When I tell them I use an editorial calendar, the next question is often, "Oh, how much does that cost?"
Nothing. Because we use Google Calendar.
(Sophisticated. I know.)
There are a lot of great tools out there you can choose from, but I'm a big fan of simplicity, and after trying a ton of other free and paid solutions, I found that our team really operated the best with just a simple Google Calendar. This has actually been the longest-running editorial calendar solution our team has ever seen.
Here's how we set it up and why I think it works.
How to Set Up an Editorial Calendar in Google Calendar
Step 1: Create a Google Calendar.
Go to your Google Calendar, and select Create New Calendar under the My Calendars dropdown arrow.
Fill out the fields that appear on the next screen however you prefer. Here's how I did it:
Note that I left the sharing options blank so people didn't get an incomplete, out-of-context email about a calendar they've never heard of. We'll go back and fill this in later.
Click Create Calendar when you're done filling this page out, and you'll be brought to your empty calendar.
Step 2: Schedule out your typical publishing slots.
Now that you have your calendar created, it's time to fill it in with stuff.
If you have a regular publishing schedule -- like every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00 a.m., for instance -- put that in as a recurring "slot" on your calendar. It's okay if you don't have a piece of completed content, or even a working title, to put there yet. It's just a reminder that you want to publish something that day.
To add your recurring slot, click on your calendar at the day and time you want to add a placeholder for a post, and put in something like "Post - TBD."
Then click Edit Event to be taken to the details of the post. Here, you can set the post up as a recurring post so it automatically appears every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00 a.m. (or whatever days and times you want.)
Once you've selected the recurring days, hit Done and Save, and you'll have an editorial calendar framework to work with.
If you don't have a recurring schedule like this, you might not be in need of an editorial calendar just yet. But it is a good way to set goals for yourself -- if you know you want to publish a certain number of posts each week, even if you don't hit every single slot, it's a good reminder for yourself and your team that this is something you should all be striving for.
Step 3: Customize the publishing slots.
Now that you know all of the slots you want to fill, you gotta actually ... you know ... fill 'em. If you don't have topic ideas yet, check out this free topic idea generator; it'll give you some good ideas for content to put in the calendar.
Let's say one of the posts you want to write is "10 Surprising Facts About Tapirs," and one of the posts you've already written and want to publish later is "Think You're Cut Out to Own a Tapir? Read This First." Cool! Just add 'em both to the calendar, changing the "Post - TBD" to the actual title of the post.
Now let's say you don't actually want to write "10 Surprising Facts About Tapirs," and you want your colleague to write it instead. Click on the event, hit Edit Event, then invite that colleague to the post by typing his or her name or email address into the Add: Guests box, selecting Add when their name pops up, and hitting Save on the event once you're done.
Now, anyone can see who is responsible for writing the post that's going up in that time slot.
You can take it a step further by adding details to the Description box of the event, like a link to a draft of the content, whether the content has been edited yet or not, or even what call-to-action you think should go at the end of the post.
Step 4: Invite people to it.
Now that you have your calendar set up, you can start to invite people to see it! I'd recommend you start with your immediate team and regular contributors -- as well as anyone who regularly asks you about publishing content on your company blog.
To share this editorial calendar with people, simply find your editorial calendar under My Calendars, click Share this Calendar when it appears in the dropdown arrow, and you'll be taken to the same screen we saw in step 1.
Then, you can add in the names of people with whom you'd like to share the calendar and set the right permission levels for each invitee.
It's wise to keep those with the permission settings to manage changes and sharing to a minimum so there aren't too many cooks in the kitchen -- but I recommend you let everyone see all event details so it's clear exactly what content is going up in each slot.
Why It Works
I mentioned earlier that we tried a lot of different editorial calendar solutions, and this is the only one that's stuck for more than a couple months. I think one reason for that is because we use Gmail for our corporate email -- which means everyone on our team is already in Gmail (and their calendar, specifically) all day. That means it isn't hard for people to form a habit of checking the editorial calendar, because it's not difficult for them to find it. When we tried to set up a calendar using a spreadsheet in Google Drive, for instance, it fell flat because it was too hard to find the document and not everyone used Drive that regularly.
Google Calendar also makes things really easy to move around and schedule because ... well ... it's already a calendar. It has all the functionality you need to schedule stuff out and let the people who need to know about it know. When we were using other solutions for this, we were trying to hack a calendaring function instead of just relying on one that already existed.
Along those lines, you can easily add people to view your calendar. That makes it easy for multiple teams to collaborate, see what's being published, and figure out when they might be able to launch content and campaigns.
Finally, this sets a precedent for other teams to coordinate with you in a really simple way. You can have a calendar for upcoming campaigns, offers, social media pushes, product launches -- you name it. And you can all share those calendars with one another for a single-screen view of everything that's going on so you can coordinate more easily.
There are probably -- nay, definitely -- a lot of other solutions out there for maintaining an editorial calendar. And I bet a lot of them are better than this solution. But if you're looking for a minimum viable product, and a free one at that, this ain't too shabby. It's kept our content team sane, agile, and transparent for almost a year now -- and I think it could do the same for you.
If you're looking for an editorial calendar outside of Google Calendar, we've got a free Excel template that can help keep your blogging production and scheduling organized. You can download the template here!