In your content strategy, one of the important elements that allow your content engine to run smoothly is your editorial calendar. This is the reason it is so important to review its structure and approach every year.

Creating better content than what is already out there is getting harder every year, we’ve written about this in the past and it is still very real.

It is from this posture that we review and approach the work we do with clients on their editorial calendars.

This article is part of our series on How to keep your content strategy alive.

What is an editorial calendar?

An editorial calendar is a tool used to effectively plan, organize, and manage the content that is developed and published. This planning document provides insight into what content types (blog posts, videos, podcasts, social media posts, etc.) will be created and when they will be released.

An editorial calendar also includes topics, titles, ideas for content as well as target audiences and goals.

With all this information, it becomes a cornerstone tool in your content management toolbox.

In this article, we voluntarily do not offer editorial calendar templates as we’ve seen that each organization needs a slightly different approach. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution that exists.

What are the benefits of having a well-optimized editorial calendar?

It allows for organizing and planning in advance, so that content is released in a systematic way. Your editorial calendar should act as a planning tool for your distribution engine. It allows you and your marketing team to have a clear view on when your audiences can expect to come in contact with your assets.

An editorial calendar helps to control the level of content published over time, allowing you to set a pace for your content distribution.

By creating an editorial calendar that is well planned, structured, and optimized, you can ensure that your audiences get the right amount and type of content at the right times. This helps to maximize engagement and reach without overwhelming people with too much information. Additionally, it prevents situations where two pieces of similar content might be competing against one another for attention or engagement.

And of course, an editorial calendar also saves time and money by allowing content teams to plan ahead and avoid overlaps, omissions, last-minute changes, or scrambling to create new content at the last minute.

What is the difference between an editorial calendar and a production plan?

An editorial calendar focuses on the distribution engine while a production plan helps to keep track of content creation activities.

A content marketing strategy should have two engines: a content production engine and a content distribution engine. The content production engine allows an organization to create its own content library, while the content distribution engine is the act of activating, socializing, distributing, publishing and amplifying content.

The editorial calendar is a key part of the the distribution engine by helping you plan out, organize and manage all of your planned pieces of content in one document. It should include the content assets, content pillars, as well as target audiences and objectives & KPIs. This helps you ensure that each piece fits into your overall strategy and is released at the right time to maximize the desired KPIs with your audience.

The production plan is a project management tool that allows the content creators and content producers to schedule copywriting, video shoots, audio recordings, or any other activity that is key in going from content brief to content assets. In a way, it is your content pipeline. By separating the two (editorial calendar and production plan), it is easier to see how some content assets could be combined into a single production batch (once again helping you save effort and dollars along the way).

The key thing to remember when thinking in terms of engines like this: YOU DO NOT HAVE TO CREATE NEW CONTENT EVERY TIME YOU NEED TO DISTRIBUTE CONTENT.

Why not have a look at your content library? There might be a piece of content that simply needs to be updated or refreshed before being sent to your audience (saving you precious effort and dollars along the way).

How do I optimize my editorial calendar?

There are many questions you can ask yourself and your team when doing your yearly review of your editorial calendar. Here are a few pointers that can help you optimize this tool and how it is used for the coming year.

1. What were my goals for creating content?

Looking back at the past 12 months of content publication, how well were your overall objectives distributed over the year? It is by looking at an editorial calendar that can sometimes spot important objectives that were defined early in the year, but then forgotten when planning content.

2. Did I reach my target audiences properly?

Over and above looking at content performance, it is important to look at how well distributed your content targeting is. Did you focus on a segment of your audience for the first two quarters and then completely ignored them in the last 6 months? This would mean that for some time now, you haven’t seen as much perceived value from your brand than earlier in the year.

3. What type of content should I be creating?

Are there gaps in the content you created? Did you do a great video shoot last March and released all your video content over the span of three weeks and did only editorial copy for the rest of the year? Looking at what kinds of content formats and types of content worked and when you used them (also have a look at the platforms you placed them on), you can sometimes see gaps or opportunities in how you can better plan for the coming year.

4. What platforms am I using to distribute my content?

Similar to the previous points, look at what kind of energy was put into each platform or distribution channel, and how that connects with the audiences you wanted to reach. The goal with the yearly review of your editorial calendar is to better place content pieces over time so that it has the highest impact on your audiences.

5. How often should I be releasing content?

Looking back, does it look like you might be creating too much content? Are you inundating your audiences with so many content assets that they absolutely cannot view everything you produce? And worse, you might be producing even more as we speak which means this is even more content that your audience might not see. It is important to evaluate, and the answer to this varies a lot from one organization to the next, how often your audience is able to receive new content. In the past few years, we’ve seen clients that get the same (or even better) results by producing less and publishing less (once again, more money and time for your team!), leaning towards higher-quality content.

These are high-level questions, but that give you a glimpse into how an editorial calendar can be optimized and what kind of information it can give you.

Of course, an editorial calendar does not live alone. As Creative Content Officer, you need to make sure your team has information at its disposal (dashboards, regular reporting on your KPIs), but is also reviewing the main elements of the content strategy on a regular basis (our article on How to keeping your content strategy alive addresses that). You can download our guide on content strategy to learn about all the elements that constitute a great content program, beyond the editorial calendar.

Your editorial calendar is not only there to tell you that you have an Instagram post that needs to go up on Thursday, it is there to inform you on how well you are executing your content strategy.