Your boss might disagree- but you and I know that creating quality content, consistently, is hard.
There is no magic tool; creating high-quality content requires serious commitment and hours of painstakingly hard work.
You get no brownie points for working harder than necessary. So here is a simple trick to make your life as a content marketer, easier.
Use an editorial calendar.
What is an editorial calendar?
An editorial calendar helps publishers streamline and manage their content creation and publishing process.
It’s nothing new. Traditional print publishers have used editorial calendars for centuries.
Digital content is on the rise and businesses need to organize and control their content creation and distribution. Behold, the editorial calendar!
What makes a good editorial calendar?
A good editorial calendar:
- Gives you a bird’s eye view of your content marketing activities
- Holds people accountable
- Is flexible enough to accommodate last minute changes
- Accommodates your custom content creation and publishing process, and
- Is easy to use
How do I set up an editorial calendar?
If you already have a content creation and publishing process in place, it is now time to select a tool to manage the process.
I use and recommend Trello. It’s free and has a clean UI with drag and drop options. Trello can also easily accommodate your content creation and publishing process.
There are several other tools available. Some of them integrate with your current content management system. Others are standalone software solutions which are targeted at enterprise companies that have complex approval processes.
Try and stay away from using Excel or Google Sheets for managing your editorial calendar. It might seem easy at first but after a while, it will become quite impossible to control.
The following guide assumes you will use Trello.
How do I set up Trello as my editorial calendar software?
Trello is mainly a project management tool.
Since it’s based on Kanban boards, you can pretty much use it to manage anything: from your personal chores to complex enterprise product management.
At LeadFerry, we use Trello for managing our product development and content marketing. Call me thrifty, but I don’t like spending money on complicated software when a free one does the job exceedingly well.
Key Trello terms you need to be familiar with:
For beginners, here’s a detailed beginners guide.
Here’s a sample Trello board for content marketing. Feel free to copy this board to your account.
Breakdown of the Trello editorial calendar board
1: Content ideas
Any content that you want to create in the future goes here.
I highly recommend installing the Trello mobile app because when content idea strikes, you can pull up your smartphone and add the idea to this list.
The content is now being evaluated for fit with your content strategy.
If you have a team of writers, this list will tell you which content idea is being worked on.
The content has passed the research phase and has entered the production process.
If it’s an article, this means that the writer has started writing it. If the content format is video, the video shoot has commenced.
4: Editing and graphics
The content is now being polished.
Written content will benefit from the use of graphics. If you have the resources, create custom graphics for each post.
Alternatively, use stock photographs to add visual appeal.
5: Ready to publish
Once your content is finalized, drag and drop it to this queue (called lists inside Trello).
As a best practice, plan to have content for the next week ready the week before. This helps to maintain consistency of publishing.
The content that gets published on your website is moved to this list.
Over time, the number of cards can add up. So archive the old cards once they become difficult to manage.
“Build it and they will come” doesn’t work. Unless you promote the content you create, nobody will know it exists.
Move the content that needs to be promoted to this list. Once promotion activities are over, you can either move the content card to a new list or archive them.
Customize the Trello board to match your process
The beauty of Trello is that it can be heavily customized to match your process.
Do you have a legal approval process? Create a new list called “Legal & Compliance.” Move cards that require approval to the newly-created list.
Voila! You can now track content in the legal and compliance pipeline.
Tips to make Trello boards more efficient
1: Use the “subscribe” action
There is no use moving cards to different lists if people do not act on it.
Trello has a useful “subscribe” feature. Individuals who have permission to view the board can subscribe to specific cards or lists.
Once a new card gets added to a list, or an update is made to a card, the subscriber gets notified.
Once the action is completed, the card can be moved to the next list.
2: Use checklists for promotions and creating outlines
You can add individual checklists to cards or copy checklists from other cards.
Use a checklist to ensure none of the promotional activities are missed out.
Checklists also help a senior writer create content outlines. Junior writers in the team can use these outlines as a guide to write a more structured article.
3: Use labels for visual segmentation
You can create customized color coded labels. Labels can be used for various purposes such as identifying content types, writers assigned, etc.
4: Use Power-Ups
A cool Trello feature to explore is “card aging”. This helps you to identify visually cards that have not been worked on for a while.
Some of the other Power-Ups I find useful are:
- Calendar- Helps you see the cards in a calendar format. Only cards with due dates will show up in the calendar view.
- Voting- Have a lot of content ideas, but have resources only for a few? Use the voting feature to decide which content gets created first
One more thing
An editorial calendar helps to implement an already defined process. However, a process alone does not guarantee success. You need to have buy-in from your entire team before you start using a tool to manage the process.
If your writing team does not move the cards, the publishing team will not know what to publish. Your promotion team will not know which content to promote if the publishing team does not signal published content.
One team slacking off can have a cascading effect on your entire content marketing process.
To ensure that everything goes smoothly, hold people accountable. Set due dates and ensure everyone makes a daily check-in.
A note about dedicated editorial calendar software
There are several editorial calendar software in the market; from feature-rich WordPress plugins to standalone content marketing software.
It’s tempting to use a free software like Trello because, well, it’s free. If the software does not fit into your content marketing workflow, it’ll create more inefficiencies than the efficiency it promises.