Editorial Calendar

How To Plan Ahead With An Editorial Calendar

Using an editorial calendar on your blog can really change the way you deliver information to your audience. Instead of winging it from one post to the next, you can develop a content marketing strategy designed to serve your audience.

Editorial Calendar Benefits for Your Site

One of the most useful things you can do for your audience is deliver actionable ideas in your posts. Your readers are looking for solutions, ideas and tips. It doesn't matter if they're looking for tips to help their own photography or if they're searching for a commercial photographer. Providing actionable information helps build your reputation as someone trustworthy and reliable.

Considering how important it is to build your reputation, do you really want to leave your content planning to the whim of whatever comes to mind the night before you're supposed to write a blog post?

Inspiration is nice, but it isn't reliable.Click To Tweet

You need a plan. An editorial calendar helps you plan ahead to prepare meaningful content for your audience.

1: Strategic Planning

Instead of waiting to see what comes up in your head at the moment, an editorial calendar encourages you to look ahead and plan your message. You can start to develop articles based upon a theme. For example, this post is part of a theme to help you build a better blog. Each post in the theme delves into a specific concern for bloggers. Collectively, the theme should help you understand a strategy to build a successful, reliable and popular web site. Who knows? The collection may turn into an eBook one day.

Using an editorial calendar lets you plan ahead to strategically tie your content to events. Need to come up with a post for Easter, Summer, Labor Day or an upcoming industry event? Put it on your calendar and then start backing off to build a production schedule for that post.

When do you need to have photographs, artwork and the article text ready to meet that date? Who is responsible for delivering each piece necessary to create the article? Your editorial calendar works to organize everything you need to manage your time and resources to deliver a great post on time.

2: No More Writer's Block

Ever have one of those nights? It's the evening before you're supposed to write a blog post. You got nothing. Literally nothing. Every minute ticks closer to bedtime and you're faced with three undesirable choices.

  • Don't write a post and miss your publishing schedule
  • Struggle to put together a piece that has little to no relevance to your audience or your site
  • Write an “I Got Nothing” post and show everyone that you have no ability to meet a schedule, demonstrate creativity and lose some of their respect

None of those are really enticing options. I know, because I've been through all three of them. There were even times when I thought I'd whipped up a decent post at the last minute, only to look back later and find it didn't perform well and was mostly just an effort of late night desperation.

That doesn't happen when you start planning your content ahead of time with an editorial schedule. You've already thought about topics to write. In fact, you've already worked on writing them and have all of your resources ready. Better yet, the post may fit part of an overall theme.

Working with an editorial calendar gives you time to prepare your resources, do research and create your content calmly well in advance of your scheduled publishing date. Even better, you can keep your ideas for posts in a draft bin, ready to pull out in case you run into one of those “I got nothing” moments.

You don't have a problem with writer's block. If you're running your own web site, you have a lot of knowledge to share. The problem is time and resource management. An editorial calendar is a great tool to manage your time and help you get the most out of the knowledge that you want to share with your audience.

3: Unleash Your Creativity

Once you start laying out your ideas in an editorial calendar, you can start playing “What if?” with your ideas. You're no longer trying to think of something unique for each post. Instead, you can look at the bigger picture.

What's more useful? A single tip on a lighting setup, or a comprehensive discussion of lighting resources and examples? Imagine what you could do if you had time to plan your shoot for a blog post rather than trying to create a blog post about a photograph? Which is going to be more useful to your audience?

Your web site planning can be just as detailed as if you were writing a book. Take the time to envision the message that you want to share. Look at all of the details that are necessary to make it happen. Use the editorial calendar to schedule the events and resources you need, and then plan your publishing schedule.

You can work toward your publishing date or work backward from a hard date (like a post for Valentine's Day). In either case, an editorial schedule will help you determine your publishing workflow, create tasks and assign them, and develop a project management timeline to get things done.

4: Team Collaboration and Communication

For this blog, I'm a team of one. I do it all, good or bad. Once I started using an editorial calendar, I discovered the value of communication and collaboration.  I'll explain.

My memory is like a sieve. One moment, I have a wonderful idea. Then someone asks me a question or tells me to stop picking my nose. Then I've forgotten my great idea.

What can an editorial calendar do to help?

You need a set of tools to accommodate

  • Scheduling
  • Task assignment
  • A place to put notes about the project
  • A place to gather your resources (photos, graphics, audio files, video)

Think of each post as its own project. Even if you're working on your own, as I am, it's incredibly helpful to have notes and tasks associated with each post to ease the process of creating the article. If you have a team, assigning these tasks helps everyone know their role and due date to complete the project.

If you're working with a Guest Blogger, then you can really help them get up to speed quickly by providing a list of scheduled tasks and a place to communicate about their article. These basic project management tools related to your post help you develop a workflow to ease the overall process. It actually saves you time because you know what's expected and when it's due.

5: Consistency and Alignment With Your Objectives

There's an old saying. What gets measured gets done. Your editorial calendar is a measurement tool. Dates tick off before the deadline. Tasks need completion. It's easy to look and see if you're making progress on your project to create a blog post.

That process, that workflow, develops consistency. Your audience can depend upon you to develop and share useful information on a consistent basis.

The flip side is that you will start to tighten your niche. As a result, you're going to eliminate some members of your audience who may not be interested. Of course, you can't be all things to all people. Nor do you want to even try to cast that wide of a net. When you look at the masters of their field, they each have a narrow specialty. The person who teaches you about finance isn't the same person who teaches you have to cook the perfect holiday feast.

Even within a general topic like photography, there are specialists we trust. David Hobby is the Strobist, a great resource for small flash photography. Moose Peterson is the first person who comes to mind for wildlife photography.

That doesn't mean you can't expand to include a related topic. While Moose is great at wildlife photography, he's also developed a great example of air to air aviation photography that he shares. Are all of this wildlife fans suddenly going to appreciate his aviation work? Maybe not, but his doesn't mix both topics in the same posts. He also doesn't talk about changing the timing on a small block Chevy.

You can have a few objectives, related by some common thread, and still be successful. Having an editorial calendar allows you to address those objectives with planned articles that interest your audience. As you grow, your audience members will change and grow with you. However, those who remain will be more engaged and interested in your message because it's on target with their interests.

That's the key benefit of aligning your posts with your objectives.

Think big. You don't want to just grow to the next level (whatever that is). Instead, you want to grow by a multiple of ten. Are you trying to improve the size of your audience? Shoot for 10X. Trying to increase your profits. Again, 10X.

Have grand objectives. It's up to you to devise the strategy to get there. Your editorial calendar is a tool to help you implement the tactics that will power your growth.

Four Tips to Manage Your Editorial Calendar

Now that you know the benefits of an editorial calendar, let's take a look at some basic advice to make the most of it.

1: Look Ahead by at Least Three Months.

Plan your ideas in advance so you have time to flesh them out. You want to look for annual events, whether they're holidays or events related to your industry. Plan your content as much as possible to have something ready before you get to the date. If you visit Miami in January, you're going to see models and photographers all over the beach. Why? Because the fashion industry has an editorial calendar to publish before the summer swimwear season.

2: Always Have Detailed Plans a Month in Advance.

Something WILL come up to interfere, so give yourself some leeway by having work ready a month before you need it. Think about those magazines and catalogs for summer swimwear I mentioned in the previous example. What do you think they're doing a month before publication? If you were in their shoes, what would you be doing?

With planning, you should have your content and resources together while you finalize the details before your scheduled publication date. A blog post isn't as complicated as a fashion magazine, but you go through the same workflow steps to prepare your article. It's just on a smaller scale.

3: Use Your Tools To Assign and Communicate

Even if you're working alone, like me, use the tools to plan, assign and communicate ideas. There are countless times I've forgotten something important because it wasn't written down in a place I check regularly.

Don't make that mistake. Get your ideas down in a place related to your editorial calendar plan. It will make your blogging process much easier.

4: Promote Your Posts

Your job isn't done when you publish your posts. Now you have to help people find them. Just because you build it doesn't mean people will come. You need to develop avenues to invite an audience to read your article. Here are a few ideas.

  • Develop an e-mail list and let subscribers know when you publish a new post.
  • Use social media to share your post with your followers.
  • Write guest posts to help someone else's audience, and reference a useful post on your own site.
  • Use YouTube and Podcasting to reach a larger audience and bring them back to posts on your site.

All of these outreach and promotion plans should be on your editorial calendar. Not just for the new posts that you create, but also for your older posts that have useful or evergreen content.

Don't just sit and hope that Google will deliver readers to your doorstep. Some will come, but you have to go and get the rest.

Choosing An Editorial Calendar Tool

You're looking for more than one tool. You need a calendar, a task manager, a team collaboration tool, a resource manager and a social media promotion manager.

There are a lot of ways to make this work. Some people use a spreadsheet for their editorial calendar. I find that idea as repugnant as self flagellation. You can use a spreadsheet for a lot of things, but that doesn't mean it's the best tool for the job.

There are a few WordPress Plugins that bring the editorial calendar inside of your WordPress interface. They all have a calendar, but some will leave out other related tasks and you have to compensate for them with other tools.

About seven months ago, I chose to use CoSchedule as my editorial calendar. If you'd like to know more about the benefits of CoSchedule, please check out my CoSchedule Review.  I lay out the benefits, features and provide a behind the scenes tour of the interface. I also go into some issues where I learned the right and wrong ways to use the tool. The review has both text and a YouTube video to show my thoughts and workflow.

If you want to try CoSchedule, you can get a free trial for 14 days.  No credit card required. 100% guarantee. Cancel anytime. Having used it for seven months, I can recommend it as a solid tool for your editorial calendar and social media promotion. This isn't an affiliate link, so I don't earn any money. However, it is a referral link that allows me credit on my bill if you decide to subscribe to the service.

As always, I'm here to help if you need advice or assistance when you use my referral link. I really appreciate your support. Thank you.

If CoSchedule isn't right for you, there are other editorial calendar plugins available for WordPress.  I tried a few of them and decided they didn't offer enough services to cover my needs. That's why I went with CoSchedule. You may have other tools to handle some of the features these plugins lacks, so be your own judge of what works best for you.

As always, thanks for taking the time to read my post. I hope it was helpful. If you have any questions, leave a comment and I'll do my best to provide an answer.

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