I used to be the managing editor of a global financial magazine. I loved my job for many reasons but one of my favourite tasks was, perhaps, not what you might expect.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved choosing the cover image of the magazine, I loved the feeling when the content had all come in and I loved the sense of relief when it had all been sent off to the printers. However, the thing that I enjoyed and looked forward to most of all was the creation of our editorial schedule.
Every year, around September time actually, my magazine’s head of marketing would sit down with me to discuss the future content of the publication. It was always a balancing act! I would do all I could to ensure that my writers had as much flexibility as possible and he would try to persuade me to set all of the content in stone.
That back and forth was actually quite fun! The fact was that we both appreciated each other’s opinions. He knew that I couldn’t tell what my readers would be interested in months in the future and I knew that he needed some certainty in order to sell advertising space.
I would then go away from that meeting with a blank calendar. Each month sat in an empty box. Rolling up my sleeves I would then start to piece the future together. It was an unbelievably exciting process. Starting from nothing, the magazine would start to take shape and, by the end of the process, I would know what topics each issue would cover for months in advance.
Of course, there were moments in the process that were scary and having all of those blank boxes staring at me at the start did often feel a tad overwhelming. But then you start and it’s a bit like doing a puzzle – all of the pieces start to fall into place and it is so satisfying when they do.
You may be reading this and thinking that I am quite mad to have enjoyed this task so much. In which case, apologies, but I’ll have to compound that sense of lunacy further by admitting that I also loved the first day of the editorial process of each magazine more than the last. I loved looking at all the pages that I had to fill and planning just what I was going to fill them with. Each to their own I guess!
The point is that, however much I enjoyed the task of creating an editorial calendar or schedule, it was one of the most important jobs that I had to do as the magazine’s editor. So, if you write a blog or publish a newsletter in your business, I would argue that the creation of an editorial calendar is the most important task in your content creation process.
There are many advantages to having an editorial schedule in place. Here are my top five:
An editorial schedule focuses the mind. You don’t have to spend ages waiting for inspiration to strike every time you settle down to write something. You have already decided what you are going to cover and this feels remarkably freeing.
If you know what you are going to cover, you can look out for interesting facts and talking points about the subject and collect relevant information in advance. This will make for far superior content.
Monetise Your Content
If you are looking to monetise your content (and this applies to blogs, newsletters and other forms of content such as videos and podcasts) you can approach relevant sponsors in advance to discuss how they might be a good fit for a particular post or publication.
It is, of course, essential to ensure that you maintain high editorial standards and remain impartial. Only endorse those products and services that you know and feel comfortable with and make it a win win for your readers by offering them something that they actually need with some form of discount or bonus.
The creation of your editorial schedule will benefit your content creation process because it will allow you time to consider guest posts. Say, for example, you have created your calendar and see that next month you are scheduled to include a post about how to protect yourself from fraud and money laundering.
Now you know you could do some research and rely on your own experience and create a high quality article on this subject. However, you know a lawyer that specialises in this field and know that this lawyer could write an exceptional piece of content that would be far more beneficial to your readers.
If this article is due today or tomorrow, you will soon realise that you have no chance of getting your legal contact to write it for you. However, if you have a month or two in hand, you can get in touch and give the lawyer a chance to produce an article.
I could go on with more examples as to why you should create an editorial schedule but I think these five really say it all. Sure, it will take time but you won’t regret that initial investment. You will soon come to rely on your editorial calendar and be so thankful that you have one as it will, in the end, save you valuable time.
So, having made the argument (and if you disagree please do leave a comment below!) for editorial calendars, you might now be looking at your empty boxes and wondering how to fill them. You may even have more boxes staring at you than I had at my magazine. Many of you write blog posts every week and often several times a week. How do you go about slotting content into your editorial calendar you may wonder?
Here are some tips:
Promotions and Launches
Your editorial content should always be based on topics that will help, educate and inspire your readers. It is really not about you and your business – it is about your ideal clients and what matters to them. However, you still have a business to run and promote so it is also perfectly acceptable to plan content relevant to any product launches, promotions or sales that you have planned for your business.
For example, if you have a new service that helps people to automate their social media posts scheduled for July you could plan some content for the month of June that looks at the advantages of automation. You would, of course, take care to avoid being salesy and always maintain a high editorial standard.
The seasons will often inspire good content ideas. Think about how your product or service can be used in the summer or winter, at Christmas or at Easter. This may involve some rather creative thinking for some businesses but, however tenuous the link, the use of seasons can help structure your yearly content schedule.
Conferences and Seminars
As you look to fill your editorial calendar, take a look at what conferences have been arranged for your industry. There is nothing like a major market event to spark tonnes of content ideas and news. You could plan an article before the conference looking at what you think might be discussed at the event. During the conference, you can schedule time to publish all the news that arises and, once it is all over, you can write a summary about all of the key developments.
Anniversaries are great for editorial plans. You can simply pop them in the relevant time slots year on year. You may want to celebrate a turning point in your industry, or the anniversary of a key product launch or initiative. You can create content based on the anniversary of the day you started your business and talk about how things have developed since then both in your business and in your market.
Working on my magazine or blogging schedule, I know that there are certain topics that need to be covered regularly. They are not necessarily time dependant but it is important that I remember to focus on them.
To ensure that I maintain a good balance of content in my schedule, I make a list of all the topics that I want to include. I then slot them in those time boxes where they best fit. Often, this will feel quite forced but, when the time comes to write these articles, I can make them relevant and topical.
This is a key point. Don’t make your plan so detailed that you feel unable to cover the important topics of the day. Feel free to make changes to your editorial calendar if you need to.
After all, your editorial schedule is there to guide you – not imprison you.
Thanks for reading! Do you have any tips for creating an editorial calendar? If you do, I would love to read them in the comments section below.
Take care, Jane