Quick, tell me without thinking about it – what are you doing next Thursday? How about Wednesday 2 weeks from now. Do you know? Unless you have an awesome meeting with someone famous lined up, chances are you wouldn’t be able to tell me what you’re doing without looking at your calendar. Calendars are great – they help keep us organized in ways that then allow our brains to think about other things.
Calendars are also great ways to hold us accountable for the things we promise to do.
We promise to show up at that soccer game.
We promise to bring the donuts to that early morning meeting.
We promise to write about the things we said we were going to write about.
Content Calendars are a great way to not only get your thoughts organized well ahead of actually writing, but it also helps you map out the flow of content for the next 30, 60 or 90 days, develop your targets and topics, and distribute the writing tasks if need be. I find that when I write up my Content Calendar well in advance and then start to focus on the writing, weeks later I’m pleasantly surprised at the depth of content topics that are still ahead of me – topics that would have been forgotten if I hadn’t written them down.
So how to you set up a great Content Calendar?
Here is how I like to set up my Content Calendars – feel free to borrow these ideas and add some of your own. If you do have other suggestions, let me know – I’m always interested in hearing how others organize their content plans.
I set up my spreadsheet with the following headers:
Date – Due date of the content. This is the day the content is to be posted. If you’re working with a content team you may want to add additional dates for “Initial Draft”, “Proofing/Comments” and “Final”.
General Topic – If you’re sitting with your team and coming up with topics, this is a great place to write a one sentence topic statement that you can refer to later. Try to be concise but detailed so that you know what you wanted to write if you’re referring to this section 30-90 days from now. If you need to, add other details under the Notes section. The purpose of the General Topic section is to ensure that the various content topics that you need to cover in the next 30-90 days are well-represented.
Headline – If the perfect Headline comes up while you’re brainstorming content topics, write it down. But don’t get bogged down in coming up with a great Headline right away. Feel free to leave this blank until later.
Short or Long? – Typically Google pays attention to content that’s 500 words or more, however, sometimes under 500 is OK too, depending upon your audience. This section is a great way to make sure you have a good mix of short and long content.
Persona – If you’ve developed your Buyer Personas then list who you’re targeting here. If you haven’t yet created your Personas, think hard about going through the process – it’s not only helpful for content development but it’s great for making your sales team more effective.
Keywords – Yes, Google is getting smarter and keywords aren’t as important as they used to be, but they’re still important and a great way to keep you focused and make sure you’re writing the best content for your site. For example, if you’re selling wedding supplies you probably don’t want to focus on the keywords “cute panda”.
Delivery – Is this content a Blog post? An Instagram or Pintrest post? A whitepaper? An offline brochure?
Promotion – How will this content be promoted? Is it a post on Facebook, Twitter, etc? Or is it a whitepaper that needs to be distributed to your pipeline via Eloqua or Infusionsoft?
Creative Assets – Will you need one main image and 2 smaller ones? Will this be an eBook with Infographics and Images? Write down your estimate of any creative assets that will be needed for each piece of content.
Notes – I use the Notes section to provide more details including links to research or images. I will also add additional content here that I can reference later when it’s time to write the full post.
Remember, your Content Calendar doesn’t need to be set in stone. If you need to cover relevant breaking news or surprise internal announcements, add them to your calendar and then move everything else down. Ideally your content should be 30% or less “time sensitive” and 70% or more “evergreen”. Content lives online forever – so you want to make sure that new visitors to your site are still able to read plenty of content that’s still relevant, no matter when they visit.