We create content calendars all the time. Here’s why.
One of our primary offers is a 90-minute content strategy session where we take you through a series of questions about your company, your background, your lines in the sand, your competitors, your competitive advantages, what you sell, and how you differentiate yourself in the market.
We take that brainstorming session and turn it into a six-month (or more, depending on a variety of factors) content calendar, complete with titles and meta descriptions for your future posts.
It’s a great way to get a strategic leg up when it comes to creating a strategic content calendar for your business.
We love this kind of brainstorming. Both Emma and I get on a video call with a client, and time passes quickly in a creative fog of sorts.
Everyone leaves inspired.
Let’s assume, though, that you already know what you’re going to say. Or you at least have a good idea of the overarching topics you’re going to discuss.
But those ideas are still in your head, waiting for the day when the clouds part, the angels sing, and all of a sudden you have time to go from ideas to a plan.
The thing that takes you from idea to plan is a content calendar.
What is a content calendar?
A content calendar is essentially a list of all the content you plan to create for the next six months.
Why six months?
Because you have to come up with a new strategy after you’ve found out what kind of content works best for your business, and after six months, you’ll have a really good idea of what to double down on (and what to leave behind).
Before we get too far, what do I mean by the word content?
You’ll see across the internet that content can mean everything from blog posts and emails to infographics and tweets, and everything in between.
But that’s too granular, and if you do the math, your head is going to spin.
Because if you have a separate strategy for every channel, you’re going to have to create approximately eleventy hundred pieces of content in the next six months.
Yeah. This is where I’d stop reading too.
So forget it.
Let’s agree that when we talk about content, we’re talking about content that lives on your website. Period.
This content, of course, of course, of course, can get repurposed in as many ways as possible, and should, but let’s focus on creating new blog content for now.
A content calendar is often referred to as a “content strategy” calendar because it helps you organize your blog posts around topics and themes.
Why Do You Need A Content Calendar?
The main reason you should use a content calendar is so you and the rest of your team know what to expect on any given week.
If I told you right now that you had to write 50-100 blog posts this year, you’d be a cartoon chalk outline before I could look up and assure you that it’s not that hard.
And it isn’t, not really. But it can feel pretty impossible if you sit down to a blank piece of paper, look out your window, and try to come up with what you’re going to talk about today.
At amplifiedNOW, we write and publish two blog posts per week. We don’t care about when they get published (they’re published when they’re ready to be published) because the search engines don’t seem to care about when something gets published, only that a site is consistently publishing. We send those posts out, nearly in their entirety, as emails.
Emails, unlike blog posts, stick to a schedule.
Because there’s a human on the other side of literally every email you send. That one fact can be easy to forget when they’re simply numbers on your email marketing platform, but don’t forget them. We send our emails on Tuesdays and Fridays. (If you’re not already on our list, you should join us!)
Key elements of a content calendar
Here’s the truth: my brain does not do spreadsheets very well. So my content calendar is (how do I put this nicely?) UGLY.
It’s simply a list of topic ideas.
Here’s what I do:
- I open the results of our most recent content strategy session (yes, we do them for ourselves, too, only the deliverable is more like a working document than a beautiful presentation) and I stare at it until something jumps out at me.
- OR, if I’ve had a conversation with a client, I’ll want to talk about that and turn it into a blog post.
- I pick the two ideas I think I can write about this week.
- I start two new documents. One with the first title, one with the second.
- I outline the first.
- I get stuck.
- I outline the second.
- I decide to write the conclusion to the second.
- I skip around.
- It’s not pretty, and it’s definitely not linear.
- Then once I’m done, I let it sit overnight, read through it again, then assign it to Emma, who runs it through Grammarly, does a bit of SEO research to find the right keyword, adds images, optimizes for the keyword she’s chosen and adds it to the blog.
Our process works for us, mainly because Emma is in charge of all the moving pieces of this process.
Your content calendar may be more elaborate than ours. But it doesn’t have to be.
After all, its job is to make things easier for you and your team.
The main goal of your content calendar is to keep you organized and consistent with your publishing schedule.
Should you use a content calendar tool?
There are tools out there that exist specifically for creating, managing, and collaborating on your content calendar.
Depending on how much content you publish and how big your team is, you may want to invest in content calendar software.
But this is a situation where the tools can get in the way of creating content. So if you feel compelled to find “just the right” content calendar software, and you spend three hours finding one, that’s three hours you could have spent writing and editing.
So start with a list of ideas. Make it shareable within your team. When that stops being good enough, then you can start shopping around.
But create the content first.
Schedule every part of the content creation process
As we’ve discussed, your content creation process isn’t just about writing a post. It’s also about planning, scheduling, and publishing.
For example, if you’re doing research, schedule time in your calendar to conduct said research. If you’re writing a draft, schedule time to write. If you’re editing, schedule time to review edits.
You’ll get better results if you give yourself plenty of time to complete each step.
This way, you won’t feel rushed or pressured to finish things quickly. Instead, you’ll have a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day knowing that everything was completed.
You can even set reminders in your calendar to help you stay focused throughout the day.
Include more than just new blog posts
Your content calendar should include more than just new blog posts.
It should also include a plan to repurpose your content.
For us, repurposing looks like this:
- Publish, or re-publish a piece of content. First destination: the blog.
- Adjust the content and schedule it to go out over email.
Then, our team goes through the most recent piece of content with an eye toward social media.
- We create and schedule ten pins for Pinterest
- We look and see where the tweets are, then we schedule them through HypeFury (Read my thoughts about HypeFury here: HypeFury review: the #1 Twitter scheduler for those who hate scheduling social media)
- We look to see whether we can create short, pithy videos around the same topic
- Then we record those videos and add them to all the various video-based social media channels we care about (at the time of publishing, that’s primarily TikTok and Instagram)
Essentially, repurposing content is akin to saying the same thing over and over again until you’re sick of it.
Then, saying it again.
Remember that you’re not the one reading this stuff. Your main responsibility is to get your message across to those people who need to see it, wherever they happen to be.
How we use video to create content
We use video internally to create ugly first drafts pretty frequently.
Most of those don’t ever see the light of day, but they’re extremely useful for turning an outline that has been sitting around gathering digital dust into something useful that we can polish and edit and get ready for publishing.
Monthly themes help us set our content calendar up for cohesiveness
Since we’re releasing monthly playbooks that will help other solo entrepreneurs and small digital businesses generate more revenue and get ahead on content marketing without overwhelming them, we have our content calendar set up to reflect the playbooks’ themes.
For example, January 2022’s playbook was all about taking your digital content and making a ton more money on it simply by rearranging things into a cohort or group coaching program. So we set out to create content around that theme.
February 2022’s playbook is a step-by-step guide to creating a ton of high-quality content in a very short amount of time, so the blog posts, videos, and social media content will be all about that particular system.
Yes, you should use a content calendar
If you want to create consistent content, first create a content calendar. It doesn’t have to be fancy, or expensive, to be useful. You just have you use it.
Because a content calendar won’t do anything for you if you never look at it.
But consistent, well written, content can change your business.
So get planning and let me know how it goes!