Two-thirds of companies have experienced an increase in lead quality & quantity as a result of content marketing in the past year, as reported in our recent benchmarks study. 38% of B2B marketers rate the effectiveness of their organization’s use of content marketing as “effective” or “very effective,” according to another study.
How do these companies get so much value out of content marketing?
Don’t worry, this won’t be another blog post about the need for content strategy. Yes, this is a key factor of a successful content marketing practice, however, it is one of at least four areas that the best content marketers dedicate their time to: Strategy – Production – Distribution – Analytics.
Looking for an effective content marketing editorial calendar template? Download Curata’s free editorial calendar template.
I’d like to deep dive into one specific area for this post: editorial calendars as part of content marketing production. A consistent element of content marketers’ best practices is using an editorial calendar as part of their production process (pictured below).
Based on Curata research, over 90% of companies are now using a content marketing editorial calendar. More importantly, the “best of the best” marketers view their editorial calendar as more than a simple spreadsheet. Their calendar serves as a living, breathing, planning tool and timeline to:
- Align team members around a common content strategy, cadence and workflow.
- Track operational tasks and metrics needed to streamline content creation.
- Attribute an explicit set of labels or meta tags to individual pieces of content to provide a foundation for subsequent analysis of content performance and ROI.
- Provide a “parking lot” for great content creation ideas.
- Facilitate better reuse and repurposing of existing content.
- Manage the contribution of internal and external contributors, reviewers and writers (including the ability for crowdsourcing content across your organization).
Let’s Get Some Things Straight
Let’s clarify several things before diving into the details of the core elements of an editorial calendar for content marketing:
1. What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is the process for developing, executing and delivering the content and related assets needed to create, nurture and grow a company’s customer base. Note the intent of content marketing is to impact all areas of the buyer creation process – from awareness building to lead generation to sales enablement.
2. Who’s Responsible for Content Marketing?
All the tools, processes and technologies in the world cannot, alone, make a great content marketing strategy. Someone must be accountable for its development and execution, even if they and their team aren’t responsible for all content creation. 49% of companies have an executive responsible for content marketing, with this number increasing to 60% by 2016.
3. Can I simply use a spreadsheet for my editorial calendar?
You can, but Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets are time-consuming to use and offer limited functionality compared to dedicated calendar software. Compared to normal spreadsheets, the editorial calendar template we provide below offers significant advantages thanks to being designed specifically for content marketing:
- Incorporate data into your content marketing process: Metadata collected as part of the calendar management process in a content marketing platform is the secret sauce for uncovering valuable operations and performance insights. These include the ability to measure content impact on your pipeline, measure by type of content, content pyramid/program, etc; and enabling content asset tracking/audits.
- Increased process adoption: Easy to use for increased adoption and a better content management process. Calendar software advantages include:
- drop-down field options for more rapid and accurate data entry
- auto-fill data cells for efficient meta-tagging
- clean interface for more productive content marketing management meetings (e.g., filtered views; customized views by time period)
- simple drag-and-drop and auto reschedule capability to accommodate schedule changes and adding new content on-the-fly
- Better workflow management: Keep your team on schedule through outbound communications and enable visibility into your teams’ work.
- Real-time synchronization for collaboration: No version control issues.
- Data security: Assuming your solution is software as a service (SaaS), your data remains in the cloud for data protection, so someone can’t delete a master file such as with Google Spreadsheet.
- Enables governance: For example, assure in-process content is in alignment with content strategy and enable content audits to identify content creation gaps.
If you are not already using an editorial calendar as part of a more comprehensive content marketing platform, review your options for this type of software to boost your content marketing impact. Check out the Curata CMP content marketing platform or other companies’ software as presented in Ultimate List of Content Marketing Tools.
Core Attributes of a High Impact Editorial Calendar for Content Marketing
Here at Curata we publish hundreds of pieces of content each year for an audience of over 60,000 people. This process includes tapping into multiple data sources and leveraging many writers – both internal and external. We have identified 12 core attributes in our editorial calendar used for every piece of content we produce, including ebooks, PowerPoint presentations, infographics, blog posts, and SlideShares etc.
Be bold, be relevant, and stay on target with your content strategy and SEO goals.
- Resources for title selection:
- BuzzSumo.com for social media activity around given topics/titles.
- UberSuggest.org for ideas on keyword groups.
- Keyword Planner in Google Adwords to evaluate search volume.
- Your content marketing team: At Curata our team selects from 3-5 title options for the final title. (Do ensure your title is true to the actual content of your post or piece of content.)
- Other good blog posts for title selection:
2. Publish Date
Insert estimated publish date, then update once content goes live.
3. Content Type
This field describes what type of content is being produced. It not only helps with managing the production process, but enables you to analyze the impact of different types of content on engagement and your pipeline. Here are examples of “Content Type” fields we use at Curata.
Types of content:
- Blog post: infographic
- Blog post: long-form
- Blog post: short-form
- Blog post: curated
- Webinar (PowerPoint presentation)
A significant part of a content marketing strategy is your blog. Don’t have one or need help boosting its impact on your pipeline? Check out what the blogging 10K Club are up to in this recent survey of 428 marketers: Business Blogging Secrets Revealed.
Track the progress of a piece of content through the content marketing supply chain. The “pitching,” “submitted,” and “accepted” descriptors are especially valuable when your team is creating syndicated content – i.e. submitting content to another company’s editor for publishing on their blog.
- Not started
- Work in progress/process (WIP)
5. Media Type
Your digital content may live in many locations across the Internet. The best multi-channel content marketing strategies include content publication across three different media types: Owned, Earned and Paid. Build your owned media as the foundational element of your content marketing strategy, and tap into the power of earned and paid media as on-ramps into your owned media.
Types of media:
- Owned (corporate blog, corporate website, corporate microsite)
- Earned (press pick-up, guest posts on other companies’ blogs)
- Paid (Taboola, Outbrain, Vocus, Shareaholic, media properties)
6. Media Entity
Put simply, this is the publishing destination of your content. Examples include:
- [your company] blog
- [your company] web site
- [your company] microsite (including name of microsite)
- [your company] LinkedIn Page
- [profile name] LinkedIn post
- other companies’ blogs
- media entities: Boston.com; Content Marketing Institute; MarketingProfs.com
This is the person responsible for writing the content such as an internal writer, freelancer, or agency.
The person whose name will be formally attributed to the content. The writer may be different to the author when a ghostwriter is used and/or when a writer is basing content on thought leadership or content assets originated from the author. (e.g., company executive, product marketer)
The person with ultimate accountability for completion and publishing of the content. In some situations, the owner may also be the author and writer of a specific piece of content (e.g., content marketing editor).
Curata uses the Content Marketing Pyramid framework (pictured above) to address two of content marketers’ greatest challenges:
- Facilitating the execution of a well planned content strategy.
- Optimizing the reuse and repurposing of content into multiple formats and through multiple distribution channels. (Only 22% of companies have a specific process in place to ensure optimal content reuse and repurpose.)
The top part of each Pyramid represents primary research, secondary research and/or thought leadership to be developed, along with a gated content asset (such as an eBook). The remaining parts of the Pyramid are derivatives of this “heavy” asset, where you can reuse and repurpose content into different formats and for different channels.
Examples of Pyramids executed by Curata’s content marketing team include:
- 2015 Content Marketing Tactics and Technology Study
- The Ultimate Guide to Content Curation
The high level bullets above are what Curata enters into the field “Pyramid” within its editorial calendar in Curata CMP. Attributing an individual piece of content to a specific pyramid enables you to analyze the pipeline impact of all pieces of content within that pyramid; for example, marketing leads generated per pyramid. (To see these analytics for Curata’s own content marketing process in action, feel free to schedule a demo with our content marketing experts.)
Part of your content strategy should include the identification and development of personas which represent segments of your audience to give your content marketing team a better understanding of your audience. Key parts of each persona include:
- Persona Name: This name is entered into the editorial calendar under the “Persona” field for each piece of content. Examples of what Curata includes in this field include: Digital Marketing Darla; Editor Elaine; and Marketing Operations Michael.
- Title: Typical title of this individual.
- Background: A description of the individual, such as their role, field or study, and other personal and/or professional background about this persona.
- Goals: What motivates people for this persona? How is their success measured in an organization? What are their objectives?
- Frustration and Pain Points
- Organizational Structure: Where their role typically sits within an organization (i.e., the reporting structure).
- Narrative: Informal descriptions or stories of the individual’s professional life. These narratives are a great way to help your content marketing team truly understand the persona, enabling them to create more relevant content.
- Sample individuals: It’s always great to include pictures, names and titles of real people.
Similar to a pyramid, attributing an individual piece of content to a specific persona enables you to analyze the pipeline impact of all pieces of content within that persona. You can even use this attribute to complete an audit of what content you have and don’t have for specific personas. Such insights are great to use as part of your regular content strategy development and content gap analysis.
12. Buying Stage
Another part of your content strategy should include the identification of buying stages for your audience. In fact, 50% of the best content marketing teams create content according to stages in the buying cycle. Work with your demand generation team to best identify and understand these stages.
Creating content for a specific buyer stage helps ensure content is relevant to its intended audience, and increases the conversion rate of buyers in your pipeline. Attributing an individual piece of content to a specific buying stage also enables you to complete an audit of what content you have and don’t have for specific buying stages. Such insights are extremely useful for your regular content strategy development and content gap analysis.
Buying stage examples include:
- TOFU: Top of Funnel
- MOFU: Middle of Funnel
- BOFU: Bottom of Funnel
Not only do these editorial calendar fields help streamline your content production process, they also enable better analysis of your content to determine what is and isn’t working. Please do add any additional fields you may be using in the comments section below.
Looking for a template already loaded with the above attributes? Download Curata’s free editorial calendar template below.