In this day and age, content marketing has become the heart and soul of many successful digital marketing strategies. The right content can help a business build brand awareness among current and prospective customers, boost search engine results for websites and increase social media engagement. But, let’s face it: producing relevant and intriguing content on a regular basis isn’t always easy. In fact, nearly half of all marketers are lacking a content strategy, according to a recent study by the Content Marketing Institute (http://bit.ly/1btExF0).
One solution to help manage the content marketing process (and its ever-changing parts) is to create an editorial calendar. Simply put, an editorial calendar is a schedule of content to be published on different channels throughout the year. While the thought of creating a 12-month timeline of content may be a bit overwhelming, it will help you remain organized and avoid writer’s block down the road.
How to Build an Editorial Calendar.
There are five steps to building an editorial calendar:
Step 1: Choose a Format
The beauty of an editorial calendar is that it can be as simple or detailed as you wish. However, all editorial calendars should be organized in a clear and concise manner. There are many programs available to help format an editorial calendar depending on your needs, but a Microsoft Excel sheet or Word document should suffice. WordPress and Google Docs are also popular options because they are easily shareable among a group of people.
A basic editorial calendar should be broken down by month and include the following information:
- Content type
- Theme or focus
- Due date
- Publishing date
Step 2: Determine the Content Type
After you have created a calendar template, you need to determine the type of content you want to publish based on your marketing goals — articles for a website, blog posts, press releases, newsletters, Facebook updates, etc. In addition to written content, consider mapping out a plan for visuals, such as infographics, photography and videos.
Step 3: Identify a Monthly Theme
One of the most effective ways to fill in an editorial calendar is to come up with an overarching theme for each month. Make a list of holidays, awareness weeks and months, industry events and company milestones that you can use as anchors for upcoming content. For example, a good theme for November is pantry pests, as many consumers spend extra time in the kitchen preparing Thanksgiving feasts.
Also, take into consideration the seasonality of pests. Stinging insects are most aggressive in late summer and early fall, so consider covering hornets, wasps and bees in August. Rodents are also a timely option for winter content, helping to keep pest control top of mind for consumers beyond the busy spring and summer pest season.
Author’s tip: Special observances are a great option for pest control companies to consider when building their editorial calendars. Our industry has formal designations for Termite Awareness Week (March 16-22), National Pest Management Month (April) and Bed Bug Awareness Week (April 20-26). Other observances like National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month (May) and National Homeownership Month (June) can also be used to leverage pest news.
Step 4: Brainstorm Topic Ideas
Once you have nailed down an overall theme for each month, you will need to brainstorm specific topic ideas, which is often the most challenging and time-consuming step. It is important to think like your customers and focus on what content you believe they would find valuable. If you decide to highlight stinging insects in August, you could write a blog post about keeping picnics pest-free or distribute a release focusing on ways to prevent West Nile virus.
Author’s tip: An editorial calendar should be looked at as a working to-do list. It is okay if topics and publishing dates need to be rearranged to account for unexpected company or industry news during the year.
Step 5: Create a Publishing Schedule
When developing an editorial calendar, be realistic about deadlines and publishing frequency. While you may not be able to post a website article every day, content should be added on a fairly regular basis to keep channels looking fresh. For a website, aim to create one new content piece each week, or four per month.
If you work with a team, you will also need to decide who is responsible for writing the content, who will edit it and who can give the final approval. Then, you can assign a deadline and publishing date to keep everyone accountable.
Author’s tip: Factor in about one week for reviews and possible content revisions.
Stay Ahead of the Game.
Creating an editorial calendar is only half of the battle. Now that you have a content plan in place, make sure to stick to it and track your progress. You might be surprised to find out how much easier content creation can be when you plan ahead.
The author, Missy Henriksen, is executive director of the Professional Pest Management Alliance and vice president of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about PPMA, visit www.NPMApestworld.org/PPMA.