It’s easy to get excited about all the ways in which your content can be shared during the brainstorming phase of a content marketing campaign. Blog posts! Podcasts! Newsletters! Social media! White papers! Downloadable guides! Pay-per click ads! Guest posts!

Feel familiar?

Hold on to that excitement. It’s a good thing. But as you find yourself furiously scribbling ideas on a whiteboard, ask yourself a few questions: How will you keep up with deadlines for all of these ideas? Who’s going to write or produce each piece of content? And how much time can you realistically devote to this new enterprise, while still keeping up with your other duties and obligations?

You use a scheduling program to keep up with your meetings and appointments. You use a customer relationship management (CRM) system to track your client interactions. So why wouldn’t you use a content calendar to keep your marketing team’s efforts organized in one place?

What is a content calendar?

A content calendar is a handy tool used by editors, bloggers, and content marketers to plan and track content across platforms. Depending on the complexity of your content strategy, it can include one or two platforms (such as a blog and a Facebook page); if you’re really ambitious, it could include social media, podcasts, videos, white papers, blog posts, guest posts, newsletters, etc. (“All of the things” is a good catchall here, but you’ll want your content calendar to outline what, exactly, “all of the things” entails.)

If you like to see the month at-a-glance, a content calendar can be created from a calendar template; or it can be as simple as a good ol’ Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. I recommend using a format that’s flexible for team input, such as Google Sheets. You can also download a content calendar template from Hubspot or the Content Marketing Institute. 

What goes into a content calendar?

Your content calendar can include as much or as little as you need to keep your content strategy on track.

  • Post date: The date your content will go live on a blog, social media, newsletter, etc. This date is one of the most important features of your content calendar; work backwards from it to create your deadline system.
  • Post topic: This field should include an overview of what your content will say.
  • Draft deadline: Be realistic as you think about how much time is necessary for creating your content, based on the format. A social media post may only require a one-day buffer between drafting and posting; something more complex, such as a podcast or white paper, will require more time for research, production, and editing.
  • Writer: Decide who will write the copy, based on skill, knowledge, and availability. An experienced member of your team should handle lengthy research-based assignments. Social media posts should be assigned to someone who has fully mastered your brand voice. Newer team members or interns can pitch in for short blog posts.
  • Editor: Designate at least one senior-level member of your team to edit each item on your content calendar. The ideal person for this task should have excellent proofreading skills, as well as a hawk’s eye for brand consistency and voice.
  • Art/Media: Will your post need a high-resolution photo? How about a custom design or a short animated video? Decide who will be responsible for sourcing the art or media for your content, and allow enough time (and/or budget) for him or her to present a few options prior to the post date.
  • URL: This pertains more to blog posts and podcasts than social media posts, but make sure to keep the custom hyperlinks for your content on file for easy reference.
  • Views/Impressions: Track your page views and impressions to see what types of content create the biggest splash with your audience over time.

Next week, we’ll discuss the benefits of using a content calendar. Until then, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Do you currently use a content calendar to manage your company’s content marketing strategy? How’s it going? If you need help getting started with a customized content calendar, get in touch — there’s nothing this former editor loves more than helping clients bring clarity to their content goals.