Charity / Content insight / Content Strategy / Digital

What is an editorial calendar and how should you use it?

Here’s the text from a blog I wrote for Together We’re Better. You can see the original blog here.

As the over-touted saying goes, ‘we’re all publishers now’. So we need to adapt tools and tactics to help us be 21st century publishers.

Whether your digital team is a delivery unit that services your organisation, or empowers people to self-serve their own needs for digital, there is no denying that editorial calendars are incredibly useful tools.

What is an editorial calendar?

An editorial calendar allows us to control and plan what we are communicating, when and where and provides an overview of our comms, including digital activity. For us, they help us show what emails are going out, what’s planned for the homepage banner, for social media and so on.

It’s not an operational calendar

Your organisation may have a plan for what activity happens when, in order to meet its objectives. The editorial calendar shows how you will meet these objectives using your comms channels.

It’s not a production schedule

The people who are responsible for delivering comms may have their own production schedules to ensure that assets and content are ready according to the editorial calendar (allowing for drafts and sign off), but adding these milestones to your editorial calendar isn’t necessary.

Why have an editorial calendar?

  • Map your content to internal and external activity and audience needs
  • Avoid conflict and duplication of messages
  • Help with collaboration, forward planning and integration (across the business, and across comms channels)
  • Identify who is doing what when, manage resources and understand deadlines
  • Transparency and communication
  • Ensure you have a constant and consistent stream of fresh content – if nothing is planned do something about it!
  • See how we can repurpose content/COPE (Create Once, Publish Everywhere)
  • Plan user journeys and campaign arcs
  • Generate ideas, commissions (proactivity) and innovation
  • Switch easily between a ‘birds eye’ view and an ‘ants view’
  • Record what you will be doing, and what you have done (helps planning and report writing, trend spotting and in case of team absences)
  • Helps you still be flexible to respond to the news and events as they become known

How to use it

Ultimately, it depends on your needs. We’ve set ours up in Outlook as a shared calendar, but other organisations use spread sheets, Google docs, or tailored software. Anyone who looks after external comms can edit it. Plus, because our internal comms team has such a good network of contacts for organisation updates they have access too.

We then put activity in as ‘appointments’, either as all-day events, or around the time they will be happening, and colour code them. In the appointment itself, we add more details.

  • Key themes and seasonal activity (Christmas, Easter, school holidays, national awareness weeks, report launches)
  • Banners
  • Web activity (blogs, new content, overhauled content where driven by editorial need)
  • Social media posts
  • Marketing activity (including paid)
  • Emails
  • Tech (planned work, new functionality launches)
  • PR activity
  • Internal comms

We all go through it in a weekly meeting to discuss what external messages are going out and to ensure we are optimising what we do.

If you are thinking of setting up a calendar at your organisation – good luck!

Elena Plaiter

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