Gather ’round, children, because today Auntie Kat is going to tell you a story.
Once upon a time, there was a web copywriter who was living the dream, writing copy for an interactive agency. As the web changed, clients stopped asking for updates to their static site copy every few months, and started asking for recurring media. It turns out that companies like search engines, and search engines like fresh, hot copy–the more, the merrier. So companies started adding corporate blogs to their sites. They found that in addition to the search engines, prospective customers often liked the blogs as well.
Then they realized that some people would rather get the same information sent to their inbox, so the clients started asking for coordinated email newsletters to go with their blogs. Then they realized that some people like audio, and so they started adding podcasts (and those podcasts needed scripts or outlines).
Since the copywriter loved writing very much, she was very happy. Not to mention very, very busy. The copywriter realized that writing email newsletters, blog posts, and podcast or video scripts for several companies was getting a little hectic. It was getting harder to remember what she’d already written about, when she’d written about it last, and for whom. Our poor heroine was beginning to worry that she would go crazy trying to remember it all, not to mention trying t come up with new, relevant topics for all this recurring media.
Just then, her fairy Godfather turned up, carrying magical piece of documentation: the editorial calendar. And she wrote happily ever after.
If your responsibilities include writing an email newsletter, corporate blog, or other recurrent media, whether for your own enterprise or for multiple clients, an editorial calendar is like a beacon of hope for your overtaxed attention span. Print publications have used them forever to organize and schedule the topical focus of their content. This is beneficial both to the writing staff, who know what they need to be researching and writing on in upcoming months, as well as advertisers, who can plan more visible media buys to coincide with a topical focus that is more relevant to their business.
Particularly if you are generating content for multiple blogs or multiple channels, an editorial calendar can help you stay on-topic, on-track, and free up valuable rack space in your brain for actually coming up with creative copy.
An editorial calendar is a very flexible document. There’s no “one size fits all” format. But at a minimum, it should contain the following information, laid out in a way that makes it simple for you to quickly see what’s on your plate right now, and what’s coming down the pike in weeks and months to come.
- Names and URLs of the properties you’ll be writing for.
- Format: Blog post, ‘zine article, Forum topic, email newsletter, print publication, press release, etc.
- Specific topical focus.
- Target audience information.
- Specific call to action
- Any relevant keyword focus, if you’re developing content with SEO in mind (and you should be).
- Author Identity (in the event that you may be ghostwriting for someone else)
- Word count limit information, where applicable
- Deadline information, where applicable
- Cross-promotional information (for example, if you plan to promote your podcast on your email newsletter and vice-versa).
- List of contacts and references where applicable (for example, if you’re interviewing other people in the piece).
With this information in hand, a lot of the heavy lifting of content strategy is taken care of before you sit down to put pixelated font to digital paper. Used consistently, rather than limiting your creativity, an editorial calendar can free you to do your best writing.