If you just want the Excel file, here's the link to download our our content marketing and editorial calendar template.
If you Google content marketing and editorial calendar templates, you'll find a lot of free resources you can download, which basically amount to Excel files with some headings. However, you won't find quite so much about why they are how they are, what's suitable for different types of organisation, or how to run a good content calendar. So what we're going to do here is look at what makes a good content calendar, and put one together that should work for you.
Step One: Strategic Goals & Success Criteria
A content calendar is the tactical implementation of something more strategically focused - a messaging calendar. This is a set of things you're going to focus on over time, to either improve or create to communicate with groups of users. This needs to exist because a content marketing calendar without a strategy behind it is little more than a list of cool ideas.
So our first step is to create a list of strategic goals we want to achieve with our content marketing, and how we're going to judge the success of individual pieces of content. For example, in the messaging calendar for this site, there's pieces designed to talk to junior marketers, senior marketers, and technology professionals. Those are designed to attract attention, and build evergreen content which should rank for terms likely to eventually convert into leads. Each piece is measured on a mix of measures, both short and long term. As a result, content can be triaged in the future, if the need for it changes.
Also, having a set of measures and goals means you can plan head as to what is trying to be achieved, with certain pieces able to be planned for. For example, if you're working in the furniture or travel industry, you'd want your biggest content pieces to go live through the middle of December to build mindshare, and in January to sell. On the other hand, if you're selling flowers, you'd want a messaging and content strategy in place for Valentines and mother's days.
Key things to plan for might include (depending on industry):
- Big industry events
- Seasonal dates
- Product or category launches
- Negative press (for damage control)
- Large sales or other big company events
What we're looking for with each row in our messaging calendar is:
- The date it needs to go live for
- How long it'll be promoted for
- Who it's targeting
- What channel(s) it'd be distributed with
- What the intended aim is and...
- How it'll be measured
Once you've got an idea of what messages you want to deliver and how you're going to measure them, you can start to plan out what content you'll create to achieve that.
Step Two: Creating Content Ideas
This is where we turn our messaging calendar into a content calendar. For each message, you'll want to brainstorm ideas for how to communicate the intended message, in a format which will work for the intended channel(s), and which can be executed before the go-live date.
There's hundreds of ways to go about that, but for a few ideas, you could try:
- Mining subreddits for data on what's been hot in the last year
- Using YouTube to see what video content has resonated in a niche
- Creating a swipe file from industry-relevant publications on subjects often covered
- Looking at retailer-publisher business content strategies in your niche
...and so on. You're looking to create a data-driven approach to your content strategy, based on an understanding of what (in an abstract sense) the audiences you're targeting enjoy. This data can be broken down by date, topic, area, format and so on, so you can match your research against your messaging calendar.
With that done, we now turn to the final part:
Step Three: The Editorial & Content Marketing Calendar
This is the final part - the list of pieces to actually create. We now create a list of specific assets we're going to create. These are informed by the data and strategy we've created up to this point, and form the tactical implementation of it.
Here you want to track the go-live date, the hook, title and possibly a description or excerpt, links to resources and media needed to write it, the status of the media, and marketing notes. These include where it's going to be shared socially, the text for those shares, email/newsletter notes, and a final URL for where the content exists.
All this data can then be analysed after the fact, along with the measures set out to track performance as defined in the messaging part of the process. That way you can evaluate work quarterly and yearly, to see what's performed best, what's underperformed and so on, to improve your efforts over time.
Making it Easy for You
If you want a pre-built version of all this, we have an Excel-based content marketing and editorial calendar template for you to use. We don't require any sign-up - however we'd ask if you find it useful that you tell people about it on your favourite social media platform.