Creating great content is one thing, but making sure it engages your audience is another entirely. Successful publishers use editorial calendars to plan regular content drops, while also allowing the marketing team to plan for cross promotion.
Depending on the nature of your content marketing strategy, your calendar can be as simple or as complex as it needs to be. Though they come in various shapes and sizes, all editorial calendars serve the same purpose: to set a content creation timeline.
An editorial calendar provides a much-needed content overview, including when and how to publish, which is critical to ensuring that all your teams are on the same page. For example, a recent survey revealed that almost 50% of social media managers schedule their content one month in advance.
Other marketing professionals also regard editorial calendars as critical to their work. In a 2021 B2B marketing survey, 70% of marketers claimed that they used editorial calendars when creating content, with that percentage increasing to 80% among the most successful.
But before we look at some editorial calendar examples and editorial calendar templates, let’s look more closely at some basic editorial calendar features.
Table of contents:
What Is an Editorial Calendar?
An editorial calendar sets out the timeline for the content you intend to publish, specifying what, when and where actions will be done. It can also state the reason for the activity and who will be responsible for it.
Another feature of an editorial calendar is that it's usually put together at a regular time—either monthly, quarterly or yearly. This enables those who put it together to plan ahead for a standard period.
Another characteristic of an editorial calendar is the nature of its focus. Given its big picture perspective, it tends to focus on larger themes and topics—for example, the general topics that a magazine will cover on its front covers over an entire year—rather than more detailed issues.
What Should an Editorial Calendar Include?
What's listed in an editorial calendar varies from one organization to another. However, any good calendar will have most if not all of the following characteristics and information.
- Single platform: It can be confusing if one team has, say, one version of their calendar as a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet while another uses a Google calendar. A single platform for everyone is the name of the game here.
- High level: The calendar should include a multi-month perspective listing the basic tasks.
- Tactics: This can be a snapshot of how different forms of content—blog post, website content, social media, or print publications—will support your broader goals.
- Due dates: These should include dates such as copy approval, social media post creation, etc.
- Schedules: This details how often web copy and social media posts are published.
- Collaborators: This covers which in-house employee will be responsible for certain activities, content and external contractors.
- Distribution: The media channels through which content will be distributed—for example, blog posts, social media posts, or emails.
These key elements form the nuts and bolts of any sound editorial calendar, and they can be found across many industries.
Why Are Editorial Calendars Important?
There are clearly benefits to having a fleshed out editorial calendar.
By providing a temporal structure to your content planning, a calendar also allows you to develop a marketing strategy. This makes an editorial calendar a critical document for everyone in your organization, as it outlines how activities conducted by various teams over an extended period can tie in with one another to serve broader marketing objectives.
Such calendars have become critical in the digital age, given the growth of online marketing and social media. What were once documents that focused exclusively on print publications have now become roadmaps for multimedia publication.
What Is Editorial Calendar Management?
Editorial calendar management is the execution of the activities that have been set out in an editorial calendar. This involves not only carrying out each activity but also monitoring its implementation and, where necessary, making adjustments.
But calendar management doesn't stop there. In a constantly changing world, it's crucial to amend your calendar to accommodate developments that affect your business.
If a magazine's editorial calendar dictates that the first six issues focus on climate change, broader world events—such as a major conflict—may warrant the commissioning of a series of politically relevant articles.
Such an editorial change will allow the magazine to portray itself as a newsworthy publication. More specifically, it also highlights the importance of flexibility in any good calendar.
Editorial Calendar or Content Calendar: What's the Difference?
The terms “editorial calendar” and “content calendar” are often used interchangeably, but there are some important differences between the two.
An editorial calendar provides a bird's eye view of weeks and months of content planning, focusing on major themes.
In contrast, content calendars take a close-up view of your content. What social media content is due this week? On what day — and in some cases, what time of day - does it have to be published? Who's responsible for it, and do any meetings have to be held before the publication deadline to resolve issues? If so, what are those issues, and who'll be at those meetings? These are some of the practical, day-to-day matters that content calendars typically address.
Both calendars are critical to content publishing. When used properly, they enable you to manage both the long-term and short-term challenges your business may face.
How Do You Create an Editorial Calendar?
Although there are many different forms that an editorial calendar can take, the steps towards creating your own editorial calendar are always the same.
1. Choose a Format for Your Calendar
Every calendar format has its advantages and disadvantages. Google Calendar, for example, is easy to use but doesn't offer the functions of more sophisticated software platforms, such as Kanban and CoSchedule. In the end, decide what's crucial for your calendar, choose a format, then stick to it.
2. Identify Your Marketing Channels
What are the marketing channels for your content? Is your content based on, say, your business' website and a print publication, or do your marketing efforts also encompass social media channels?
Whatever the case, clarify the channels you'll use, then incorporate color coding to make your calendar easy to follow—for example, a blue column for your website, a yellow column for your print publication, a red column for your blog content, and so on.
3. Publish Consistently
Whether you intend to publish content every day, once a week or maybe twice a month, do it consistently. Content that's published like clockwork implies reliability and, therefore, quality.
4. Study Your Competitors' Content Campaigns
Look at how your competitors publish their blog content. Are they using the same or different channels for their social posts? What's their publishing cadence like? Study their content to see whether you can apply techniques that have been successful.
5. Review and Adjust Your Calendar
Monitor the implementation of your calendar's activities. Where things aren't going to plan, investigate and, if necessary, adjust your calendar accordingly. Clear objectives and strict deadlines aren't the only key elements of a good editorial calendar; so too is flexibility.
How Do You Create an Editorial Calendar in Google?
Here's how to set one an editorial calendar in Google Calendar. Note that the process below includes importing an existing calendar from Excel into your Google calendar.
1. Download a Calendar Template
As Google Calendar doesn’t offer a template, you’ll need to download a free third-party Excel template— such as Hubspot’s calendar template.
2. Customize Your Template
Set the publish dates in your Excel template to the current year.
3. Open Your Google Calendar
Once you've downloaded or created your Excel calendar, ensure you're logged into the Gmail account you want the Excel calendar to have access to.
4. Create a New Calendar
To transfer the information in your Excel calendar into Google, open your Google Calendar and click the plus sign (+) to the right of the “Other calendars” option in the drop-down menu. Then, in the drop-down menu that appears, select “Create new calendar”.
5. Enter Your New Calendar’s Details
Fill out the fields that appear on the next screen. The information you enter will provide context for the people you invite to connect with your calendar. When you're finished, click “Create Calendar”.
6. Import Your XLS File
Use the same drop-down menu you used to create your editorial calendar to import your Excel calendar into your Google calendar. Click the plus sign (+), select “Import” then click the upload box that states “Select file from your computer” and locate your Excel calendar.
7. Select Which Calendar to Add Your XLS File to
In the “Add to calendar” box, choose the calendar name you created from the drop-down menu, then click “Import”.
An Import calendar dialog box will appear, telling you the events that were successfully imported. Click “Close”.
Now change the dates of the assignments in the original Excel document, if you haven't already done so. Use the edit window of each assignment to change the publish date.
9. Determine Your Publishing Schedule
Fill your calendar in with the assignments you have planned for the year.
10. Set up Recurring Events
If you have any recurring publishing responsibilities, enter them by clicking on your first event and click the pencil icon to edit your event. You can then create a customized recurring schedule for the responsibility.
11. Fill in Your Publishing Slots
It's now time to fill in your calendar with other content responsibilities you have planned for the year.
12. Share Your Calendar with Others
You can now invite your colleagues and others to access your Google calendar. To do this, select your calendar under “My Calendars”, click the three dots next to your calendar and select “Settings and sharing” in the drop-down menu.
You'll be taken to the Settings screen where you can select the “Share with specific people” option. Once there, add the names of the people you'd like to share your calendar with.
That’s it, you're done.
How Do You Plan Monthly Content?
When it comes to editorial calendars, planning is the name of the game. So how do you plan your content on, say, a monthly basis? Here are six steps to follow.
1. Reflect on the Past Month
It’s important to look back at the past month’s content to understand what's been effective and avoid repeating what hasn't been. To do this, carry out a quantitative analysis (for example, website and email analytics) and a qualitative analysis (for example, discussions with colleagues and clients) of the status quo.
Content pruning—removing obsolete or unnecessary content from a website—is one of the activities commonly conducted during this first step.
2. Choose a Promotional Focus, if Appropriate
Businesses and publishers often have different content agendas. The former, for example, is generally looking to promote their products or services. This can be best achieved when focusing all promotional content in a month to hero a single product or service.
3. Fill out Your Monthly Calendar
Fill out a blank monthly calendar with the coming month's events and activities. These could be events and activities in your own team, as well as elsewhere in the organization, and, collectively, they'll give you a snapshot of what to focus on.
4. Topic Brainstorm
Staying with the theme of promotions, brainstorm and create a mind map of content ideas to focus on.
5. Complete Your Monthly Content Map
Jot down your content coverage for the coming month. Then, for each week, jot down what you'll do to cover your chosen area.
6. Create a Weekly Editorial Calendar
Jot down your weekly content execution plans, then use these as a checklist for publishing content.
3 Editorial Calendar Examples
Choosing the right editorial calendar can be a little daunting when you're just starting out, so we've chosen three examples of effective calendars to help you to clarify the kind of calendar you need.
Hubspot's Editorial Calendar
Hubspot's calendar was designed for writers and content strategists. It features fields for entering the title of content, as well as its URL, meta description and call to action (CTA). It's free and can also be used with Google Sheets.
Buffer's Editorial Calendar
Buffer, a social media content scheduling platform, offers a calendar that features details such as an assignment's title, its author and deadline, as well as where the assignment is in the company's publishing workflow—for example, an assignment can be in the “Ideas” stage, or it may already be an “In Progress”.
Using the Trello project management tool, Buffer's calendar can be used to track both short-term and long-term assignments, and is suitable for project managers and others in similar roles.
Unbounce's Editorial Calendar
Platform: Google Sheets
Unbounce, a firm that produces landing pages and other content for marketers, has a calendar that manages the entire scope of content production. Apart from organizing projects on a monthly basis, the calendar also categorizes a form of content according to the campaign it serves.
Again, such content organization makes the calendar ideal for project managers, as well as content marketers who manage marketing campaigns.
7 Free Editorial Calendar Templates
While there are many editorial and content calendar templates to choose from, here are seven popular ones, one of which might be the right one for your organization.
1. Blue Wire Media
If you're looking for a simple calendar, Blue Wire Media's calendar just might be what you need. It includes a color-coded key that categorizes content according to its stage in the publication process— perfect for, say, small publishing agencies or other small businesses.
The template is a free download, although it's also gated, meaning you'll need to provide details such as your name in order to access it.
2. Madison Miles Media
For those seeking a calendar that can link content with keywords, target audience, or the specific stage in a buyer's journey, Madison Miles Media's calendar might be the tool they need.
It's a handy calendar for those that need to quickly link specific content, such as target keywords, with a particular audience. The template is a free but gated download.
3. Webpage FX
Platform: Google Sheets
If you need an editorial calendar that can accommodate new ideas during the course of the year, perhaps Webpage FX's calendar is the tool you need.
It allows you to monitor content on a weekly basis and include downloadable files—a calendar that might suit those that prefer extra flexibility in their content management or project management. This free editorial calendar template is ungated.
4. Lee Odden
For businesses seeking the simplest possible editorial calendar, Lee Odden’s calendar might be just what they need.
It’s just a spreadsheet that lists tasks in chronological order, with suggested columns for information such as audience, keywords and tags. This free editorial calendar template is ungated.
98toGo’s calendar is just the tool you need if you want something that’s simple yet effective.
It has all the stock-in-trade calendar features, making it accessible for those new to editorial calendars; but it also includes functions that allow you to track individual tasks by their content type— for example, ebook, and social media post—as well as by the stage they correspond to in the customer buying cycle. This free editorial calendar template is gated.
6. Content Marketing Institute
For those whose bread and butter content is blog posts, the Content Marketing Institute’s calendar might be just what they’ve been looking for.
Along with a general marketing calendar, its week-by-week editorial calendar also comes with a spreadsheet—the perfect tool for recording blog post ideas. This free editorial calendar template is ungated.
7. Vertical Measures
If your planning and tracking work often involves hopping from one month or year to another, the Vertical Measures calendar should come in handy.
Its color coded format makes it easy to find specific information, and its columns cover all the standard categories of information.This free editorial calendar template is ungated.
Planning is critical to the success of your business, and an editorial calendar is the tool that can make all the difference when it comes to planning and creating content. But there's a plethora of them out there, and it can be daunting to choose the one that's right for you.
By knowing the basics of what a calendar should include, then following the steps for creating one, you'll be well on your way to creating a document that everyone can follow and that will serve as a foundation for success.
Editorial calendars are key to building a consistent and onglow publishing pipeline, which is vital to monetization strategies such as subscriptions and ad revenue.
Publift helps digital publishers get the most out of the ads on their websites. Publift has helped its clients realize an average 55% uplift in ad revenue since 2015, through the use of cutting-edge programmatic advertising technology paired with impartial and ethical guidance.
Contact us today to learn more about how Publift can help boost your ad revenue and grow your business!
Editorial Calendar FAQ
1. What is an Editorial Calendar Used for?
Editorial calendars are used for setting content timelines and monitoring their progress. They can also be used for assigning employee tasks and designating publishing platforms.
2. What is an Editorial Calendar for Social Media?
Editorial calendars for social media are used to plan out the creation and publication of social media content. These editorial calendars also include the media channel—Facebook, Twitter, etc—that the content will be published on.
3. Who Needs an Editorial Calendar?
All publishers should have an editorial calendar. They provide a bird's-eye view of all publishing projects and are essential for scheduling and tracking progress.