We consume a lot of content. It’s estimated that in 2022, Americans spent 494 minutes (more than eight hours) consuming digital media and content every, single, day. It is forecasted that the amount of time will increase to a total of eight hours and 28 minutes by 2024.
On the other side of it all are professional marketers and content creators, working behind the scenes and exploring new ways to leverage these many channels to help meet their marketing and organizational goals. When creating unique content for a number of marketing channels at specific dates and times with different employees working on each, it can be a major challenge managing that long list of channels, to put it very mildly. After all, we’ve all missed that important social media post before.
Thankfully, there’s an effective tool to address this very need, helping us juggle multiple messaging streams, content posts, and responsibilities. Three words: content marketing calendar. Read on for six important steps to follow when developing your own marketing content calendar, as well as some great options and platforms to help you out.
What Is A Content Marketing Calendar?
While they can look quite different from department to department, a content marketing calendar can be succinctly summed up as a centralized resource that plans all marketing content ahead of time, providing an accurate calendar view of all upcoming content development.
A solid content management schedule allows marketing teams to promote their content to its fullest potential, planning each specific piece of content on dates and channels where it can make the most impact and receive the most views. In a way, it’s a project management tool for your marketing team.
What Does A Content Marketing Calendar Do?
As you just read, a content marketing calendar helps you stay organized and focused with marketing efforts and content development. Developing a content schedule is also a great opportunity to analyze how to get the most bang for your buck and where quality content performs the best.
For example, when looking to publish a Q&A with your CEO, you may want to pull certain quotes for social media posts, or there might be a video of the interview that can be used with blog content on your company website. The content marketing calendar shows the promotional potential for your content and how it may resonate on different channels and social media platforms with different audiences.
Benefits Of Using A Content Marketing Calendar
By now, you’re beginning to see the benefits of a content marketing calendar and associated software. There are, though, some additional benefits outside of the obvious organizational ones that you may not have initially realized.
Alignment With Strategic Goals
One of the most powerful things about using a content schedule is that it empowers you to be tactical with your social and blog content and original words. Most organizations develop strategic goals to help guide them throughout the year, and a content marketing calendar can help you align your content with those goals.
If you need to receive approval or funding for anything marketing-related, it is a strong argument to do so if it’s aligned with the organization’s strategic goals. The biggest benefit of this strategic alignment is that it can act as a sturdy guidepost to keep content developers on track and focused on the audience and objectives.
Part of a good content marketing strategy is delivering content to your target audience at a time when they are most likely to see and engage with it. Timing of your posts and marketing campaigns can be very important to the distribution of your content, especially in a viral sense, using trending hashtags or sounds that can increase views, shares and ultimately reach.
Additionally, it can benefit relationship-building when content is planned as a complementary piece with another group’s content, leveraging each other’s audiences. For example, planning a marketing campaign around cardiovascular health for Heart Month in February while tagging/mentioning the appropriate channels, groups and people in the post.
Because your content schedule and marketing campaigns will be timely, it will resonate with more people, resulting in higher engagement with your audience and potential customers. The aforementioned relationship building can also foster more engagement, a cycle of supporting each other as both audiences are leveraged for better results.
Some things simply cannot be priced, and one is peace of mind. Following a regularly updated content marketing calendar will reduce the stress of worrying if you’re missing or behind on any content or due date. It also prevents even worse from occurring; a missed opportunity where you did not have the work ready when it should have been (like a social media post for your company’s anniversary), reflecting badly on the organization and its reputation.
Knowing a content marketing calendar is keeping you and your time focused on a due date, can put any marketing manager or employer’s mind at ease—unsurprisingly, researchers have found it can also benefit your mental health.
How To Develop A Marketing Content Calendar
For a tool so effective, developing a marketing content calendar is not super difficult to do, requiring some careful planning, flexibility and commitment. The calendar is the framework supporting the marketing department and its content management—and of course content strategy—so it’s really worth spending the time on each stage to make sure it’s thorough and complete.
Below are some recommended steps, but not all are always essential as every organization and marketing team has its own unique content marketing needs.
Understand Your Objectives
The first step in creating a marketing content calendar is understanding your objectives. It’s worth considering how many people will need access to the calendar, which types of content you’re producing (ie. blog, podcast, webinars, video), the frequency of publishing and how many stages are involved in the production process/who is responsible for each stage. This can help you with the outline or best tool for your specific marketing content calendar.
Choose Your Channels
Once you have your objectives locked in, it’s time to look at which marketing channels you will be using. With the ubiquity of social media and smartphones has come a growing list of communication channels that marketers can access to get their messages to the intended eyes.
This step may be as simple as listing all the channels you currently use, but it is also an opportunity to look at potential channels and mediums that you could or should be using for your marketing activities. For example, B2C companies might consider Instagram or Facebook, whereas B2B companies will likely want to promote through professional networks like LinkedIn.
Brainstorm Content Ideas
With objectives identified and channels chosen, you can begin to look at content opportunities on your calendar. Are there any special recognition months or important dates coming up? How about major events in your industry? This may require consultation with other company departments (ie. Product if a new product launch is coming up) involving all layers of the organization.
Some organizations find success with recurring content themes, or by creating a ‘series’ for fresh content on a particular topic that users can look forward to each day, week, or month. This can be answering FAQs about your product/service, announcing specials on your products for that timeline, or simply sharing a bit of behind-the-scenes content.
Develop A Production Workflow
With content ideas in place, the next step is to create a workflow and timeline for development and content management. This includes the assigned employee, freelancers (if required), approval steps, deadlines for various stages, and of course, publishing or posting date and time. The most important part about this step is to keep it flexible because circumstances will inevitably change, necessitating the content marketing calendar and team to adapt.
The content marketing calendar will streamline your workflow and any integrations, improving the functionality of your different types of content and social media posts. It also gives great at-a-glance information on what’s coming down the pipeline, and where bottlenecks may be occurring.
When developing your content production workflow, make sure you:
- Determine task-based or status-based – The first step in workflow development is to determine if your marketing content calendar or marketing campaign workflow will be task-based or status-based. A task-based workflow “checks off’ the content as accomplished after each stage–or task–is completed. After each task, you simply move on to the next one.
On the other hand, a status-based workflow is less rigid, the status of the content defined more broadly like “Editing ” or “Approval” phases. While less specific than task-based workflow, basing your work on status allows for more flexibility and creativity.
- Define roles and responsibilities – For successful content creation, the responsibilities of each team member must be clearly defined and communicated, leaving little possibility for confusion about what their roles are. For example, one person may be in charge of writing the copy with another in charge of editing or approving it afterwards.
- Note required tools and resources – One of the great things about writing is that all you need is a pen and paper (or these days, a computer or smartphone). Sometimes, though, you may require other tools and resources such as a budget for paid advertisements in Google Ads, or new software for video editing and development.
- Plan content promotion - Once all is said and done, and your new content is published, the buck doesn’t stop there. You can use your content marketing calendar to also plan the promotion of your content to ensure it performs its absolute best. This is where running ads can be a good play, or using influencer marketing to extend your reach.
- Record metrics and impact – At some point following content posting and promotion, the marketing content calendar workflow must determine the impact of the content on your intended objectives. Using tools such as Google Analytics or social media management software, marketers can quantitatively measure the metrics of marketing initiatives with stats such as number of views and bounce rate.
Create And Schedule Entries
Like the steps to develop a marketing content calendar, the required fields on each calendar entry should be malleable. Thankfully, many content marketing calendars out there provide an easy drag-and-drop function, so you can move around various entries with ease as publishing schedules are adjusted.
As this will be a resource that you employ regularly, you want the calendar to provide a succinct, accurate snapshot of the content plan that employees can comfortably use. Remember, part of the marketing content calendar’s role is to ultimately make the marketing team’s work easier to manage.
Regardless of the fields you choose, create a template that’s accessible and easy to use. It can include:
- Assigned employee
- Publish date
- Focus keyword
- Mentioned/tagged stakeholders
- Marketing goals aligned with
- Organizational goals aligned with
- Metrics measured
- Attachments and relevant documents/files
- Links and miscellaneous notes
- Costs (paid ads)
- Image or infographic
Marketing Content Calendar Tools
With so many tools and content calendar templates available, it’s fairly easy to find one for your specific marketing purposes. There are some great options designed specifically for content and editorial needs from notable SaaS companies such as Hubspot, Trello, Hootsuite and Semrush. Even better, most offer flexible pricing options for different content schedules, team sizes, or mediums such as blog content or social posts. To get started, check out some of our favorite content marketing platforms.
While some are free and some require monthly fees, there are many editorial calendars and paid publishing schedules that are worth the extra cost because the calendar is essentially the backbone of any strong marketing department. If your company and team is a startup or small and your budget is slim, it’s also easy to create your own content marketing calendar with Excel or Google Sheets. Just note that with this format, you likely won’t have the (very handy) drag-and-drop function. With so many options, make sure the time and research is adequately spent to choose the best one for your team.
Stay Focused And On Schedule
To put all of this planning into action, the practice of using and relying on a marketing content calendar must become a habit for all marketers involved. It must be a go-to resource for them to access when working on a project, helping them manage their busy work days with different types of content development on the go.
The great thing about a well-planned marketing content calendar is that the more it is used the more benefit it brings to both marketing operations, as well as the well-being of the team who take comfort in knowing they have great content planned for months to come. Once the benefits of a marketing content calendar begin to reveal themselves, so will the regular use of this tool as a hub of all of your great ideas waiting down the road.
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