How to plan your content calendar in 5 easy steps

A content calendar to content marketing is like an editorial calendar to journalism. Perhaps that’s why companies who adopt brand journalism use the same term and approach as any news organisation.

Not only making sense in terms of productivity, a content calendar also serves as a strategic lever. It gives you opportunities to:

  • Adapt your strategy to react to important shifts

  • Proactively allocate and manage marketing resources

Now, let’s get into the details of creating this important tool.

 

Step 1: Start from the strategy

 

Ideally, you should already have a content marketing strategy in place. Remember, if you don’t belong to the camp of 37% of B2B marketers and 40% of B2C marketers who have a written content marketing plan, you should really start there before diving into a content calendar.

Next, extract information from the strategy to guide your content creation efforts. Specifically, start with your buyer personas and the topics they care about.

Tip: Get information about your sales cycle and buyers’ concerns from other departments such as sales and customer service.

 

Step 2: Take stock

 

This is where you look at your existing, as well as desired situation.

  • List all content types, e.g. blog, email, video, social

  • List all content channels, e.g. social networks, blogging/content sites

  • Determine how much resources you have and need to achieve your content marketing goals

Tip: Identify valuable and previously unexploited content assets that can be repurposed and fitted into the calendar.

Step 3: Create a yearly view

 

This is where you identify seasonal or significant events that can impact your publishing schedule and map them out across the whole year. Some examples:

  • Holidays

  • Industry events, trade shows

  • Peak buying seasons

  • Times of year that have industry significance, e.g. tax time for accounting

  • Recurring annual corporate events

  • Product launches

Example of events that could affect your content calendar. Source: Contentmart

Example of events that could affect your content calendar. Source: Contentmart

 

Step 4: Work down to a monthly plan

 

Next, place specific content pieces into a monthly map, considering the information from all the steps above.

The level of details depends on your industry and business, but generally, your content calendar should include:

  • Themes / Campaigns (tip: use colour-coded labels)

  • Topic / Headline

  • Intended date of publishing

  • Author / Owner

  • Status

Extras: keywords (for SEO), calls to action, URL of published content (for content audit)

Example of monthly content calendar. Source: Buffer

Example of monthly content calendar. Source: Buffer

At this stage, you should also consider whether you want to plan your content using a spreadsheet or another tool (e.g. CoSchedule, Kapost, Trello). Some questions to consider:

  • What do you value from your calendar, e.g. collaboration, progress? Decide whether you want to incorporate project management and content planning.

  • How easy will it be to find and use the calendar, considering cross-department collaboration, upcoming events etc.?

  • How varied your content formats are, mainly blog or social posts?

  • How much visual content assets do you plan to create? Some tools might support planning for these better than others.

Step 5: Keep an ideas repository

 

To fill the content schedule for the whole year, you can keep a list of content ideas either separately or integrated into your monthly plan.

Example of separate yearly, monthly plans and ideas list. Source: Buffer

Example of separate yearly, monthly plans and ideas list. Source: Buffer

Tip: Again, tap internal expertise and ask for employees’ input when it comes to ideas.

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