The term “content” is used as an umbrella term to cover a huge number of items, like graphics, written words, images, and social media posts.
Organizing all of these elements produces a big challenge for content marketing departments and teams.
That is why content requires planning in order to be effective. Without the right amount of strategic planning, you’ll end up missing important pieces and losing control of the overall content production process.
Rather than struggling to meet deadlines and posting last-minute articles, you can have a clear and precise plan that was created months in advance. That’s all possible with the help of a content calendar.
- But what is a content calendar exactly?
- How does it increase marketing efficiency in a business?
- What needs to be included in one?
We’ll answer all those questions in this article as well as give you a step-by-step process for creating a content calendar of your own.
What is a Content Calendar?
A content calendar is what it sounds like: a documented calendar schedule of all your content with clear publication dates and delegated subtasks.
The calendar is a tool that helps you brainstorm, organize, streamline, and schedule all of your content production across all of your channels in a single place.
Content calendars help you visualize your content plan and output as well as help you understand long-term goals and short-term objectives for your content marketing strategy.
It also allows every member of your team to have the same amount of information about your content schedule, meaning that your entire team will be on the same page.
A well-structured content calendar takes away all of the confusion that can come with content planning. No one will be wondering if a Twitter post was sent out or if an upcoming infographic was sent to the design team.
It helps you create a content production flow that works, and that helps your content marketing strategy grow.
How Does a Content Calendar Increase Marketing Efficiency?
One of the biggest benefits of a content calendar is the increase it brings to your marketing efficiency.
As an organizational tool, a content calendar creates clarity and provides a clear, visual representation of your content flow.
It also keeps every member of your team on the same page and ensures that there is consistency across your department.
Here are a few of the other benefits that come with a well-executed content calendar:
- Never miss important dates or events.
- See blank spaces in your content production.
- Manage the entire content workflow from start to finish.
- Know where you can mix things up and try new ideas.
- Create opportunities for collaborative efforts.
- Keep on task for all content projects.
- Delegate tasks to different team members.
- Keeps everyone on your team accountable.
- Allows you to see where bottlenecks and production slowdowns occur.
- Have a single, universal source for all content production.
- Gives you a bird’s-eye view of the entire content marketing production process.
- Plan ahead for seasonal trends, major events, and important industry dates.
All of these things work together to create more marketing efficiency and a smoother content production process.
A content calendar helps you avoid unnecessary stress brought on by poor planning and rushed content production schedules. It gives you control over your content marketing strategies and execution.
What Should a Content Calendar Include?
Content calendars should be customized to fit the needs of your business and include the specific elements that are important to your content production process.
However, there are some common features that every content calendar should include to maximize clarity and efficiency.
The first thing that should be included in your content calendar is the upcoming content pieces you want to plan.
By putting them in the schedule, you’ll be able to see what your current timelines look like and what posting cadence you use. Upcoming pieces can include:
- Blog posts
- Social media posts
- Case studies & testimonials
- News and announcements from the company or the industry
- New product launches
- Press releases
- Seasonal or event-specific content
Any updates or changes to your brand should be included in the content calendar. You want to be able to have a plan for major changes that will affect those internally and externally.
Customers and clients deserve to be updated on status changes and making a plan in advance can save time and stress.
Promotions are a huge part of selling your products and services.
Without the right planning and content support, promotional activity can largely go unnoticed by your customers, which means you can lose out on potential revenue.
Planning all your promotional activities in advance and including them in your calendar can help you better organize your campaigns.
Any partnerships with other brands, influencers, or industries should be included in your content calendar.
Whether it’s a guest post from a writer in your industry or a new product launch with the support of another brand, you want your partnerships to be planned out.
Updates to Existing Content
Content needs to be kept fresh in order to perform well on SEO results.
If you want to plan any updates to your current content like your website copy, it should be included on your content calendar so you know when a refresh is coming up.
That also helps you know the lifecycle of your content and when refreshes are in order.
What are the Steps for Creating a Content Calendar?
Now that you understand what a content calendar is, how it helps your marketing team, and what needs to be included in order for the calendar to be successful, let’s take a look at the steps that you need to follow to create your brand’s content calendar.
1. Define Your Goals
Before planning your upcoming content, you need to have clear expectations and goals for that content once it has been published.
Knowing your goals helps you understand the best channels and format for your content to take and impacts the entire planning process.
Once you know your goals, you can create each piece of content with a clear purpose.
2. Create a Template for the Calendar
Templates are a great tool for getting started with a content calendar.
There are many free content calendar templates online which can help you begin planning quickly.
You’ll just want to make sure that the template includes the specific items that apply to your content production process, like the topic, channel, and publish date of the content.
3. Choose Your Channels
Channels are the different platforms on which content can be published and shared.
Not all content pieces will perform well on every channel. For example, a detailed whitepaper might not have much of an impact on Instagram and a fun behind-the-scenes photo won’t fit very well into your technical blog.
Choosing the right channels for content is key to optimizing content performance.
4. Start with the Calendar Year
The calendar year is a great place to start with a content calendar as it will include all of the important events and holidays that you will likely want to build your content around.
You’ll also want to include the industry and brand-specific days that matter to your company, as well as the seasonal content that you want to produce for the year.
5. Walk Yourself Through the Marketing Funnel
Understanding customers better is essential to creating effective content that resonates with your audiences.
Put yourself in the shoes of your buyer personas and think about the specific types of content they want to see at different touchpoints in the marketing funnel.
You can then start to plan different topic ideas around those important steps.
6. Ask Your Entire Team for Content Ideas
Brainstorming content ideas shouldn’t fall on the plate of a single individual or even a few individuals.
Instead, let your entire team pitch content ideas for your calendar.
Not only does this build more cooperation and collaboration within your team, but it lets everyone express themselves and helps the brand find new ideas that will work in content production.
7. Monitor Your Competition’s Content Publishing
Your competitors can be a great source of inspiration when brainstorming ideas for your content calendar.
Monitor what types of content they are publishing to see if there are big trends of popular topics that you want to include in your planning.
You can also see how audiences are responding to different topic ideas before you try them yourself.
8. Explore Topic Clusters
Topic clusters are a type of brainstorming tool that can help you increase the number of posts and content ideas you have.
Start with some big picture topics that are important to your industry and brand, then add more specific content ideas under those big picture topics.
Then include more under-the-radar content ideas and so on until you have a full list of topics.
9. Look at Popular Content in Your Industry
News and updates that occur in your industry are a great source of inspiration for content ideas.
You can look at what’s popular in your industry and use that to come up with content ideas that will establish you as an industry leader and authoritative source of content.
People might even come to your channels to get their industry news if you are successful.
10. Add Your Content
Once you’ve brainstormed content ideas for all the different channels you want to hit, it’s time to start adding those content pieces to your calendar.
It’s perfectly acceptable to start small and add in more content over time to fill out your calendar.
As you get started, it’s important to create a flow that you can manage effectively and that you can build out from.
11. Keep Your Content Evergreen
Evergreen content refers to content that doesn’t come with an expiration date and will remain relevant for years.
This is helpful for your SEO and online visibility, as well as in helping establish your brand as a thought leader and authoritative source.
Timeless blogs and articles are able to bring in new audiences long after they have been posted.
12. Make Use of Prior Content
If you have a great piece of content that you made a while ago, don’t think that it doesn’t have a place in your content calendar!
You can use previously published content in new ways. This helps you avoid coming up with new topics all the time and lets your successful content shine in new channels.
For example, you can take a line from a high-performing blog and turn it into a social media post or email blast.
13. Decide on the Publishing Frequency and Set Time Limits
After all the content has been added to your content calendar, you’ll want to take a look at the publishing frequencies and time limits you want to set for your content.
Some channels require much more frequent posts than others, so creating a content flow that fits into the expectations of each channel is key to your content calendar’s success.
A content calendar is much more than just a publishing schedule. It’s an important strategic tool that helps you organize your content in a way that makes sense.
Without it, you’ll likely find yourself struggling to come up with content ideas, missing important dates, and struggling to stay ahead of content production.
A content calendar is an important component of successful digital marketing, but not the only type of calendar that can be utilized to improve production and create more efficiency in the workplace.
Marketing calendars are able to organize even more than just your content production. To learn more about them, check out our free marketing calendars resource kit!