A content calendar is crucial for focusing efforts, maximising resource and being effective. Here’s how to create one for your business or client.
Content calendars aren’t new and they’re not complicated. So, why a post dedicated to creating one? Honestly, it’s meant to act as a catalyst. A content calendar is for:
1) people who are just starting out and have never seen, used or heard of a content calendar
2) those who know that they should plan content better, but still fall into the trap of bashing out reactive content with little regard for overall marketing communications and outreach, including sales strategy.
Quick Bit On Why A Content Calendar Is Important
(Skip this if you already know, you’re just not doing it yet.)
There are plenty of articles dedicated to this, but here’s a super-short rundown. Who doesn’t like a short and snappy check list? Planning for the next 6 to 12 months means:
1) Hello Events
You’ll never miss an event, whether it’s important to the company, to the country or to the world.
2) Smashing Deadlines
You’ll never miss a deadline, because everything is so clearly planned out in black and white.
3) More Glorious Time
There’ll be time to give to reactive content that you can’t plan for, which means what you write will be of a higher quality than if you’re trying to fit in reactive content around other unplanned communications activity.
4) Joined Forces
Everyone involved will know their role and responsibilities, so no excuses for not pulling your weight. Plus, if everyone feels involved, they’re much more likely to get behind the idea of content and even contribute ideas for campaigns.
5) Bye Bye Tedious Repetition
You’ll see clearly if a particular piece of content could be used by different departments for different reasons, i.e. by PR for outreach, by marketing for email campaigns and newsletters or by social media teams for, well, social I suppose.
No Faffing Allowed
Once convinced and inspired to create a content calendar, just do it. Here’s how:
When it comes to creating a content calendar, there are some simple things that act as great building blocks for more complex additions. Start with a month-by-month template, one month per Excel tab, each with the days along the top and the dates underneath. Then start populating…There are lots of templates available online, here’s one I have put together for you.
What To Include On Your Content Calendar
While it entirely depends what kind of company you are and who your content is for, the general rule of thumb is to pick key industry events/days that are relevant to what you do/offer. So, if for example you work in the travel sector, it’d be crazy to miss out things like school holidays, summer solstice, and the most popular events happening in the most visited destinations.
Starting with the obvious is a good idea – it’ll give you a real sense that your calendar is on its way to being an invaluable tool and spur you on to get it completed. But how do you find such dates? Some you’ll just instinctively know. For others, there are some great websites, like the BBC for sporting events, myschoolholidays.com for, well, you can probably guess, and festivalsearcher.com for European festivals by category. A quick Google will give you access to the most relevant sources for your industry.
Put everything of interest in, then be ruthless in the editing process. It can be easy to get carried away with general interest events, but don’t forget that the competition will be high for these and your audience will probably go elsewhere to find out more. Stick to very specific events as far as possible to give yourself the best chance of becoming a thought leader in your space.
How To Work Out What Dates Are Key For Your Audience
The best place to start is by asking your audience. If you think they’d be happy to answer your questions on what kind of content they like to read, then poll them and let that be your guide. If not, then it’s time to get to know them by checking out what they’re liking and sharing on social channels, and on your competitors' websites. Head to Twitter, LinkedIn and the comments section of relevant and respected blogs, and you’ll find insight is abundant and freely available. What you’re looking for here is:
1) Types of content that people engage with, for example short or long, Q&A, traditional article, witty blog post, interactive/designed or just copy etc. etc.
2) Subject matter and angle – do they like opinion pieces, instructional guides or in-depth research best? Or something else?
3) Where they read it – are they mostly engaging with content that pops up on their LinkedIn newsfeed, or on websites where they might be signed up to a newsletter? Use this to inform where you focus your efforts.
4) Where the gaps are – what you don’t want to do is simply replicate what’s working for somebody else. It’s tempting but pointless. After all, someone else is already doing it and probably pretty well if they’ve turned up in your research efforts. It’s time to get together and think about what’s missing, even if that’s just fresh ways of talking about the same key topics.
Many brains are better than one. Get as many people involved in ideas generation as you can and you’ll come up with much more interesting and original concepts and angles than if you attempt to go it alone.
What Tools Are Available To Help Find Content Ideas And Inspiration?
Fast-moving channels like Twitter are great for inspiration. For events that happen every month/year, for example, simply search on events hashtags or keywords to see what’s occurred before. Chances are you’ll find some really bad stuff (still useful for what not to do) and some stuff that’s really fantastic. There might also be some glaring opportunities that others haven’t picked up on. Equally, a search On Google News will give you a good idea of previous ideas, good and bad. If you like a bit of software, make BuzzSumo, Ideation and Quick Sprout your closest allies. These tools offer free insight into content performance, allowing you to search by topic or keyword and to see things like where content is being shared and by who.
What Software Can You Use To Keep Track Of Your Calendar And Share It For Collaboration?
If content collaboration is new to you (and actually, even if it isn’t), free tools like Google Docs are really useful hosting platforms. Simply upload your Excel spreadsheet and share it for viewing or editing with whoever you like. Updates happen and are saved in real time so everyone’s always got the latest version to work from. Once content has actually been created, Dropbox is a great tool – basically an easy way to share folders and keep hold of version control. Finally, Trello is a really useful way to ensure everyone knows what they’re doing and where projects are up to. There are so many options out there, it’s really about trying them out and finding which one works best for you. These suggestions are good places to start out.
Bookmark this page then download a free content calendar template and get started. Make yourself feel good by doing it now and setting yourself a ‘complete by’ deadline. There’s no better time than right now to join the content party – it’s in full swing.
Caroline combines extensive project management experience with expertise in digital marketing – including SEO, web copy and social media. As a senior account manager and copywriter at Stratton Craig. She works with clients across a range of sectors, such as finance, retail, fashion and travel, to name a few.
Her mix of creative thinking, meticulous copywriting and ability to build strong client relationships means she delivers consistently flawless service.