Plan your blog with an editorial calendar
Last week, we looked at the thing that keeps regular bloggers blogging: a routine. The first step is to have a checklist for all the things you need to do to get a post published. Then plan time to do those things.
The second step is to avoid having to think too hard each week about WHAT you’re going to publish. Enter the editorial calendar.
Your editorial calendar is just a diary of what posts you are going to publish, and when. (Some people also call this a content calendar.) It doesn’t need to be fancy. You just need something that lets you mark which posts will go out on which dates. You also want to be able to move the posts around, as your plans change. Good options include:
- A wall planner* . Use little stickies for your posts so you can move them around.
- Printable worksheets - with boxes for each day of the month. Make your own or see the Buffer post below for options.
- Trello* . I have lists for each step of the publishing process, and I add a card for each post. Once I've set publication dates for each card, I can use the Calendar view to see my posts on a timeline.
- Asana would also work well, if that’s what you like to use. Or any tool that lets you view tasks as a calendar.
If you find you need something a bit more sophisticated later on, many bloggers swear by CoSchedule. And this post from the folks at Buffer has lots of ideas for online and printable content calendars.
Get out your stockpile of ideas
To get started, you need your chosen calendar, and a bunch of ideas to plan in. If you’ve been following this series from the start, you’ll know we covered generating a heap of ideas for your blog a few weeks back.
Mark in events, holidays and other important dates
Many of your blog post ideas might work at any time of year, but your January sale promotion needs to go out over Christmas. And some of your posts might do better if you can tie them to an event that matters to your customers.
There may also be events you’ve planned for your business that could work well as a blog post. Or they might actually need promotion as a post, newsletter, or both. So start by marking in these important dates on your calendar:
- Events and holidays that matter to your customers. Don’t just go with general interest ones. If you’re a bike shop, what about big bike races? If you’re an art store, can you tie to major exhibitions? If you’re a beauty brand, what about Fashion Week?
- Dates in your business like sales, promotions, and new products arriving.
- Any other dates that matter to either the kind of posts you feature on the blog or how you get it written. Like your own holiday.
Add in your blog posts
Take each item in your idea stockpile and slot it into your calendar. Tackle the big dates first, like Christmas gift ideas and bank holiday promotions. Then slot the rest of the ideas around those fixed dates.
Where you have important dates but no blog post ideas, see if you can come up with an idea to fill the gap.
You may still end up with a few open slots in your publishing schedule. That’s okay. This isn’t a set in stone thing. Your calendar can and should change all the time. A bit of ‘give’ is a good thing.
What we’re aiming for is a calendar that’s just full enough. Enough for you to feel confident you will have something to write about, most weeks that you plan to publish.
Plan in promotions too
You don’t need to stop at planning your blog posts. You can use the same calendar for emails, newsletters, and even social media updates.
I don’t generally do this on my editorial calendar because my schedule is pretty simple. I send an email when I publish a post. I schedule updates for Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn at the same time. These are just steps in my blog post checklist, not separate items in the calendar.
But if you send emails more often, or you create emails that have nothing to do with your blog posts, you might like to add them to your calendar. Then you can see all the items you need to write every week - not just the posts.
The same goes for social media. You may find it easier to plan some of your updates as if they were tiny blog posts. That means you have plenty of time to get the right pictures together, instead of scrabbling around at the last minute.
This is where tools like CoSchedule can help. You can plan blog posts and social media updates all in the same place and even post straight from your calendar. I save a tonne of time using the Buffer* power scheduler. It lets me set up half a dozen tweets for the same post in one go. I can then see all my future posts on the Buffer calendar and move them around if I need to.
Try to organise your calendar so that you batch up as much of this stuff as you can. That leaves more time each day for responding to your customers.
Match your blog post routine to your calendar
Last week we talked about creating a blogging routine. We broke each post into smaller steps that you can fit into your work day. Your content calendar helps you do those steps in time to hit your publishing deadlines.
You might even like to have your blog routine in the calendar itself. (I use the checklist feature in Trello for this). Then you only need to look in one place to know what needs to be done next.
Keep your calendar up to date
I avoid having to think hard about what my next task is. I like to save as much creative headspace as I can for the actual writing. That means ticking off what I’ve done, so I know what's up next.
You’ll also need a regular time to review and adjust your calendar to keep it in step with the rest of your business. Look at the months coming up and see if you want or need to change anything. As you learn more about what people like, and what you like to share, you’ll want to tweak what you already planned.
After a while, you’ll also notice a few zombie posts hanging around your calendar. The ones you put on ages ago, but just keep moving to next week because it never feels the right time to tackle them. Just delete them, and make space for something better.
We’re almost done with this series on blogging. I’m just going to write one more chapter, on all the different options you have to get your blog in front of readers.
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