“Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential”, Winston Churchill once said.
These wise words are especially relevant to content calendars. The content calendar itself is not as important as it is to use it for guiding your content production and dissemination.
Convince and Convert defines a content calendar as a “shareable resource that marketing teams can use to plan all content marketing activity”. It is essentially a guide to what content you are going to be producing when, and where you will be disseminating this content.
Granted, a content calendar may just seem like a lot of extra effort. Why not just produce and share the content already, rather than labouring over how, when and why to do it. But, like with so many things in business and life, planning and preparation is key.
When we first started One Day we weren’t sold on a content calendar, but the more involved the content production became the more we needed a guide, a plan, a content calendar!, to keep us on track. It quickly became a case of the more and the better we planned, the more we couldn’t do without planning.
A content calendar helps you to organise the way you curate and create content as part of your broader editorial strategy. As this Hootsuite article puts it: “[It] helps to ensure your brand consistently publishes high-quality, well-written, high-performing content piece.”
All shapes and sizes
Content calendars come in many shapes and forms, and there are tons of free templates available online. The format of your content calendar is not important – you could use a spreadsheet, a word processor document or a calendar – use whatever format you are comfortable with. Or download a free content calendar template.
We’ve found that a monthly spreadsheet works best, as it gives us a good overview of the content plan for that month. The level to which you refine the calendar depends of the depth of the content offering. In general, the content calendar should specify the following:
- Author/person responsible
It simply needs to be easy to read, use and edit. Ideally it should be accessible to anybody with a stake in your content. Depending on the amount of content you’ll be producing you could have a weekly or a monthly content calendar.
So how is a calendar going to make things easier for you?
You know what you need to do when: Half the challenge with content is knowing what to do and when to do it. Producing content for your website blog and Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and your newsletter and and and can seem very daunting. But when you take the time to work out a plan it’s easier to see things in perspective. So you might only be producing one blog a week and two posts for each social channel a week and one newsletter a month… and suddenly it doesn’t seem so overwhelming.
You won’t miss an important date or event: When you’re involved in the day-to-day running of your business significant dates and events can easily fall by the wayside. Marking out days that are relevant to your brand – like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Spring Day and the like – helps you plan the content and promotions you want to be doing around it timeously, which eliminates a lot of the stress. Be sure to include brand highlights, such as your business birthday.
It helps with better time management: Rather than spending time thinking about content to produce (which can be VERY time consuming) you can spend that time more effectively actually producing and optimising the content. When you know in advance what you need to do it also gives you time to come up with better ideas.
You can easily spot the gaps: When you’re looking at a whole plan, rather than random parts of a guideline that exists exclusively in your head, it’s easy to see that you’re spending 70% of your efforts on products and only 30% of the stories behind the products and nothing on the significance of materials, for example. When you know where the holes are you can make a plan to close them.
It helps to ensure an even distribution of content across all your channels: When you’re looking at your content plan as a whole it’s easier to see which topics or channels you’re neglecting so that you can adjust the plan to ensure a consistent presence on all your online platforms.
Do it for the SEO
Ultimately, a content calendar is great resource and a great way to help you get into the habit of producing content regularly and consistently. And one of the best ways to grow your online presence is through content. Also, SEO loves content!