If you’ve ever worked at any capacity in the content marketing/development department, you will most likely be familiar with the concept of a content calendar (also, most likely sighing right now). For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, let me try and put it across in a manner that’s easily understandable. Here’s what it is:
Content + Calendar = Content Calendar
That just about sums it up beautifully, wouldn’t you say?
Well, I kid, of course! Here’s what it actually is.
Simply put, a content calendar is essentially a planner for you to organize your content generation, marketing, assigning, and promotion strategies. It lays out the framework on which you or your business’ content team operates, and provides a much-needed overview of your/your content team’s progress and direction. Here’s an example of a well-organized content calendar.
At this point, you might be thinking “But why should I take the effort to create and maintain a content calendar, when I can just keep moving on to the next content piece/task as and when I finish my current task?” Well, if you ask my opinion, this is it:
Oops…wrong GIF! Although, he has a fair point. Why wouldn’t anyone take a bubble bath?
But I digress, forgive me. This is what I meant to say.
In all seriousness though, having a proper content calendar has a host of benefits, such as these:
- Helps you organize and compartmentalize your content process into projects, tasks, and sub-tasks.
- Helps you streamline your content strategy.
- Helps manage expectations and time efficiently.
- Helps you stick to deadlines more effectively.
- Helps you plan ahead for the holiday season and other special dates
- Above all, it helps you scale your content in a much more efficient manner.
With so many benefits to having a content calendar, it’s no wonder that marketers who plan out their content marketing strategies and tasks are 60% more effective than those who don’t. Now that I’ve successfully managed to convince you that you need a content calendar (let’s assume that I have, for the sake of my pride), it’s time to talk about how to build one effectively.
What It Takes To Build an Effective Content Calendar
“Cooking is both an art and a science, and so is building a content calendar”
– Definitely not me.
Now that you have this wise saying embedded in your brain, let me explain the reasoning behind it. We’re going to start from the beginning. Before you start building your content calendar, you need to know exactly what goes in your calendar. You need to define every content piece that goes into the calendar, right from the topics to measurable end goals.
In order to do this, you can start by answering three crucial questions:
What should you write about?
This is the most basic, yet most important question that needs to be answered. What will you write about? Have you been writing about the same thing or sticking to a single niche so far? If so, do you want to continue writing about it? Or have you produced enough content around it to move on to other related topics or niches? If that’s the case, what other topics can you generate content about, that relates to you/your website/your business?
Answering this line of questioning will help you refocus on your purpose, and generate more relatable and useful content. You can even use a tool like this one to help you with the process. Once you’ve done that, you can move on to the next question, which is:
Why are you writing about it?
Every content piece that you put up needs to have a reason behind it. Without a reason, it’s just…..there. It serves no purpose (in most cases). Think about it. Why are you putting up a particular piece of content? Is it to generate more traffic or leads? Is it to get ahead of the competition? Is it to get more backlinks? Is it something that can help your target audience, and consequently your brand?
Without having a solid reason, it becomes increasingly difficult to judge which pieces are faring well and which ones are not. It also curbs your ability to effectively measure results, since you don’t know what you need to measure. This brings us to the final question that you need to answer.
What should it accomplish?
Continuing from where we left off in the previous question, you need to be able to judge which types/pieces of content are doing well for you. This becomes impossible to do when you don’t know what exactly you’re trying to get from them. Once you have a clear idea of what you’re trying to achieve through them, you can effectively measure results and build better content based on that. Hence, you should always be able to answer the question, “What should it accomplish?”
The best way to answer these questions is through content ideation and research. Ideation of content requires a bit of experience and intuition (which is the ‘art’ part of it), and research requires some expertise (the ‘science’ part of the process). When done properly, this process can help you compile your content calendar with clear, well-defined content pieces.
In order to show you a better picture of the process of building your content calendar, we’re going to take a look at the process that the content marketers at Synup employ.
How We Build Our Content Calendar
As mentioned earlier, the first step is to come up with well-defined content that we would be publishing throughout the course of the month. We have a repository of content topics and ideas that we keep adding on to, on a weekly basis. All of these topics are thoroughly researched, and are defined on the basis of these three points:
- What type of article it is
- Why write this article
- Who our target audience is
When we consider the type of article, we usually segment it into listicles, roundups, data pieces, experiential pieces, visualizations, interviews, case studies, product-based content, etc. Post this, we determine what value each of these content pieces would give the reader, i.e., why we’re writing it. Finally, we focus on who we’re writing for, which could be our SMB cohorts, agencies, enterprises, general audience, and such. This helps shape our approach to a particular piece, and define how the article will be structured. Here’s an example.
Apart from this, we also set the framework for our content promotion strategy across various sites for these pieces, using Hootsuite.
Since we have different sections that we write for, such as our blog, reviews, ‘how to’ guides, etc., our next step is delegation. We determine the number of articles that would be written for each of these sections, depending on the availability of resources and the time it takes for each piece, and we list them out.
Setting It Up
Once we have all this set, we move on to actually building our content calendar for the month. For this part, we use Asana, which is an online task management tool that has some great features. We create these content pieces as tasks, and assign the author(s). Here’s what it looks like.
But our calendar doesn’t end with that. In fact, it has just begun *mimics evil laugh*.
After adding these tasks and assigning them, we go on to detailing the hypothesis, objective, and goals for each task, which looks something like this.
This enables transparency within the team, and allows everyone to have a clear idea of what we’re writing about, and why we’re writing it.
Next, we add the process involved, as sub-tasks. This lists every step that needs to be done in order to complete the task, including any experiments we run, or any collaborative efforts we take with others within or outside the company. For example, here’s the process we put in place for one of our roundups.
This makes it extremely easy to break down each task, and keep a track of the progress made. Post this, we get to assigning tags for every task.
Our content calendar is divided into months, and each task is tagged under the respective month. We also use color-coded tags for different sections and the status, as shown in the images below.
Now it’s time to assign the due dates (see what I did there? No? Okay, then). Assigning due dates to your tasks and sub-tasks are extremely important, as it gives you a sense of when each task or sub-task needs to be taken up, and how much time you have to complete them.
Asana allows us to set a start and end date for our tasks, so we make full use of it. This way, we even get reminders for all our upcoming and (totally hypothetical) overdue tasks. Here’s how it looks.
As you can see, you can even set the due time, or make it a recurring task if needed. Be sure to account for the time taken for certain subtasks, such as outreach, as it can be a little unpredictable sometimes.
Once all this is done, our content calendar is essentially complete for that given month. Post this, it’s just a matter of updating the status and leaving necessary comments on your tasks and sub-tasks, as and when it’s required. Once a content piece is done, we go to that particular task in Asana, click on ‘Mark Complete’, and head out for a chai. Sweet, sweet relief!
Well, that’s pretty much how we build our content calendar every month, and it’s quite effective. I hope you find this useful. In case you’re looking for different ways to build your content calendar, here are a few examples, along with templates that you can use.
If you have any suggestions or other tools that you also find to be effective, please do let us know in the comments below.