Do I Need an Editorial Calendar?

Oct 27, 2015

For community managers the short answer to this FAQ is, "You only need an editorial calendar if you want to nurture and grow your online community."

If you’re like me, it doesn’t get done unless it’s scheduled, and calendars are the time-tested tool for managing schedules. But a good editorial calendar can be much more than just a scheduler and task reminder. An editorial calendar can also function as a valuable strategic planning guide, giving you an instant bird’s eye view of your messaging campaign and audience demographic. 

What you observe and monitor grows. That makes your editorial calendar an excellent way to help track ROI, something that CMs often need in order to justify the expense of running a community. And if you are going to increase your posting frequency, a calendar is the perfect monitoring tool. Consider tying your calendar to metrics tracking your community’s activity in order to gain more knowledge about what kind of content works in your community.

Consistency is what builds brand loyalty and a following. Creating the habit of providing relevant content will seed conversations and develop relationships to build your community faster. Good habits foster consistency, so you can think of the editorial calendar as a habit-builder. And there is an added benefit if you are looking to grow your community. Search engines are getting more sophisticated and better at finding unique and high quality content like yours. Better, more consistent content not only helps your community members, and seeds more conversations, it also drives traffic to your site!

Finally, consider the team-building aspects of the editorial calendar. Creating one is the perfect way to help your staff brainstorm ideas, store them for future use, visualize a strategic marketing plan, and prioritize and divvy-up tasks.

Start with the big picture

An editorial calendar is nothing more than a visual representation of your scheduled content, social media and other postings, such as class assignments, marketing campaigns, or even live events. You start by focusing on the big picture. Think of the yearly cycles you encounter like holidays, seasons, financial or fiscal cycles, live events, product launches, academic schedules or whatever is relevant to your community. 

Next consider the type of content you want to post, whether photos, reports, social media, ebooks, academic assignments, reminders, polls or surveys, etc. Then decide how long it will take to write and produce each post, and who will be responsible for each item. Once you have everything sketched-out for the year, you can circle back and discern where there are gaps in your posting schedule. 

For CMs who manage a team of contributors, sharing an editorial calendar simplifies the job of assigning research and writing projects and delegating tasks, and makes the whole process more transparent. Meet with your team regularly to assign tasks and reserve time monthly and yearly to review and adjust your calendar.

Calendars are about being more intentional, rather than hit and miss. Since the point is to produce more content more regularly, don’t get snagged obsessing over how your calendar looks. It doesn’t have to be fancy; a simple spreadsheet or shared Google calendar will do. Or there are plenty of free calendar templates out there that can help you pencil-out a year-long schedule, brainstorm ideas and plan day-to-day posts. However if you have a bigger budget and more time and staff, you might prefer to collaborate online using one of the digital platforms such as CoSchedule or DivvyHQ.

No matter how you do it, with this simple strategic planning tool you will soon be on your way to growing your community by producing more consistent content. 

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