Note: Enormous thanks to Kimberly Daggerhart for her ideas and examples, without which this post would not be possible!
Events, press releases, social media, blog posts……how can a busy marketing manager or business owner keep up? What’s more, how can we coordinate all of these efforts and tie into holidays, what’s happening in the news and capitalize on all the opportunities to cross promote? Oh, my fellow marketing professionals and entrepreneurs who wear many hats, I feel your pain. And I have a tool that can make your marketing life so, so much easier.
An editorial calendar can take different forms (more on that in a minute), but its purpose is to organize, coordinate, plan and keep track of your marketing efforts. It is useful if you are leading and implementing your marketing solo or if you are part of a team. I’ve used one in both cases and found it helps keep ideas in one place, reduces the stress of what to write about next, leads to more interesting content and provides a system for getting the most out of event participation or sponsorship. Yes, one little tool can do all of that, I promise.
I’ve teased you enough, now on to how to create one of these babies of your very own.
1. Open a document or spreadsheet – whichever you prefer. Our Public Relations team uses docs, Social Media uses sheets. When I think calendar, I see little boxes in my head so I use a spreadsheet. If you’re part of a team, a shared document or spreadsheet in Google Drive is a great way to go.
2. Add the months of the year. It’s a calendar right? For spreadsheets, I put the months across the top row, but if you like them down the
left side, go for it.
3. Now you’re going to create some categories. Your specific categories will be unique to your business, but generally the best place to start is with holidays, seasonal themes, and national events (think Election Day, Day Light Savings Time). So January might look like this:
You can see that I’ve added the dates where applicable. Putting as much information in one place as possible will save your time and sanity. It can also be really helpful in planning things like when to start promoting a sale or event.
Speaking of which, go ahead and expand your categories to include those sales and events. Think broadly about events and include not only those you are hosting, but also those you are sponsoring or attending. Include regional or national events that are connected to your industry or customers’ interests, even if you won’t be attending. This will remind you to share information from those events so you are participating in the larger industry conversation and reinforces that you are up to speed on what’s happening. Put the link right in the calendar for easy reference. I like to add rows above holidays, but do what makes sense for you.
4. Now add your marketing channels. Here is where the rubber meets the road! By putting in slots for press releases, social media, blog posts, event calendars, advertising and whatever else you’re doing to spread the word, you can begin to create a cohesive plan for all of your marketing.
5. Then begin adding tasks, ideas and themes with dates. The January editorial calendar example created above might now look like this:
While our calendar isn’t complete at this point, we’ve created a strong foundation.
6. The next step would be to come up with blog ideas that tie in with the rest of the topics in the calendar. If this calendar is for a company that sells bikes and bike accessories, then a post with tips for off-season training would tie into the seasonal theme, the fitness theme and the upcoming sale (without mentioning the sale, of course, as blogs should be informative, not sales pitches). Innovations in bikes or bike accessories would be a blog topic that could connect to the conference. Of course, we marketers know that we should do our keyword research to find out what products, questions or information people are searching for – a valuable resource for blog post topic ideas.
And now, dear marketer, you have a plan! If you really want to get even more from this tool, create an editorial calendar specifically for your social media posts (WHAT?!?!). That’s right, you can use the same format with days instead of months and social media platforms as categories to plan your social media content in advance. Write all of your content two weeks at a time and make notes about future ideas or events.
You and your editorial calendar will likely be lifelong friends from here on out. Together your marketing efforts can be organized, efficient, relevant and cohesive.
Want to learn more tips, resources and tricks of the online marketing trade? Join us for the JB Media Institute – in-person in Asheville, NC or online this spring.