Whether your content team is 10 people, 20 people, or just one, creating a clear, comprehensive calendar to track the editorial process will make life a lot easier. The editorial process involves many moving parts and tracking it in one place is the only way to hit your deadlines with quality content. It may seem like a daunting task at first, so just take it one step at a time. To help you get started, here are five tips for creating an effective editorial calendar:

Note all deadlines

A solid editorial calendar will always include deadlines for drafts, review cycles, and post dates for every piece of content. This will give the team full visibility into the entire editorial process, ensure accountability, and avoid any surprises or miscommunications about timing. You may find color coding a useful method for keeping items easy to follow.

Depending on your circumstance, here are few things Unbounce suggests including on your editorial calendar:

  • Post Date
  • Author (if you’re not the sole author)
  • Working Title (or at least a descriptive idea to the content)
  • Publication location (is this a post for your blog, a guest blog, etc.)
  • Status
  • Category
  • Keywords
  • Notes

Choose the right calendar tool

There are a plethora of calendar tools out there to suit any taste and budget so finding the right one can be tricky.

Here are some popular tools you should know about:

  • Google calendar – Very basic, but if your team already uses Gmail, you might want to give it a shot.
  • TeamWork – This online project management system works well with a calendar and lets you set multiple due dates, which can be very useful when you’re dealing with drafts, final drafts, design stages and finally publish due dates.
  • WordPress calendar – If your website is WordPress, this plugin should be a natural fit for your workflow. The CoSchedule plugin also allows for social media messaging synchronization.
  • Kapost – Used by enterprise-level teams to track the content marketing workflow from strategy to execution and social distribution.
  • InboundWriter – This editorial calendar tool can predict the readership you’ll gain by writing about a given topic, suggest keywords, and let you know if your competitors have already covered the same idea.

Track the review process for every item

Tracking the review process for every content item is an important part of the overall structure of your calendar. It’s also fundamental to selecting the appropriate tool for your team. Before deciding on the appropriate tool, write down all due dates for your review process. These may include:

Other deadlines, such as legal review, may be added depending on your company.

Mix content types

Most marketing content falls in one of three main categories. It’s important to maintain a healthy ratio between the three to keep your audience entertained and engaged with your brand. Here are the three main content categories according to Content Marketing Institute:

  • Expert content – Credible, third-party articles and reviews from unbiased journalists. This is the earned media that is often the result of your PR efforts. A study conducted by Nielsen determined that 85% seek expert content before making a purchase.
  • User-generated content – Content created by your brand’s fans and followers that communicate your brand’s value in their words, rather than the company’s own words or through a neutral party (like a journalist). This can include reviews from users (like product reviews on Amazon.com), as well as other customer-contributed content (like posts on social media). Ideally, this type of content would come from satisfied customers.
  • Branded content – Any content developed and owned by the brand. This can include blog posts, white papers, research reports, infographics or any other of content that a brand produces for itself.

Involve outside influencers

When planning any piece of content it is important to consider whether any external teams/individuals will be involved in the process. Will your content need graphics to support it? Legal review? External approvals? Consider these influencers and add some buffer time to your calendar process as well as making sure that everyone involved is aware of your schedule and deadlines to which they need to adhere. If possible, you might want to give these influencers access to your calendar since the insight into your editorial process could help thwart any delays or miscommunication.

One last piece of advice: as with any project involving many moving parts, things will change every day. Make sure your calendar always reflects the real-time status of projects to avoid duplicate work or missed deadlines.

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