If you’ve made efforts to engage with content marketing, but haven’t seen measurable results, it might be time to improve your planning and documentation processes with an editorial calendar. In this post, Oliver Pyper shows you six reasons why editorial calendars are an essential component of a good content strategy.

This post is adapted from our FREE white paper guide: Editorial Calendars for Content Marketing. Get your copy now.

Introduction

In case you haven’t noticed, content marketing is kind of a big deal.

According to the Content Marketing Institute’s latest annual survey, 77% of B2C businesses have a content strategy. Amongst B2B firms, the number is even higher, at 83%.

Needless to say, the vast majority of businesses consider content marketing to be an essential part of their marketing mix.

However, there’s a twist. When we look at which businesses have a documented content strategy – in other words, they measure ROI by tracking what they do, and planning what they want to do – the numbers are less impressive.

Only 27% of B2C businesses and 35% of B2B businesses document their content strategy.

This means there’s a whole lot of well-meaning, but essentially aimless content marketing going on. And aimless content marketing leads to abandoned blogs, half-hearted, sporadic engagement with social media, and accusations of un-measurable ROI.

Why Documentation is Important

The fact is, if you don’t plan your content, you can’t accurately measure ROI. You need to set goals to track whether you’re meeting those goals. You need to track those goals to determine the kind of content you should be creating in future.

These goals could be lead generation, improved traffic, better social reach, or any number of other aspirations.

There are lots of ingredients that go into this process. For example, creating user personas to discover who you’re creating content for.

But the heart and soul of a documented content strategy is an editorial calendar (sometimes called a content calendar).

And editorial calendar is a shared document that lets your content creators (and others) plan your content strategy, measure results, and respond to findings.

Here are six reasons why an editorial calendar is essential for a robust content strategy…

1. It Ensures a Steady Stream of Published Content That Supports Your Strategy

Your content strategy needs purpose. Simply writing and publishing whatever takes your fancy is like throwing darts blindfolded – you might hit the target every now and then, but it’s much harder to predict which throws will strike. And you’ll have trouble measuring success too.

Dartboard with darts.

Source: Bogdan Suditu at Flickr.

Define goals and key performance indicators for your content marketing efforts, just as you would with any other digital marketing campaign. Then use your content calendar to plan and publish a steady stream of content that supports your goal – whether this is lead generation, improved engagement, more traffic, or all of the above.

No matter the results you’re aiming for, the road to success is the same – produce quality content targeted to your audience personas to build and nurture your user base. Because users who are invested in your brand are more likely to become committed customers.

2. You Get a Clear View of Content for the Weeks Ahead

Getting the balance of quality and quantity right can be tough. But there’s a bigger and tougher problem to solve – the problem of consistency.

One blue sweet amongst red sweets.

Source: Dave_S at Flickr.

It’s all very well to promise yourself you’ll publish ten blogs each month, but if your resources are stretched and you don’t have a clear plan of action, this is unlikely to happen. What’s more likely is that you’ll end up publishing a raft of blogs in week four, diluting their effect and throwing a spanner into the nurturing process.

Putting a content calendar together ensures you have clear visibility of upcoming content, and when it needs to be published. This makes it much, much easier to plan your time effectively, so your content is written and published at the optimum time.

When is the ‘optimum time’? Well, that brings us on to our next point…

3. It Frees You Up to Create Content Proactively

Big news story? Emerging trend? Special event? These are perfect opportunities to publish some relevant content and benefit from a surge in user interest.

But if you miss the boat by even a day or two, it’s likely this wave of interest will have died down, and – to continue the watery metaphors – your content will look like a bit of a wet fish.

A wet fish.

A content calendar lets you identify opportunities in advance, and ensure you have some highly relevant content ready to go out when demand is peaking. These opportunities could be as simple as a public holiday, like Halloween, or a key product launch. But by using tools like Google Trends, you can identify less obvious opportunities that other publishers might miss.

The scope is limitless. But without a clear content plan, chances are you’ll have to publish your content reactively, rather than proactively. In other words, you’ll have to publish your content when the world has stopped listening.

4. It Helps You Collaborate and Brainstorm to Create Better Content

Robert Wilensky once said: “We’ve all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true.”

The infinite monkey theorem, illustrated.

Source: Wikipedia.

Humorous though they are, Wilensky’s remarks are not entirely accurate. Digital publishing has given more people more access to a wider range of content than ever before. But Wilensky had a point – when everyone is a publisher, you have to work harder to stand out.

It’s not enough to publish content regularly. You have to publish great content regularly.

A well-designed editorial calendar can help you create better content. Get your calendar right, and it will act as much more than a content diary – it will act as a platform for collaboration, brainstorming and resource management.

Don’t simply copy your competitors. Get every expert in your business involved in generating content ideas. Widen the scope of your expertise. Start producing content that’s worth copying.

Collaborators could include people who don’t usually work on content. It’s likely that product managers, directors, call centre staff, salespeople and technical experts would have plenty to say that your content creators (and competitors) would never think of saying.

If an external agency works on your content as well, it’s important to get them involved in idea creation. Make sure they’re as well-informed about your products, services and ethos as you are, and put their outsiders’ insight to good use in brainstorming sessions.

5. You Can Better Tie in Your Social Media Strategy

If a tree falls in a forest, and there’s nobody around to hear it, does it make a sound?

If a brand publishes great content, and there’s nobody there to read it, is it worth bothering?

A fallen tree.

Source: Kazimierz Popławski, eesti.pl

Simply publishing content does not constitute a content strategy. To really reap the benefits of your creative content, you’ve got to work hard to let your audience know it’s there.

Social media is one of the key delivery channels for content. Your social audience is not only ready to consume great content, they expect it. They’re waiting for the next great thing to land in their feed, so you should make every effort to make sure your content is ready when your customers are ready to receive it.

Every company is different, and the way you use social media will vary widely depending on your aims, your audience and your industry. But integrating social media planning with your editorial calendar is a crucial step in ensuring all your content delivery channels are aligned with your wider strategy.

6. Without it, You Can’t Track Content Marketing Progress

Without defining goals and planning delivery, you can’t track the progress of your content marketing campaign. But with a content calendar, everything you publish can – and should – be tracked, reported on and learnt from.

Kids doing some learnin'.

Source: CollegeDegrees360 at Flickr.

By keeping all your planning and reporting in the same place, you can effectively apply learnings to all aspects of your content marketing efforts. This is important because even the smallest consideration – from the time you send an email to the style of blog headlines you use – can vary depending on industry, location and other factors.

It makes sense to research and follow best practices, but the only way to truly optimise your content marketing efforts is to test, track, learn and repeat.

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About the author:

Oliver Pyper is senior online copywriter at ClickThrough Marketing. He writes on-page content, blogs, press releases and loads of other bits and pieces too numerous and brilliant to mention. He’s also responsible for Kate Bush: The Musical and a series of videos depicting a young man’s search for energy drinks in New York City. Drop him a line if you want to talk content solutions or Kate Bush.