I’ve been blogging at Spire for years. But never as frequently as I would like. That’s changing.
As an internet marketing & web design company, things evolve very quickly. If I’m not sharing all those new ideas and breakthroughs with our customers and email subscribers, I’m doing a disservice. You’ll start seeing a lot more frequent posts from us that are designed to teach.
With that in mind, today’s post is more than just a promise to blog more. I want to explain the process I went through recently to plan for our improved blog. If you’re starting a blog for the first time, or just want to do it more consistently, this will help.
The Benefit of An Editorial Calendar
Saying that you’re going to write “something” every Friday is destined to fail. You need to start with some planning to figure out what you’re going to say, and when. This is where an editorial calendar can help.
An editorial calendar is to blogging like a menu is to cooking. When my wife and I create a plan on Sunday night of our dinners for the week, it works great. We stock the fridge with the food we need, we think in advance about the time it will take, and we naturally adjust what we eat during the day, based on what we’ll be eating for dinner. When we don’t plan the menu, we come home tired from our work, stare at the fridge, and often end up eating something we later regret.
Planning ahead on your blog will help ensure you don’t write something you later regret. It will help ensure your posts actually happen. Your editorial calendar helps you think about what you will write in advance. You’ll have experiences during the week that will inspire better writing.
When I just carve out time to write “something” on Friday, I waste valuable time figuring out what I’m going to write. Like my blank stare at the fridge at dinner time when I haven’t created a menu. By the time I come up with an idea, there isn’t enough time or creativity left to develop the ideas.
5 Steps to Creating Your Editorial Calendar
I won’t pretend to be an expert on editorial calendars. Heck, I just created mine this week. But the process seemed to work well, and here’s how I tackled it:
Step One: Make a List of Topics / Categories
I stretched out on the couch in our office and started brainstorming topics. The topics were based on an understanding of my customers… what would benefit them? What keeps them up at night? What expertise do I have to share that’s valuable? The end result was a list of about 25 topics. Each topic could inspire dozens of blog posts. I consolidated those 25 topics into a shorter list of 10 categories that encompassed all those topics.
Step Two: Make a List of Contributors
This blog is ultimately my responsibility. However, there are 8 other people at Spire who have unique expertise that could benefit our readers. Ask around to see if there are others willing to contribute on a regular schedule. Perhaps you’ll also find people who have things to contribute occasionally, without committing to a schedule. That’s okay too.
You may also find contributors outside your organization who have something to offer too. Partners in your community, complimentary businesses, friends who have expertise that would benefit your readers. Getting others involved will take some pressure off of you. But I think it’s best for one person to take the lead, and to write more frequently. This gives your blog a personality, and clear accountability too.
Step Three: Think About What Format(s) are Best
Your content can be delivered in many different formats. Including short posts, articles, audio/podcasts, video and more.
I’ve heard some experts say that it’s best to pick one format you can do really well and stick with it. I think that’s good advice, but for now I’m not ready to pick one. I made a list of several formats that I will use to deliver content to my readers, including short and long posts, video and downloads. Perhaps over time, I’ll favor one and move away from the others, but for now I’ll continue delivering content based on what works best for the topic I’m teaching.
Step Four: Create the Calendar
I created a simple editorial calendar in Excel that lists my topics / contributors and formats in tables on the right, and a timeline view on the left. My timeline has headers for date, contributor, topic / category, the title of the post, and the format. Since I’m planning to write every week, I filled my date column in one-week increments. I left blank rows in between so I can easily add more content, even on a printed copy.
Here’s a look at my calendar — partially filled in. (And of course, sharing it creates a bit of accountability for me to actually stick to my schedule!)
Creating this calendar wasn’t hard. I think I only spent a couple hours doing everything you see here. But it felt like a major accomplishment, because now I have a very specific plan to follow. When I sit down to write something, I don’t have to waste a minute wondering what to write. In fact, I created my calendar about five days ago, and I’m already starting to gather ideas for many of the posts you see here. That leads to one final step.
Step Five: Create a Reliable Place Where You Can Collect Ideas
I’m currently using a tool called “Wunderlist” to organize my to-do list and ideas, and I’ve created a special list for recording ideas for future blogs. Whenever an idea strikes me, or I see a web page or billboard that inspires something, it goes on the list. I can add stuff to the list from my phone, so it’s a reliable way to record stuff from anywhere. Then when I’m brainstorming new ideas, or need resources for an article I’m writing, it’s all waiting in one place.
So when you’re ready to start blogging — don’t just start writing. Block off a few hours to create your editorial calendar first. It will make your blog more valuable, and will help motivate you to keep going. Good luck!