you see the bigger picture of your content. How well does it flow? Are you leveraging all channels? Where could you stand to improve? Where are your strengths?
All these questions can be answered as you create, stick to, and grow with the calendar you create. Get more great tips on how to create your content calendar today.