You launched a blog, a newsletter, or Twitter account. You had some great topic ideas, and you wrote with great gusto for a week. Then…nothing.
Work got busy. Sitting down to come up with an idea and writing about it was too daunting. You abandoned it, even though you know it would be a great way to market your business.
But here’s a great way to sustain your effort: An editorial calendar. A what? An editorial calendar is a tool to plan for periodic, relevant, and channel-appropriate communications with your target audiences. You can use one of the many calendar templates available online (including through WordPress, the site of this blog), but you can also create a simple spreadsheet or list. The key is not what it looks like, but how you use it over time.
I use a very simple editorial calendar for my e-newsletter—and have managed to put together an issue every month for more than five years.
Recently, I talked with Dori Kelner, managing partner of Sleight-of-Hand Studios, about how she works with organizations to set up and adhere to an editorial calendar.
Audience and Goals
According to Kelner, basic questions come first:
- Your target audience(s)
- Your business objectives
- Issues that are of interest to them (and not just what you want them to know about you!)
- Channel(s) to best reach them (blog, Twitter, newsletter, etc.), ideally based on research.
Content can be static (for example, About Us or Contact Us on your website) or dynamic (blogs with new postings, tweets, Facebook posts, and the like). Most content these days should be dynamic. That’s where the calendar comes in.
Creating the Calendar
Using the format that works best for you, develop a calendar of how you will review and update/change the static content (maybe quarterly) and create dynamic content (way more often). Consider:
- Which channels to regularly use, based on your audiences
- How often to create (or curate) content
- Who will do it
Kelner recommends a 4-month planning horizon. Be specific in your dates and assignments. Don’t propose, for example, twice-weekly blog postings. Instead, write out which dates each week, the general topics, and who will write them.
Be realistic, based on available resources. For instance, if you can’t keep up a weekly newsletter, make it biweekly or monthly. Use tools such as Twuffer to schedule tweets that you write in the morning over the course of the day.
Keeping the Calendar
This is tricky, but it’s why the specificity of a calendar is your friend.
Honor the dates on your calendar as you do other project deadlines. Depending on the size of your business, you may be doing all the content yourself or coordinating the work of others. Either way requires time and attention.
And here’s another important part, Kelner said. Don’t run through the 4 months, then come to a full stop. At the end of the first month, plan for month 5, and so on, so you always have a flow ahead of you, and the task is more manageable.
Use analytics to see any changes in traffic to your website. Chances are, if you are true to your calendar, you’ll see spikes in traffic when you post new content and dips when you are AWOL.
p.s. I will be blogging monthly on writing topics that are relevant to small businesses. Yes, I have set up an editorial calendar, but leave a comment here if you have a question or topic you would like me to cover that would benefit you.