When I was a cadet reporter things were still distinctly analogue, so my editorial calendar was kept on a notepad, a week to a page.
It was crude, but efficient. I had planned out in front of me, for as many weeks ahead as practical, precisely what I needed to write for each week’s newspaper. I knew who was being interviewed, what photos were needed, what my deadlines were — everything.
These were the days when the entire newsroom had one email address between us and we fired up a special computer, once a week, to check them. I mean, receiving a fax was about as cutting edge as we needed to be in order to speak truth to power and hold the local council to account.
Nowadays our editorial calendars are most definitely digital — and they’re filled with concepts we’d never even heard of back when I was scribbling into my notepad: Tweets, Facebook, LinkedIn. But the principle is very much the same. If you want to keep track of your content, then it is vital to run an editorial calendar.
Your calendar doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, the simpler the better. I use a spreadsheet, rather than a fancy computer program, because at heart I’m still that very analogue 19-year-old cadet. But whether it’s a razzle-dazzle whiz-bang management system with automated social media posting and integrated doodads, a spreadsheet, or a pad and a pen, here’s what an editorial calendar should look like.
It should look like an actual calendar
Just like you use your diary to keep track of your appointments, an editorial calendar should be broken down methodically into days, weeks, months and years, so you can see precisely:
- What was published on what day in the past
- What you plan to publish on what day in the future
- Where there are gaps that need to be filled with content
- Whether you’re getting the mix of content right.
It should tell you where every piece of content is at right now
But it’s not enough that a calendar should be a list of publication dates. Your calendar should also keep track of what content is under consideration; has been commissioned; is in production, being edited, proofed, or approved; and has been scheduled for publication.
What’s more, if you’re working in a team, it’s important to keep track of who is in charge of each piece of content at every single stage of your editorial process. If you don’t know whether the article due for publication on Monday is still being written, is with your proofreader, or is being held up during the client approval stage, then you could waste ages trying to track it down.
Everyone who needs it should have access to it
Your editorial calendar should be your central point of communication for your newsroom. Everyone involved in the production of content who might need to refer to the calendar should have access to it — you, your writers, the client, the marketing manager, and so on. Not everyone should be able to edit it, of course, but anyone who might need to see it should be able to. You’ll be amazed how much emailing backwards and forwards a well-run editorial calendar can save.
The other really important thing is that one person should be in charge of the calendar — whether that’s an account manager, the editorial lead, or someone else. An editorial calendar is a bit like a cruise ship — it will sail along nicely without the captain for a while, but eventually it’s going to run aground without someone there to steer it.
It should link out to the published content
Your editorial calendar gives you a picture of the future, the present and the past, all at a glance. It becomes a wonderful resource to help you answer questions like “didn’t we write a blog about…?” and “when did we run that article on…?” So include URLs so you can quickly find your way back to the content, even if it’s years after it has been published. You should also have a way to link back to the original content within your company filing system, too. Life is much easier when you can find the original word document or video.
If you’re running your newsroom for a client, your editorial calendar also becomes a handy one-stop shop for invoicing. Don’t underestimate the value of that.
Each editorial calendar will look a little different
In my role as managing editor at Lush — The Content Agency, I regularly deal with more than a dozen editorial calendars. Each one looks slightly different to the others — and that’s OK, because our clients have different needs, wants and priorities. The important thing is that the calendar provides us with whatever information that I, my team, and our clients, might need at any given moment.
If you want to work with a content agency and video production house that understands the importance of running a strong editorial calendar in achieving your content marketing goals, get in touch with Lush — The Content Agency.