At Grist we believe there are six key editorial tools every marketer should adopt: client personas, content templates, content calendars, article briefs, the editorial style guide and analytics. In this series we have already looked in detail at the article brief. Now it’s time to look in depth at the content calendar.
The content calendar is a tool that most senior marketing and communications professionals don’t use but really should. That only 46% of this group do deploy it suggests the case for its use has not been forcibly made.
It’s time to explain the why and how of the content calendar. Let’s start with why:
- It’s a visualisation tool. The content calendar allows you and your team to see a roadmap of planned activity on a weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual basis. It allows you to see that roadmap by audience type, by format and by means of distribution.
- It’s a cross-departmental collaboration tool. Shareable and dynamic it helps break down siloes and ensures everyone has visibility of what other, relevant, parts of the firm are doing.
- It’s a resource planning tool, helping to identify spikes in activity so you can bring in extra people as required. It also brings control to the process, providing an anchor to tether what’s planned and – as the master document for all things content – to provide the fluidity to allow changes to happen. To borrow the words of one of our clients “Calendars are a great way of ensuring content is aligned with PR and wider marketing. Because you know what you are doing and when, they also help you use resource more effectively.”
- It brings focus to meetings. A forward view of every campaign, every opportunity and every possibility provides a structure to team and cross-departmental meetings that would otherwise be missing. Use it as starting point for focused discussion.
- It promotes creativity. By identifying relevant dates and pegging content to those, it is the jumping off point for planners, commissioners and content creators to think of new approaches, new treatments and new angles.
If that’s the why, what about the how?
You can fast-track the creation of the content calendar by using the Grist content calendar template we've provided at the bottom of this page. As you will discover there are a number of key elements to a productive calendar. The template is split into three sections:
1. Calendar overview. This presents an overview of content planning by month and quarter, with reference to other key activity such as marketing campaigns, company events, industry events and national holidays. It is intended to give stakeholders a top-line view on when content is scheduled and enable tweaks to tactical planning to ensure the right content is delivered in the right place at the optimum time.
2. Work in Progress. This is more detailed than the above and is where the annual overview is drawn from. This section deals in days and weeks rather than months and quarters. Here you can capture a range of pertinent details relating to:
a) Content creation – including format, working title, author, target audience, buyer stage and call to action and tracking progress against key dates in the production and approvals process.
b) Distribution – keeping track of the planned promotional activity to reach your target audience across paid, earned,shared and owned media channels.
You may not need all the components shown, and you may want to add others. It is important to strike a balance between something that is genuinely helpful to the process without it becoming too unwieldy.
3. Key contacts. This provides a handy reference point for all those involved, detailing the contact information for the marketing team, company stakeholders, writers, contributors and agency contacts, and including a note of their specific responsibilities in relation to the content development process.
So that’s the why and the how. Next step – download the Grist content calendar template below. We’d love to hear your comments and further suggestions on what’s working for you.