These days, consumers expect companies not just to provide them with valuable products but to actually create value for them. One of the best ways to do this is to produce original, compelling content and share it consistently. That’s where the content marketing calendar comes in.
Creating calendars allows content marketers to identify and effectively promote editorial content to their target audiences. A well-designed calendar is an integral part of any organization's strategy, as it allows them to align their content with their overall editorial strategy. It also helps them manage their resources.
Suffice it to say, creating calendars and templates for content marketing has never been more important. But doing so requires a strategic, organized approach to address all questions — from what kinds of content to produce to the most appropriate timeline to adopt to how to best allocate resources. Here, we share some tips for the best way to make a calendar.
Why use a content calendar?
Creating content is complex. Teams have to brainstorm ideas, organize their top choices, allocate resources, draft the content, edit the content, approve the content, and distribute it all. Keeping track of all of these moving parts and the people involved in making them happen just makes sense. Here are some proven benefits of using a content calendar:
Create effective posts
Blog posts are only as effective as the strategy and planning behind them. Without a content calendar, teams risk wasting time and resources.
Content calendar creation is just the first step in the longer-term process of keeping your social media and other content consistent. Posting on a regular schedule helps maintain favor in the Google search algorithm. It’s also useful for keeping a high standard of quality across your many different blog articles and publications.
A content calendar does what a spreadsheet or email chain cannot: consolidate, organize, and assign the best ideas for new pieces of content. Although it’s feasible to maintain a less sophisticated system in the short term, creating a content calendar now makes it easier to track topics that have been covered and information gaps your agency needs to fill months or even years down the road.
Having a dedicated scheduling system for your content helps your brand create and maintain an image of authority on your chosen topics. Making and sharing content on a set of subjects regularly shows you’re not only keeping up with the industry but that you are a leader within it.
Compete with rivals
Given how effective content calendars are in boosting productivity and SEO results, it’s no wonder why so many of your rivals use them. Creating a content calendar will not only allow you to keep up with current marketing practices, but you’ll also have space to take notes on what others are doing and fill in gaps with your own work.
What should a content calendar include?
Although every brand and marketing team is unique, these are the basics you must include in creating your content or editorial calendar.
- Title and headers: Include 1-2 options for your main post title, along with the headers needed to further expand on the topic.
- Synopsis: Briefly describe what the post is about and why you’re creating it.
- Performance goals: If you have a specific target in mind, like driving traffic to your sales page, be sure to include it here so your writers know how to frame it.
- Keywords for SEO: Have at least one main keyword that is used a minimum of five times within each post. You may also want to include secondary keywords that further your strategy.
- Links to important pages: Important pages include relevant products, third-party resources mentioned, and illustrative data points. Your list should include a mix of internal and external links.
- Deadlines and important dates: Make a note of when the piece will be published and when the draft needs to be completed.
How to create your own content calendar
A content calendar is an essential part of any strategy. Not only does it keep all the moving parts organized, but it also makes it easier to budget, assign tasks, and set priorities teamwide. Keep reading to discover the nitty-gritty of what goes into content calendar planning and how to create your own.
First things first: Talk to stakeholders
Before you take any action to make a calendar, you should speak with your stakeholders to determine what their goals are and what should — and shouldn’t — be included in your content. Before you start creating a blog, it's important to determine if there are any specific features or products that need to be showcased. Also, if there are already events or launch dates that need to be synchronized with your calendar.
You'll also want to define a set of themes for the quarter that will help organize and execute various campaigns and sales messaging. This will ensure all messaging is aligned no matter who is writing it.
Define your audience
Before you create any content, it’s important for everyone to know who your target audience is.
It’s important to know who is buying your content and who you want to buy your content. Both of these factors so that you can create content that will resonate with both of them.
Also, keep in mind that your customer's relationship with you doesn't end once they make a purchase. Content should be created for different stages of the buyer's journey.
What does a content calendar look like?
A content calendar is a schedule that shows when and where you plan to publish content. It typically includes various details such as upcoming articles, updates to existing content, and promotional activity. So while it may look like a 30-day calendar page, a project management style planner is more effective. Simple lists and spreadsheets are also an option. However, as time goes on, your content calendar will become more complicated as your team and goals grow, which means you’ll also need a sophisticated system.
Monthly or weekly calendar?
All the experts agree that you should prioritize quality over quantity when deciding on your optimal publishing rhythm. That means whether you adhere to a weekly or monthly calendar, the most important considerations are the time it takes to produce the kind of content you need and the resources you’ll need to create it.
Creating meaningful and engaging content requires a team that is dedicated to delivering something that the audience can't get anywhere else. This is why it takes time to develop and implement original ideas.
Your publishing cadence should start at whatever time it takes your team to get it right. Doing so will allow them to focus on the things that matter most while avoiding setting arbitrary goals.
And while lead time is important for good content, it should also be balanced with the ability to adapt to changes in the market and events. Start by mapping out quarterly topics, then narrowing down titles month by month. This will help your team remain flexible in case anything comes up.
Selecting a tool: Calendars and templates
Once it’s time to create the calendar, you’ll need to choose a tool or template to design and share it. Keep in mind that every relevant stakeholder should be able to access the calendar, so it must be shareable. There are many different options — you’ll just need to find what works best for you. To make rescheduling easier, use a calendar that has the ability to create drag-and-drop changes.
Wrike Calendars allow content teams to have individual, color-coded calendars for each content type — such as eBooks or blogs. The ability to layer these calendars makes them incredibly useful for managing all of your scheduled materials. It also helps identify potential conflicts.
The ability to view all of your scheduled tasks in one place makes them incredibly useful for keeping track of all of your conversations and documents. Also, tasks can be dragged and dropped to update their date and time.
It’s best to manage two versions of the publishing calendar:
- A full version for the content team, which details all the production steps, assignments, and deadlines they need to know.
- A streamlined version for the marketing team and other stakeholders, which outlines delivery deadlines. These external stakeholders want to know when that eBook will be ready, but they’re less concerned with the process of its production.
Everyone on your team should use the calendar. If it’s not there, then it doesn’t exist, and content doesn’t get published.
Allocating your resources
A big part of effectively managing your calendar is knowing how — and how much — to assign to your team. In fact, the Project Management Institute found that 21% of projects fail due to limited or taxed resources, and inadequate resource forecasting accounts for 18% of project failures. Clearly, resource management is critical.
Prioritizing is very important to ensure that the most important content gets done first. If something is less important, then it can be postponed or outsourced.
One of the most effective tools that you can use to effectively manage your resources is by leveraging the talents of your team members. Assign each person to specific tasks so that they can focus on their areas of expertise. Use productivity principles such as the 80/20 rule to ensure that there aren’t too many projects going on at one time.
Managing your calendar
Once you make a calendar, the work doesn’t stop. You need to regularly check in with your team to assess progress, communicate important information, address any changes, and update the calendar. A few tips for successfully managing your calendar are:
- High visibility. Every piece of content in the publishing calendar used by your team can tie into a larger project in Wrike. These projects can then be managed in a shared dashboard that clearly displays where each task sits in the team’s content operations. If something gets stuck in a particular status or is overdue, the dashboard highlights the issue. Having the necessary knowledge about your team’s output will allow you to predict the project's deadlines. Being ruthless about setting deadlines will help keep everyone accountable.
- Automatic updates. Many digital marketing tools and templates will automatically notify team members when there are updates to the calendar or specific tasks to which they’ve been assigned.
- Address delays directly and quickly. Having open communication about any changes or delays in the schedule helps keep everyone on board and encourages collaboration. This also helps ensure that everyone is working together seamlessly.
- Use comments. Avoid sending emails to document changes to tasks, Valdellon says. Instead, consider leaving comments on the tasks. This keeps a record of all communication about the task while also ensuring visibility and transparency. That way, your calendar will be made with the best possible information available.
Content calendar best practices to remember
Your work isn’t over just because you’ve made your calendar. Now it’s time for the real work: aligning your calendar to your goals and staying on top of the assignments.
- Define your goals early on
The goals you choose now may have a significant impact on the number of posts you create, how long they are, and what they focus on. Getting a clear sense of your blog’s purpose now will help you clarify your limited resources later.
- See what your competitors publish
Look for gaps in their information you can fill or choose a topic you have a different opinion about and go from there. Note what tone they use, how long their posts are, and how often they publish pieces.
- Check for duplicate topics
Don’t accidentally make your posts compete against each other! Double-check which keywords are being used across all posts. Try not to conflict with any of your high-ranking pieces of content.
- Make use of older content
Old content can always be repurposed or recycled. Update old content with new links and perspectives to republish on the same URL. Or combine several short posts into one long-form guide.
Why Wrike is the best way to make a calendar
A marketing content calendar is one of the most effective ways to build brand awareness and attract new leads. Developing and publishing content regularly is a must to maximize your efforts. That’s where Wrike comes in.
Wrike offers a content operations template to help you organize and manage all of your content production efforts. It can also help you track content and schedule its delivery dates.
With our content plan template, you can easily organize and manage all of your ideas and tasks. Other team members can monitor and update their work status on each individual piece as they go, saving time while keeping everyone up to date.
Using Wrike, a content brief template can be created to streamline and manage pieces that will satisfy both internal and external stakeholder groups. A content brief can also be used to receive feedback from external collaborators for sponsorships, create high-quality posts, and increase productivity by saving time on reinventing the wheel every time a team member needs to create a piece of content.
The Wrike editorial calendar template will also help you organize and manage all of your content planning efforts. It will guide you through the various steps of the content pipeline process, which will ensure that you have a steady flow of new content no matter what else your team has on their plate.
For example, if you're having a hard time managing incoming content writing and editing tasks, a sample request form from Wrike can be used to streamline the process.
You can also customize the form with various fields, such as the name of the department, the content name, and the various delivery dates within Wrike. Once the request is submitted, click "Add" and assign an appropriate team member to handle the task.
Wrike can also be used to execute your content calendar plans through custom workflows. A custom workflow will help you keep track of the various stages of your content's development. It will also reflect its current status. Creating a new task, such as publishing or adding an external link to existing content, is as easy as clicking the + button and adding it to a folder.
Additionally, the Wrike content plan template comes with built-in dashboard features that allow you to monitor and manage the progress of your content across one or multiple channels. From there, you can monitor promotion and performance all in one place.
On the left side of the screen, click on the "Show Workflows" button. You can then customize the data that will appear in the workflow.
Aside from the content plan template, Wrike also has a variety of tools that can help you manage various aspects of your content calendar once it’s up and running. These include a visual asset management tool, a written copy management tool, and a marketing project management tool to align your content with the rest of your marketing initiatives.
The best way to make a calendar: the final secret
Publishing calendars are extremely important, and content marketers tend to live and die by their deadlines. But your publishing calendar needs to be a living, breathing document. The secret to making a truly effective and robust calendar is to never think of it as “finished” or “locked down.”
Sometimes, projects that were planned will get pushed back or canceled. The goal of a publishing calendar is to provide timely content that supports key business initiatives. But if it takes a little longer to nail down the quality of each piece, that’s okay too.
Looking for the perfect content publishing calendar for your team? Try Wrike and its Calendars feature free for 14 days! To help in your pursuit of the right project management calendar tool, we’ve also written a few follow-up posts: