Before we get into this thing, a couple of warnings…
WARNING 1: This article is not a content strategy. A content (or editorial) calendar is not a strategy. It’s a tool that helps you implement the tactics of your content strategy. If you came here expecting strategy, go here.
WARNING 2: A content calendar is not a social media posting planner. Although they can be combined, this article is not about social media posts. If you’re looking for a social media posting planner, go here.
Alright, hopefully we’re all on the same page now (no pun intended).
The Content Calendar
In the remainder of this article I’m going to explain what a content marketing calendar is, why you should have one and finally, exactly how I use mine (including my favourite apps).
But before all that, a home truth…
…I am not the most organised person in the world, especially when it comes to my personal life. In fact, if it wasn’t for Siri (and her reminders) I’d probably be lost in the middle of a forest somewhere by now…
…but when it comes to content, and more specifically it’s place in the many marketing campaigns we run at Einstein Marketer, I am the complete opposite.
As a self-proclaimed disorganised, take-life-as-it-comes person, I’d be nowhere without my content calendar, but because I use this content marketing tool in my own special way, I’m able to direct, strategise, manage, publish, edit and create content for many different campaigns like an everyday marketing Mary Poppins.
If you aren’t using a content calendar yet, it’s time you started thinking about it.
What is a Content Calendar?
A content calendar is a diary that is used to organise, plan and schedule content marketing campaign(s). They can be used in many different ways and have multiple functions for marketers, most notably the ability to coordinate a team and lay out a strategy into a specific timeframe.
Whilst many content marketers use a calendar to direct their day-to-day activities, especially when it comes to creating content, I actually use mine to visualise my content strategy.
Let me explain this in slightly more depth; a typical content calendar might look something like this (just imagine this as a calendar entry):
The importance of a content marketing calendar.
Notes: Written article. Include details about what, why and how to use one. Talk about the way I use the content calendar and why other content marketers and business owners should consider doing the same.
This is an idea to be created on Monday. I have filled in my calendar with a loose title, content type and notes about its content. When Monday comes around, I will follow my calendar and go about creating this content.
This is what a typical content calendar looks like and if you’d like to use yours like that, go ahead (there’s nothing wrong with it) but honestly, I think you’d be missing a trick.
Am I Using My Content Calendar in the Wrong Way?
Using a calendar to plan your day-to-day work is an effective way of staying on top of your content workload, but in my opinion, it’s short-sighted, restrictive and can (dare I say it) take the love out of your content creativity.
Trust me, I’ve used a content calendar exactly like this and it turned something I enjoy doing into…work. I prefer to move fluidly, working within set boundaries, with set goals but creating content that has captured my imagination on that day. Content like this inspires audiences, takes significantly less time to create and almost always generates more engagement.
I know that many of you will either be just starting out or have hit a plateau that you can’t seem to conquer. The problem that most of you are facing is movement, particularly movement towards your marketing (and business) goals. The great thing about the content calendar I’m about to show you is it’s primed towards effective forward movement by organising your strategy(s)…
…and it’ll mean that you actually enjoy content marketing!
So, how does it work?
How to Use a Content Calendar
Before you begin creating content or using a content calendar, there is something that you all absolutely must-have (even though 63% of you won’t)…
…a clearly defined and documented content marketing strategy.
Without a content strategy, every time you create content you are effectively taking stabs in a dark (and probably empty) room.
It’s the starting point for everything you do in content marketing and if you don’t have one, you’re facing an uphill battle (and you’re going to have to work 10x harder to achieve positive results).
If you haven’t created a content strategy before, have one that doesn’t work or are struggling for ideas, start here!
When you have a content strategy (and you’ve written it down), you’ll need to create tactics that work towards your overarching strategy. This means building out from your strategy, rather than building up to it. Working down in this fashion is much more effective and guarantees to keep you on track.
The tactics you formulate at this stage should be content topics, ideas and mediums. This is when you begin to create content.
When I have followed my strategy, used it to create tactics that encourage movement and written or recorded at least 6 pieces of content, I use my calendar for the first time.
I start by entering content that is ready to publish and organising them in a timeframe that aligns with my content strategy. This instantly transforms my content calendar from something that tells me what to create, into something that shows me everything I have already created. This gives me freedom, room to breathe and alleviates pressure (that hinders high-quality content).
My next step is to enter topics and ideas into my calendar that I need to create. I don’t use specifics (e.g. exact titles), all my calendar entries are as broad as the categories on Einstein Marketer (for example, content marketing, funnels, social media).
However, one specific that I use on my to-create calendar entries is the specific point on the audience/customer journey that I want to target (e.g. awareness, consideration or evaluation). Again, I structure these aims depending on my over-arching content strategy.
A calendar like this allows me to create content around the topic I feel most inspired about (on that day), keeps me heading towards a clearly defined strategy and relieves pressure (because I always have content ready to publish).
What App/Program/Software Should I Use For My Content Calendar?
Most content marketers will have a particular software that they absolutely swear by, and that’s because their calendars are chock-a-block with notes and to-do’s.
Mine looks much simpler, and it’s for that reason that I don’t require any complicated or paid programs.
There are really only two functions that I require from my content calendar:
- The ability to make multiple entries on one day
- A colour coded flagging system, so I can see which entry represents which campaign (or client)
And that’s it!
Over the years I have used three different calendar programs, all of which I’d recommend:
- Apple’s build in ‘Calendar’ app: This is the best place to start if you’re only running content for one company (yourself). It has two different coloured flags, allows you to title and add notes to entries and is really easy to use.
- Agenda (app): When my workload increased and I started to work on multiple campaigns, I moved onto the Agenda app. Again, it’s really simple to use, organises your work simply and connects with the Apple Calendar for a smooth transition.
- Google Calendar: This is the app I use now and completely fulfils my content needs. As well as the basic functions (provided by the others) it also allows for collaboration and breaks the day down into hours (which gives users a bit more flexibility).
A content calendar is an essential tool in a marketers armoury and when used correctly, can significantly improve results.
The technique I have explained in this article requires you to create a plan (your strategy) and stick to it at all costs, whilst providing you with the creative freedom to react to industry events (and inspiration), all while actually enjoying content marketing.
If the content you create feels like a chore and inspires no passion, that will come across to your audience. Using a calendar in the right way can make all the difference!
What do you think of this content calendar idea? Do you use yours in the same way already?
Thanks for sharing Josh – great points! Most do consider a content calendar just the scheduled posts. Yet there is so much more to consider and the big pictures needs to be represented as well as the goals you are trying to reach. Thanks again for the great article.
Thanks for the comment Tammy.
I’ve always found that a content calendar for scheduled posts can suffocate creativity and take the love out of your work- and in my experience, this feeling always gets passed onto an audience.
Good luck with your own content marketing efforts!
great idea on using a content calendar.
I’m not using one but I know in the future I will, as soon as a I can. I’m not using a content calendar because I work as a freelance writer, and work often comes to me unexpectedly and with a deadline, so I have to scramble to get it done fast.
This prevents me to develop a content posting schedule because I know I could never stick to it.
Thanks for the comment!
I’ve been a freelance writer in the past, so I completely understand! Work only comes around when it’s available. I found that it kept things interesting, but I’m happier working and owning my own space now…but that doesn’t mean it’s better. Maybe you’ll try the other side of the coin one day soon!