Stop Obsessing Over Your Content Marketing Calendar!
I’m going to tell you something that most content marketers will disagree with: content marketing calendars (aka editorial calendars) are overrated!
Don’t get me wrong, they are an essential planning tool for mapping out what content you’re publishing and when. They can also provide an indispensable, high-level overview of the types of content you produce, the intervals at which you create that content, and the topics the content covers. If you don’t already have an content marketing calendar in place, you can create one by following these great tips from the Content Marketing Institute.
So why are content marketing calendars overrated?
The simple answer is that the beauty of the 20,000-foot view that content marketing calendars provide can also be their shortcoming, by rendering them not particularly useful on a day-to-day basis. Sure, content marketing calendars may tell you that report A is going to be published on Tuesday or that article B is coming out on Friday, but they rarely offer much detail. One reason for this, at least in my view, is that they are often created as much for show as they are for strategic planning.
Think about it. Just about everyone knows what a content marketing calendar is, whether they are in marketing or not. As a result, they are probably one of the most common planning documents content marketers share with others across their organizations and, conversely, that their peers in other departments regularly seek out. They are almost universally understood and, as a result, have become a tangible, de facto common denominator that helps bridge the divide between content marketers and everyone else.
It’s precisely because of their broad appeal that we choose to make them high-level documents. We don’t want or need to share all of the specific details of our with the world.
As necessary a document as the content marketing calendar is, I would argue that an equally if not more important content marketing tool is a content creation calendar. Like a content marketing calendar, it’s a document that helps you keep track of your content. Unlike it, however, it’s the place where you really get into the weeds on the content creation process so that you know exactly where every piece of content stands, who the key stakeholders are, what the next steps are, etc.
For anyone managing multiple pieces of content at one time, it’s the document that will help you keep all of the balls you’re juggling in the air.
At OpenView, where we create a steady stream of daily content, including podcasts, videos, articles, reports, case studies, and eBooks, I’ve put together a content creation calendar to keep track of all of the details that I need to know, but that aren’t appropriate for inclusion in my content marketing calendar.
Using a simple spreadsheet, I track the different types of content we create down the left-hand side of the grid. I have also set up columns where I can describe the topic, include notes, provide an update on the progress being made and next steps, indicate if there is a point person or freelancer associated with the project, and list a target completion date. The final column shows the status of each piece of content in one to two words, allowing me to quickly glance through the document and glean where things stand.
The content I track in my production calendar ultimately feeds my content marketing calendar. Maintaining two documents may seem cumbersome at first, but the advantage is that doing so allows me to keep track of all of the details I need to know, without cluttering the editorial calendar that everyone else wants to see.
If you’ve got a content marketing calendar you’re off to a good start with executing your content marketing strategy, but until it’s underpinned by a content creation calendar, your system isn’t going to be as effective.