Content Calendars – The Why’s and the How’s

Wed, 14/05/2014 - 00:00

Did you just ask yourself “what on earth is a content calendar?” Allow to me to explain, albeit in simple terms:

A content calendar is a daily, weekly or monthly plan that outlines when content produced by a company will be published.

The digital content calendar is similar to a print editorial plan. Those familiar with the magazine industry will know this format.

“But my business is not a magazine”, I hear you say. “I don’t produce articles, not even online”. So why should you care about the intricacies of setting up a content calendar, you wonder?

You should care because online content is so much more than just articles and because setting up a content calendar is a small effort that could garner big rewards if done properly.

So what is online content all about?

Online content is text and writing, but it can also be images, audio or video – any form of media, really. So it’s not only a blog post on your website, but also a video on Youtube, a presentation on Slideshare or an infographic snippet on Facebook.

But whatever media you choose, the purpose of content is to inform, entertain or enlighten the audience.

The ultimate goal of content for the creator, i.e. you, is to solicit an emotion or engagement in order to spur the audience into action. The action desired would depend on the needs of the campaign, but it could be anything from creating brand loyalty to making a sale.

But really, why should I care?

Remember I mentioned rewards? Everyone likes an incentive, right? Here are the rewards coming your way if you use a content calendar as part of your content strategy:

You stay on top of things. A content calendar is a detailed plan, showing exactly what content is going out and when. This means you can create content now, not later. In essence – less stress, because you’re not creating content a few minutes before deadline or after realising your website is empty or old.

Content creation is made easier. With a content calendar, content can be planned around holidays, seasons, company milestones, industry events and whatever significant event catches your fancy. It’s half the idea delivered to you since you don’t need to waste time trying to find a relevant topic or theme.

There will be less stuff-ups. When you’re creating content day in and day out, it’s easy to forget what topics have been covered in the past. But with a content calendar handy, you can refer back to previous strategies to prevent duplicate or similar content.

Last minute changes aren’t the end of the world. Yes, no-one is a fan of a scramble, but life happens. At least with a content calendar you can see at a snap how changes will affect other content and make adjustments accordingly.

Everyone is on the same page. Especially if you share the calendar on a platform like Google Docs or have it up on a blackboard. An informed team is a happy team.

Reporting is easier. Just pull the information you need from the content calendar. In fact, integrate all the percentages and statistics with the content calendar. It’ll be all the document you need.

Convinced? I sure hope so. Here is a quick 10-step plan to creating your content calendar

Step 1: Decide on the timespan of your content calendar. One month, per quarter, six months?

Tip: Those new to the game could benefit from planning for the short term first. Putting together a content calendar for 6 months or longer as a first attempt could become overwhelming.

Step 2: Pull out a normal calendar and jot down significant dates. Add noteworthy industry and company events to the list.

Step 3: Decide which dates and events are most relevant to your company and your audience.

Step 4: Download a content calendar and populate it with all the events you want to cover.

Step 5: Decide what you want to communicate about or around each event – i.e. what is the objective of each piece of content? Add this information to the events.

Step 6: Decide how you want to communicate each message. Is it an infographic? A competition? Or is it a simple meme? Add it to the events.

Step 7: Decide where each piece of content will appear. So on which platform will it be published? Your blog; an industry blog; Facebook? Again, add it to the events.

Tip: Make sure the method and the platform suits the message, your brand and the audience. You won’t reach or engage a traditional customer with a Facebook meme that’s more popular with a younger crowd.

Step 8: Assign a person or team responsible to each piece of content.

Step 9: Add a ‘Status’ column. Use it to track the progress of each piece of content.

Step 10: Sit back and enjoy the rewards of doing a content calendar right.

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