Samu: editorial calendars, their uses, requirements and a free sample
How to get the right content to the right people at the right time
My ideal editorial calendar does not exist, yet. I’d like to help change that. There are products that are close matches, though they tend to be Software As A Service products, with ramped features priced too high for what I consider to be acceptable. This is true of the low end of the market as well as the top end.
Ideally, an editorial calendar would be visual, provide .ics (Ical) links and feeds, social network links derived from a CRM to enable marketing automation, and be integrated within a CMS. It would also allow simple reordering of content via drag and drop, enable team collaboration, with different roles, provide email notifications based on deadlines and authors and have editable picklist facilities, to make it quick to use. It would integrate with common tools, rather than try to replace them with all (creating dependency) via SAAS.
There are plenty of blog posts on the merits of using an editorial calendar, some supply templates in a spreadsheet format to get you started. Whilst most of the templates are fine, they tend not to cover all our needs of content production and distribution, as so often the case with generic templates you have to adapt them for your own purposes. So, whilst I’d recommend that you build your own, we have provided one (covering September to November 2015) below, to give you an idea of how we approach this task.
Why use an editorial calendar?
- As a long term planning aid – to provide an overview of past and forthcoming content to consider against your strategic aims
- For consistency – to encourage a consistent approach to communications across channels, integrating your campaigns and the various content producers
- Better targeting – to facilitate the tailoring of messaging appropriate for marketing personas, and compliments lead acquisition
- For leverage – it enables publishing flexibility to respond to the news agenda
These reasons alone should be sufficient to encourage any organisation that produces content to use one, but few do.
Elements we recommend in an editorial calendar
- Key Date
- Content Ideas
- Due date
- Publish Live Date
- Content Type (video, blog, podcast, whitepaper, report etc.)
- Content Title
- Author (or not in Samu’s case)
- Priority (high, medium, low)
- Purpose (drive traffic, inform customers, etc.)
- Keywords (between 5 to 10 for SEO purposes)
- Images / Ideas (with image right details)
- Progress (In % terms for the editor to have a quick look at, before panicking)
- Editorial comments
- Target Audience
- Call To Action
- Digital Channels (Facebook, Twitter, websites, bloggers/syndication, etc.)
- Traditional Channels (printed publications, telephones website, radio and TV)
- PR Opportunities
- Importance (High, medium, low)
Ideally, these elements would be filterable to avoid clutter, and integrate into your CMS and CRM of choice, to avoid repetition. So whilst the use of spreadsheets for editorial purposes is a flexible tool, there use only encourages cutting and pasting. In addition, there is no facility to integrate .ics (iCalendar) data within a spreadsheet, unless you use a paid service like Wincalendar. Why is this an issue, well the last point in ‘Why use an editorial calendar’ – leverage, is the reason.
This data format enables an application to publish date and time based information to an external calendar (Such as Google) and link back to a desk calendar (Lightning or Outlook). This calendar can then be subscribed to by the public, if desired. It is often seen being used for public holidays, astronomical events, religious feastdays, and trade events. There used to be many more ical feeds in the public domain, but it seems that many organisations are seeking to leverage such basic content into apps, rather than deliver a promotional public service.
If you can find an appropriate ical feed suitable for your sector, for example, trade events, incorporating such a feed into your editorial calendar can be a significant aid in the timing of your content delivery. It allows for the tactic of producing, or repurposing, targeted information and using this (with due care) for ‘newsjacking‘.
This flexibility is vital. [pullquote]So often you can witness content marketing efforts that stick to a preordained script, scheduled so far in advance that the posts can seem irrelevant or even inappropriate, should a major news story break in their sector. [/pullquote] It’s not that we recommend always being responsive to the news, but always ignoring it is likely to position your organisation as a follower rather than a leader.
A recent example in the charity sector was the mainstream news around The Kids Company. A few of the more media savvy organisations and individuals provided astute commentary, or directed people to their resources on good governance practice as the story unfolded. Not only did this provide a useful service in what is a difficult, and complicated case, it raised their own public profiles, facilitated engagement, and positioned them as thought leaders. All vital from a PR perspective.
The Samu solution?
This is the part where I’d love to give you or sell to you an ideal product. I can’t. I will explain our workaround though, on our path to something better. Within our CMS (WordPress) we use a very basic editorial calendar. We had first considered ‘Edit Flow‘ which is fine, though it seems to be no longer in active development. We also considered CoSchedule but were unimpressed by the pricing structure. I disn’t even bother to enquire about the pricing of the higher end of the market such as Kapost. So we use a combination of open source tools.
We are customising our self hosted version of VTiger, utilising campaigns, project management, calendar, marketing automation functions, custom fields and integrating ical feeds. In addition to this we use data scraping to obtain newsworthy dates when there is no ical feed available.
Our system requires further development, particularly better integration into WordPress, and social media. But for now it suffices, providing more flexibility than a spreadsheet and less duplication of effort. Should there be any developers out there that want to join efforts in producing Open Source solutions for this common need, please feel free to get in touch.
In the meantime, download the spreadsheet template and drop us a note if you find it useful.
samu editorial calendar in Open Document format.
samu editorial calendar in XLSX format.
In addition to the three months there is a basic contact database for the media contacts.