If you're anything like me, you're consistently working out of at least 20 browser tabs, four journals, a yellow legal pad or two, and a myriad of Post-it notes stuck around your computer monitor.
To the average overseer, it's nothing short of chaos. To the blogger, it's evidence of a (desperate) need for an editorial calendar.
What is an editorial calendar?
An editorial calendar is a visual workflow that helps a team of content creators schedule their work on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Editorial calendars can help you track content types, promotional channels, authors, and most importantly, publish dates.
Without a mutually agreed-upon system for planning, writing, and scheduling content every week, you can find yourself in a pile of missed deadlines, unedited blog posts, and a fair amount of team tension.
There's no such thing as a perfect editorial calendar — it all depends on the needs of your team. Nonetheless, there are several questions you should ask yourself to determine what your editorial calendar should look like. These include:
- How frequently are you publishing content? Do you have stuff going live every day? Once a week? Perhaps multiple times a day? Finding out how often you publish can tell you how best to visualize your editorial calendar regularly.
- Do you create more than one type of content? If you upload as many videos to YouTube as you publish articles to your company blog, your editorial calendar will need to distinguish between the two.
- How many people will use this editorial calendar? The best editorial calendars allow multiple people to brainstorm, collaborate, and provide feedback on assignments in real-time — directly on the calendar.
- What are the various stages content goes through before it's published? How complex is your content pipeline? Is there a substantial review or approval process that each piece of content goes through? Make sure your calendar can distinguish between two similar assignments that are in different stages of creation.
- What format will you use to organize this calendar? You'll want to choose the system that best aligns with your goals and your team's workflows. The next section discusses the most common formats.
Free Editorial Calendar Template
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Let’s take these points and put them into practice to create your perfect editorial calendar.
How to Create an Editorial Calendar
A successful editorial calendar is a living project that your business will change as you grow and scale your social media strategy. To start the process of creating your own, we have some resources to simplify the process.
With all the different types of calendars you can create, we’ll discuss the types you can choose, and how to plan the rollout of your content.
1. Choose a format for organizing your editorial calendar.
There's no such thing as a perfect editorial calendar, but some formats will be better than others at helping you solve your team's goals.
Once you choose a format, decide on how you will implement it — picking a tool or platform that offers the features or interface your company needs most.
Here are some of the different ways to format your editorial calendar:
- Easy data aggregation and organization
- Short learning curve and accessible, making collaboration easy
- Integration with calendar apps and content management tools
- Hard to visualize your calendar
- Difficult to get a clear breakdown at a glance.
- Most straightforward ways to know what's going out and when
- Color coding, tags, and assignments to organize by channel, content type, and more
- There's more to project and content management than publishing dates, and a calendar may not always be effective enough on its own.
Project Management Tool
- Easily represent an editorial workflow no matter what your quality assurance process is or how many hands touch a piece before it's published.
- Designed for content management and more
- Better collaboration and visualization like a Kanban board
- Can be overwhelming if you only need it a content calendar.
2. Designate your main marketing channels.
Editorial calendars are highly visual tools. Differentiating your calendar using color coordination for the different channels you post on can eliminate confusion among your marketing team members.
Make your editorial calendar easier to interpret by dividing the types of posts or subject matter using different visual cues to ensure you schedule the right content at the right time.
3. Plan your posts consistently.
Content planning in an incredibly important component of any strong marketing strategy.
As Carsyn LeClere, Strategist at Blue Frog, told me, "Content planning helps provide a better view of all your marketing initiatives and how they play into each other. It's important to have because it ensures you don't duplicate content efforts, cannibalize a topic, miss any initiatives or neglect any part of the buyer's journey."
She adds, "Being able to plan content at a high-level allows you to focus on content that matters and makes it easier to produce content that's consistent with your brand story."
Organizing your editorial calendar to be posted on the same weekly schedule can drive your pages to have more exposure via social media algorithms and potentially raise your engagement as a result.
You see, when you post on a frequent basis and use a social media platform often, you’re in turn keeping your followers coming back to the platform as well. Platforms reward profiles that drive this engagement with more visibility, and after all, these platforms are after capturing and maintaining people’s attention.
Social media channels favor profiles that use their website often, and when you add a patterned or consistent posting cycle to it, you’re using the platform in an optimized manner.
4. Study your competition’s posting frequency.
Look to other businesses posting in the same industry or niche as yours, study which are successful in capturing that attention and how they got to that level of success.
By no means should you copy others’ content subject matter or the exact dates or times they post, but instead pull inspiration and make your own editorial calendar that could possibly garner attention on the days or times competitors aren’t posting.
5. Audit and adapt your editorial calendar as necessary.
It’s all a matter of trial and error when making your calendar.
If you begin with low engagement in the first couple of months, run a company content audit and adapt your content calendar to better engage your followers.
Above all, creating an editorial calendar will make your marketing team work more streamlined and organized.
Editorial Calendar Examples
To help you implement an editorial calendar, we've also included real examples from a few of the most successful content teams out there. Check them out below and find out what makes their calendar so useful.
1. HubSpot Editorial Calendar [Template]
The interactive HubSpot Editorial Calendar Template was built for writers and content strategists to outline their posting strategy.
Included are prompts for the content's title, meta description, URL, CTA, and more. This template is completely free and can be used on both Google Sheets and Excel.
2. Buffer's Editorial Calendar
This is the actual editorial calendar of Buffer, a social media content scheduling platform.
Naturally, the company's content is supported by an editorial calendar that describes an assignment's author, title, publish date, and where it is in the company's editorial workflow. Content can be in the "Ideas" stage, in the "Pipeline," "In Progress," or "Editing".
Each rectangular tile shown above represents an individual piece of content — whether it's a blog post, video, or even a podcast episode.
As you might be able to tell, Buffer's editorial calendar is built on Trello, a popular project management tool.
And although you can use Trello more than one way, Buffer uses most of its available features so everyone has the information they need within a few clicks — regardless of what they do for the company and how the calendar affects their work.
3. Unbounce's Editorial Calendar
Platform: Google Sheets
This is the editorial calendar of Unbounce, a creator of landing pages and related conversion tools for marketers as well as a HubSpot integration partner.
Unlike Buffer, this company uses Google Sheets to manage their entire content production, and the way they've customized the spreadsheet above would be pleasing to the eyes of any content creator.
In addition to organizing their projects by month, what you might notice from the screenshot above is that Unbounce also sorts their content by the campaign they're serving — as per the first two columns on the left-hand side.
This allows the business to see what multiple assignments — listed vertically down the third column — have in common, and track content that extends beyond the Unbounce blog.
Shown below, the Unbounce blog has a separate editorial calendar in Google Sheets that allows the blog to work alongside the larger company initiatives. Nonetheless, using spreadsheets for both content workflows has proven to be the best choice for the company's growing operation.
"We're a small content team, so other platforms would likely overcomplicate things," says Colin Loughran, editor in chief at Unbounce.
Ultimately, this editorial calendar keeps Colin's team in sync.
"While we try to lock dates a few weeks in advance," he explains, "the reality is that sometimes we need to make changes very quickly. A product launch might move into a slot we'd planned for something else, for instance, or a guest contributor will be delayed in delivering a revised draft. When that's the case, having a centralized resource that everyone can check is a necessary safety blanket."
4. Digital Authority's Content Calendar
Digital Authority, a marketing agency that specializes in content and social media, distinguishes between its big-picture content goals vs. smaller content-related tasks.
Digital Authority uses CoSchedule to plan out timelines for pieces such as blogs and social media posts. The advantage of this is the color categorization, calendar and task views, and the ability to create social posts across platforms from within one portal.
There are also features to keep the team actionable, on the same page, and agile with drag-and-drop features.
5. Hootsuite's Content Calendar
Platform: Google Sheets and Hootsuite Planner
Hootsuite, another social media scheduling platform, has a ton of content to publish both daily and far out in advance. That makes their content calendar a major component of their production strategy.
Due to the volume, the Hootsuite team creates content far in advance using Google Sheets to plan and organize across channels. Once the strategy is created and executed, posts that are ready to be published are represented on Hootsuite Planner.
Content Calendar Sample
Ready to make your own editorial calendar?
No matter which platform you ultimately want to work out of, a spreadsheet can help you take inventory of what content you have and how quickly it moves from start to finish.
Try our free Blog Editorial Calendar Templates.
Using the templates linked above, you'll be able to organize, categorize, and color code to your heart's content. Use these templates to target the right readers, optimize posts with the best keywords, and pair each topic with a killer call-to-action.
In this download, we've included three different templates for you to choose from.
Why three? We recognize that not all content teams are the same. While some feel most efficient with a centralized editorial calendar solution, others may need the gentle push of an upcoming deadline right on their calendar.
Therefore, you'll have access to all three templates in Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, and Google Calendar.
Plan Out Your Editorial Calendar with Ease
With a little customization, your blog calendar will be running smoothly, leaving you time to be the content-writing, lead-generating machine you strive to be.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published May 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.