We’re going to talk about editorial calendars this week. I know a lot of you are worried about the coronavirus, but we should all take a break from the negativity and focus on the positive. Trust me, there are positives out there, especially for writers!
The biggest positive for writers right now is that a lot of people stuck at home or in quarantine and need something to take their minds off their worries. Cat videos will only take you so far, which leaves a wide margin of opportunity for us writers to fill that void for content.
We won’t be able to entertain a broad audience if we don’t have stories or content to share. So, we need something to help us keep on track and be productive. One great thing to do is join the NaNoWriMo camps, which take place in April and July. Another way is to join an online writing group or create an editorial calendar.
Editorial Calendars Have Benefits
What is an editorial calendar? Editorial calendars are a way to track and schedule content for posting. They are mostly used by teams of writers to keep a record of where content is before it’s published, but they can also be helpful for the solo writer.
An editorial calendar is a written document that organizes the timing of your content production, publishing, distribution, and measurement efforts for both collaboration and strategic purposes.
The benefits of using an editorial calendar are numerous. For instance, they help you plan out your posting schedule in advance. It’s easier to write content for your blog or your stories if you know what comes next, and it can help you organize your time more effectively, keeping you on task. Most importantly, it ensures that you are posting high-quality content consistently. If we’re not doing that, then we can lose our readership – and potential book buyers.
It also allows you to figure out what you’re posting and on what platform which can be helpful when you’re writing guest posts on other blogs. You can also share it between your collaborators to make sure everyone is on the same page and knows what’s getting published when.
For those of you who aren’t social media crazy or savvy, editorial calendars can also help you with your posting on your various social media platforms. By having everything laid out and in one place, you can schedule in teasers and social media posts around your main content – i.e., your stories, book releases, etc. Knowing when and what you want to post makes it easier for you to get those extra tidbits in.
This becomes crucial when you’re marketing yourself and your stories because you want to maximize the exposure you’re getting on the internet. For more on selling your books, check out the following posts:
All of this is great, but if you don’t stick to your calendar, things can get sloppy very quickly. That doesn’t mean that once you put something in the calendar, it’s set in stone. Editorial calendars need to be flexible enough that they can account for new developments (i.e., coronavirus) and ideas (i.e., posts covering a popular topic). Just make sure that the content insertions make sense and fit your existing schedule.
What Should be Included?
You may be thinking, that’s great, sign me up and then come up short when you don’t know what to include. According to industry experts, a good editorial calendar should have some of the following details:
- Topic, descriptions, and approaches to content
- Content headlines or titles and type of content (text, video, image, quote)
- Post angles and variations
- Places content will be published and pitched
- Keywords, title tag, meta description tag, header tags, internal links (SEO stuff)
- Resources and similar existing content
- Goals and prompts for assessment of goals/strategies
Obviously, this list is tailored to a business or content marketing strategies, but it can be adapted for solo writers. You just take out the extra authors or editors as needed. This can also be adapted for social media posting and stories.
To that aim, Writer’s Digest and I want you to keep the following considerations in mind:
- Look at the big picture before diving into the details. If you add all the little things you need to do to the calendar to get that one post out – you’ll be overwhelmed and less likely to stick to your self-imposed deadlines. Make sure you get all the big things hammered out first, like when you’re taking a vacation, conferences you want to attend, and any big projects you have on the go. Then prioritize and schedule around those big things.
- Split your to-do list into manageable chunks. Building on what I mentioned in the above point, you need to break things up so it doesn’t look as intimidating to get done. To do this, you need to block out time do certain things for a set amount of time. That way, your focus isn’t scattered into a bunch of different directions. It’ll help you work faster and create better content.
- Work as you were always meant to work. In other words, don’t force yourself to be productive in times when you’re not up to the challenge. Some people are more productive first thing in the morning and others in the dead of night. Figure out what works for you and make sure you use that time wisely. Do the less critical tasks, like checking your email, for the down periods of your focus and energy.
- Plan for the unexpected. Life happens, and there’s nothing we can do about it. So make sure you leave some gaps in your schedule for those “shit happens” moments. Or for when you get a new bright idea.
- Use tools to help you out. We can’t do everything, so use things like Later, Hootsuite, or CoSchedule to help automate the posting process. It’ll save you time and energy.
- Take care of yourself. Make sure you schedule in time to take care of yourself and to spend time with your loved ones. You’re not a machine, and the internet will (hopefully) understand if you decide to take some time off for you.
Editorial Calendar Programs
To make things easy for you, there are different programs that you can use to help organize the creative process. I have two systems that I use to keep me sane, but I’ll give you some other options as well.
This is a free program that you can sign up for. I’ve used it at work, and it’s a great collaboration tool for those who are more visually inclined. Multiple people can access the board to leave comments, and you can assign tasks to other people. I use it to keep my life organized as well as to keep content on schedule for this blog.
Here’s a sneak peek at my dashboard:
I find that it’s easy to navigate and to set up. I color code things based on what part of my life I need to organize. Once you click on the individual task cards, you have a variety of options at your disposal, such as color-coding, setting deadlines, and checklists, among others. This is what each individual card looks like:
Another tool I use is Google Calendar, I like to see what I have scheduled for that month and when. I love that WordPress allows us to plan posts ahead of time, but I don’t like that it doesn’t have a calendar that shows you what you’re publishing or when. That only pops up when you want to schedule something else.
Until that feature gets added, I’m using Google Calendar to keep track of the themes and topics I want to cover and when I want to publish them. To again give you an idea of what it looks like, here’s a snippet:
I sometimes add content as we go along as it fits in my schedule.
Google Calendar is free and easy to use. If you want a separate calendar for all of your blog stuff, it’s easy to set up. Just hit the plus sign next to the other calendars headings and follow the directions from there.
Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel
This is another popular tool that gets used by numerous content-generating organizations. You can color-code to your heart’s content and organize it in whatever way works for you. I am a little more in favor of the Google Sheets version because it’s easier to collaborate with.
Google Sheets: Free
Microsoft Excel: need a subscription to use the service.
I do not have any personal experience with CoSchedule, but I hear that it’s relatively easy to navigate and integrate with WordPress and Evernote. This blog by CoSchedule outlines the many benefits of having an editorial calendar and some of the software’s features.
The platform isn’t free, unfortunately. For just the editorial calendar, it’s going to cost you $30 per month. You can try the calendar out for 14 days as part of a free trial if this interests you.
If CoSchedule isn’t for you and you want to look into some of the other platforms I mentioned, then you’re probably going to want to look up some free templates. To save you a bit of time, I did go out and find you some sites that are offering the goods up for free. You can check them out at the following links:
- Curata – some of the links are gated or ungated.
- Hootsuite–this one is for posting things on your social media, but still relevant.
There’s no right way to organize content and your time. It’s got to work for you and the people that you work with. Hopefully, this post has given you a few ideas as to how to structure your own editorial calendar. I want to see a lot of great content being posted in the next few weeks – whether that’s stories, blog posts, comic strips, or jokes.
Have an editorial calendar template that works for you? Please share in the comments below! Also, if you have any questions about Trello, I’d be more than happy to answer them.
Stay safe and be productive!
Until next time!