Blogging 101: Getting Organized with Editorial Calendars

Editorial calendars don’t have to be complex. Part of their value lies in being able to space out labor-intensive posts, such as DIYs or styled photo shoots, to work with your time constraints and fill in other days with curated content or from the archives pieces. They can unleash your creativity and reduce the number of times you'll be scrambling at the last minute to get a post live.

A few members of our Alt Community share how to create one, the tools to use, and a few tips on working with an editorial calendar.

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Content 101: Publishing Consistently

By: Eden Hensley Top Photo by: Justin Hackworth for Alt Summit

Publish or perish does not just apply to academics. In today's content-driven media landscape this adage applies to bloggers and creatives as well.

How do you keep generating idea after idea and producing quality content consistently? Planning and scheduling. And that's where an editorial calendar comes in. The simplest editorial calendar shows what days content will go live and what topics you will cover. For example, if you cover three subjects and only publish three days a week, your calendar may be vegetarian cuisine on Mondays at noon, wine on Wednesdays in the mid-afternoon, and family activities on Fridays. 

Editorial calendars serve a few purposes:

  1. Help you stay motivated.
  2. Maintain a variety of subject matter.
  3. Allow you to plan ahead for seasonal content that captures search traffic.
  4. Set expectations with readers as to when new content will be available.

Chris of Curbly and Manmade DIY swears by editorial calendars and believes they are the best investment you can make for your blog. If you're not ready to plan a year at a time, he offers tips for how to plan by the week. Interested in how you can use an editorial calendar to make money? Chris shares how you can organize your media kit or sponsorship packet around it and how to use it to determine what brands to reach out to.

Photo by: Brooke Dennis for Alt Summit

Curious how other bloggers are using (or not using) editorial calendars? Watch Monica of Smart Creative Women interview Chelsea of Frolic! about how to find the perfect editorial calendar for you and your blog and Kelly of Design Crush about balancing planning with flexibility.

Do you keep an editorial calendar? 

My Favorite Tools For Creating An Editorial Calendar

By: Chris Gardner  Image by:  Seyed Mostafa Zamani

Here’s my system and why it works for me. If you don’t already have a organization system in place, follow these three rules to get started, and keep track of all your brilliant ideas.

1) Separate Your Personal Calendar and Your Blog Calendar Your editorial calendar belongs to your blog, not to you, or even your personal brand. In the best case scenario, you can use your actual calendar to record notes and keep track of ideas, and that can be tough to do when they’re all mixed in with time-specific events. Plus, at some point, someone besides you will see your editorial calendar, and it can be confusing to have your original content mixed in with your dentist appointments and bill pay reminders.

2) Use Whatever System is Most Accessible An editorial calendar is only helpful if you actually use it. So, pick the software or app that is most accessible to you. I’ve found that Google apps work best for me. I like that they’re online and I can keep them open in browser tabs next to my current projects, instead of having to switch back and forth between software. I use Calendar to keep track of my time and dates, but my editorial calendar is actually a spreadsheet. Sometimes I’ll write down ideas and brainstorms in Documents, but most of my time in spent in the cells of a spreadsheet. I can then share these with collaborators, and everyone has access to the current version of a document. I also use Google+ ‘s hangout feature to do the majority of my business calls and planning with my team, since you can create documents right in the call. To keep track of tasks, these days I prefer TeuxDeux, but I’ve also used Todoist to great success. On particularly busy days or weeks, I like to just use pen and paper, so I can keep track of all the projects and roles I play.  All of the apps sync with my phone, which is essential when you work from home/the coffee shop/wherever you please.

3) Spreadsheets (or Grids) are Your Friend Whatever system you use, take advantage of some sort of visual organization. Headings and bullet points are too limited to  keep track of ideas over long periods. Spreadsheets, or some sort of gridded system, are much more useful when planning things that have both aspects of time (left to right) and of variety of content (up and down). Columns and rows are your best buddies. The ability to resize cells and format them into tables and units has really streamlined my process. Color-coding types of posts (how-tos, narrative, shopping guides, roundups, etc) allows me to make sure there’s a diversity of content published each week. It takes a little while to set up, but once you’ve got it, you can use it for years to come.  I find it easy to see a month all laid out in a spreadsheet, but you can add each piece as color-coded events to a calendar to see patterns in your publishing and to make sure you keep things fresh.

Using An Editorial Calendar To Plan Your Holiday Content

By: Chris Gardner  Image by:  Barbara Miers

An editorial calendar is a useful and necessary tool throughout the year, but it’s absolutely essential during October, November, and December. Creative inspiration is everywhere, your traffic will be up, and you want to set yourself up for the season as best you can. Here are five tips to follow to help you stay productive:

1) Plan them all at once. Set aside a day, an afternoon, a weekend, and layout the rest of the calendar year. Why? Because a lot of your content will interact with each other. A fall DIY tutorial can work for during October and November, and you’ll want to know what’s coming up so you can reference a Halloween-time harvest post around Thanksgiving, for example. A table scape or centerpiece project can work for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, or even New Year’s, etc.

2) Get started early. Everyone knows the grump who always remarks that the Christmas stuff comes out immediately after Halloween, and grumble, grumble, grumble. Ignore them. There’s a reason the media (that’s you) needs to get a head start on the holidays. The content has to be ready and accessible in time for your readers to find it, engage with it, and (hopefully), do something with it: make the projects, try the recipes, buy the goods, use the designs, etc. You want your content to be shared on social media and reblogged on other sites, etc, so give your peers time to find it.

3) Order things logically. Think about the ways holidays progress. What’s the order most of your readers will live into the season? Which elements come first? Decor? Clothing? Gifts? Costumes? Event planning? Food? Plan your content so that it publishes a week before you think your readers actually need it. For example, your December gift guides need to be done before Thanksgiving, but your wrapping tutorials and ideas can come a little later. Your cookie recipes can happen in mid-December, but the majority of your garland, wreath, and other decor tips need to happen at the beginning of the month.

4) Reuse and interact. The biggest benefits of planning all your content at once is that you can repurpose and reuse. So, if you publish a great gift tag idea, find several more, and publish a DIY gift tag idea roundup the following week with yours as an entry. If you make an ornament and a tree garland tutorial, you can photograph the feature images (i.e. on the tree) at the same time, and then reference the other tutorial in your post copy. Publish your own handmade gift ideas, and then share your giving list, linking back to your project, etc.

5) Promote. Like crazy. Make sure all your images are Pinterest friendly, and take the extra time to create collages, add text to your photos, and include a couple feature photos that other bloggers can use. Try to do a content exchange with your peers. And most importantly, email blogs that are bigger than you and share your original content. Trust me: they want it this time of year. In fact, if you come up with something amazing, I invite you to share it with me for consideration on my site, Curbly. Just send along a photo and a link to Chris@curbly.com.

On October 7th, I’ll be teaching a whole course on content planning and editorial calendars, with special attention to using your calendar to grow your blog. Come join us.

Wanna Make Money From Your Blog? Make An Editorial Calendar

By: Chris Gardner. Photo by: Scott Ellis

 Your blog needs an editorial calendar for two important reasons: one, it helps you stay organized, provides motivation to get your work done, and all that important productivity stuff. And two? It helps you make money.

Having a consistency to your content is what makes it enjoyable to read, and also what makes it profitable. When you know what you’re going to write about, your audience knows what you’re going to write about, and you can tell advertisers what you’re going to write about, and they’re going to want to pay you to do it, because they know what they’re going to get.

 

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An Editorial Calendar Is The Best Investment You Can Make In Your Blog

By: Chris Gardner. Photo By: Tiago Fernandes

I created the 2013 editorial calendar for Curbly.com during a week in November 2012. It was cold outside, got dark at 5:00p, and the world was preparing itself to go into a long winter’s nap. Over that week, my assistant editor and I updated our daily publishing times, our weekly schedule, and the monthly themes that we’d used for inspiration and motivation for our original content pieces and project for the whole of this year. We roughed out items on the calendar, penciling in ideas for what we thought might work well over the next twelve months. A new year was about to begin, and it was exciting to have a fresh start, and get started on our new serieses and posts and projects.

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Ideas And Links For Creating An Editorial Calendar That'll Help Your Audience Grow

By: Chris Gardner. Photo by: Kris Krüg.

You should read your favorite blogs’ editorial calendars and media kits! They’re available online.

Include your editorial calendar in your media kit or sponsorship packet

WordPress has a built-in editorial calendar plugin, and it’s free to use.

Example from the pros: Editorial Calendar for 2013 from Sunset Magazine

Free download alert! The blog post planner and calendar

Squarespace users should check out their free calendar plugin for planning posts.

Check out Chris' class on making your own editorial calendar work for you later this month.