Content calendars are widely used in content teams, regardless of the industry.
They work as mental models by helping us comprehend content strategies, laying out a roadmap of what needs to be done. Calendars can also help streamline collaboration and track marketing performance. Ideally, they should help keep you organized and provide structure to your efforts.
Let’s dig into the purpose of a content calendar, the role it plays in content marketing and how to create an effective content calendar.
What is a content calendar?
A content calendar is a framework used to effectively manage your content marketing program. You can use it to plan every stage of the content production and distribution process.
With multiple challenges, stakeholders and tasks, content production can be demanding. A content calendar establishes a reliable system to bring your marketing strategy to life, ensure consistency and guide the way to positive content return on investment (ROI).
When created properly, it can be an accurate reflection of your content.
Content calendars are available in different formats—it can be a spreadsheet or a tool incorporated in project management software. Within it, you can track the production and maintenance of different content formats ranging from social media posts and blogs to emails and events.
Proven benefits of a content calendar
A content calendar helps you streamline your content activities, improve productivity, makes collaboration easier and gives your organization a competitive advantage. Although it won’t replace your content strategy, it will give you and your team a better chance at driving results through your content. Let’s look at all the benefits in detail:
Visualize your content strategy
It’s easy for your team to get lost in the content creation process.
Creating a content calendar and managing it regularly gives you a bird’s eye view of your content. You can see what topics you’re covering and that you’re not missing out on important subject matter.
Having a content calendar is an inevitable way to put your content strategy into action by mapping it out into weekly or monthly blocks.
Let’s say you run a podcast and want to publish two episodes in the coming month. Producing a podcast episode has many steps involved like preparing the script, recording and editing. With a content calendar, you will be able to set schedules to finish each of these tasks in order to publish the episode on the desired date.
Gives you a competitive advantage
A well-managed and executed content calendar can make all the difference. According to a survey, 64% of the most successful companies have a documented content strategy, which includes a content calendar.
Content calendars can be used to create targeted content and track content performance. It helps you create content with intent instead of guesswork, creating more efficiency and opportunities to differentiate your brand.
Saves time and brings consistency
A content calendar saves time by keeping activities organized, especially when managing multiple mediums with different stakeholders.
Planning a content calendar every month or quarter saves you from searching for topics or stories every day or week. It will give the team more time to analyze audience insights create content and focus on optimizing your strategy.
A content calendar also helps you maintain consistency throughout your content marketing activities. With a solid schedule, you can establish a routine for content creation, like managing the frequency of posting and delegating. This will ensure that your content is published regularly and on time.
Increases transparency and collaboration
Content production usually involves multiple teams and sometimes content creators. With a content calendar, your writers, editors and designers can keep tabs on production and see what’s coming down the pipeline.
A content calendar also makes it easier for managers or executives to gain visibility to content development activities and provide feedback. It also aligns different departments and often helps plan for content needs beyond the marketing team.
How to create a content calendar in 3 steps
Creating a content calendar will vary according to the goals and content needs of your company. You’ll need to analyze your target audience and market, gather ideas and create a document where you can track your progress. We’ll walk you through each step, so you can get started.
1. Lay the foundation
To build a strategic content calendar, you need to gather key information from your content marketing strategy to inform your plans. Consider these points to determine what to track in your calendar:
- Your target audience and sales cycle: Understand the needs of both current and prospective customers and develop content catered to different stages of the sales cycle.
- Goals of content production: It’s important to set goals before creating a content calendar. Are you looking to generate leads or become a thought leader? What KPIs will you track and how will you determine ROI?
- Resources availability: Check who you’re collaborating with. Will you have an in-house team of content professionals or work with a mix of internal and external contributors? Will you need subject matter experts or guest features?
All these factors will influence your content creation workflow and the frequency of how tasks should be prioritized.
2. Build your content calendar
No two content calendars are the same, but typically they share a few key features. The best way to start is by deciding how it’s going to be organized: is it by days, weeks, months or quarters? This will vary based on the kind of content you’re creating.
There are two common options to create content calendars—a spreadsheet or by using project management software.
With spreadsheets, you can easily label columns and rows with the information you need such as creation steps, approval steps, date and time, media and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Make use of the dropdown and checkbox features to update the statuses. Spreadsheet-based content calendar templates, both free and paid, are available online.
Here’s an example of a content calendar from Hubspot created using spreadsheets to track and manage marketing content:
To create a content calendar with more advanced features, try a project management tool. In a survey, 76% said that they use tools for calendaring, collaboration or workflow in their content marketing activities. Platforms like monday.com, Smartsheets or Airtable combine the elements of a spreadsheet and database with automated project management workflows.
3. Select your content channels and topics
Find out the channels your audience is most active and the type of content they consume. When brainstorming topics for the calendar, consider analytics to determine themes.
Once you have a few themes in mind, go deeper and find related topics and subtopics. If the channel is social media, use a social listening tool to learn more about what your audience is interested in. With TikTok Trends Only, you can get a list of hashtags, keywords and topics relevant to your brand and audience to inform your content planning.
If you’re creating blog posts, a keyword clustering tool will be helpful to discover more topics based on search intent and queries, identify gaps in your content and target a wider audience.
Content calendar examples for business
Sprout’s social media content calendar
TikTok Trends Only offers social media calendar tools to plan, build and track social posts and entire campaigns. You can keep track of important events and holidays as well. It also comes with collaborative features, such as shareable links to your calendar, exporting it as a PDF or sending it directly to stakeholders’ inboxes.
Trello editorial calendar
This content calendar example from Trello gets granular by enabling your team to track every stage of the content production process while still having visibility of the publishing calendar and distribution plan. The template is built specifically for the Trello platform, which offers free and paid plans for streamlining your project management.
The layout makes it easy to view the entire process at a glance and details the production information of each content piece. You can easily plan when and which content will be shared, manage campaigns and track deadlines.
Versatile content calendar by Notion
Notion’s customizable content calendar template helps you track content projects through stages of development.
You can designate the author, type of content and its status. Each project on the calendar has its own Notion page where you can add notes, draft copy and add multimedia all in one place. The calendar can also be changed into different types of views based on the timeline, deadlines or by status.
Content scheduling considerations
Creating and managing a content calendar is not just about listing down topics and deadlines. It requires a more strategic approach that varies across industries and organizations. Here are some of the considerations when planning a content calendar:
Depending on the type of business you have, seasonality can play a big role in your content calendar. For example, a sustainable clothing brand may want to create unique content on World Environment Day. In general, you will need to post special content during popular holidays like Thanksgiving and New Years.
Company milestones or promotions
Key dates and events relevant to the business should also be included in the content calendar. This can include industry conferences, product launches and other significant events. If you’re planning any sales or promotions, it’s important to include related content in your calendar.
Maintaining a healthy content mix and posting cadence is important. Plan both long-form guides and short listicles. Make sure your calendar has a mix of SEO-centric and other relevant topics. While this can result in various different content formats, most should fall within two buckets: evergreen content and timely topics.
Evergreen content has a longer (sometimes infinite) shelf-life and continues to maintain or increase its value long after its publish date. Devoting a percentage of the content you produce to evergreen topics helps you generate consistent leads, followers or customers.
Evergreen content can be the foundation of your content strategy. Some examples of evergreen content formats include blog posts, long-form videos and case studies.
Timely content capitalizes on a particular moment or event. Capture interest at the peak of a trending topic, news story or event to amplify your brand toward a large audience. This is a great way to increase visibility and engagement in a short span of time.
Timely content can also increases your brand’s authority and influence by inserting yourself into relevant conversations that establish your thought leadership.
Timing a marketing campaign to a special day or covering industry-relevant updates with a unique perspective are common ways brands incorporate timely content in their marketing strategy.
Streamline your content creation with a content calendar
An effective content calendar enhances team productivity and adds clarity at every stage of content production. It should align with your team’s workflow for added efficiency. The best outcomes from content calendars will depend on how you manage them while keeping the company’s goals in mind.
While a general content calendar provides an overall plan for the business’s content strategy, a social media content calendar helps to ensure your social strategy is being executed successfully, from creation to posting at the most effective times for engagement. Take a look at the different functions and elements of a social media content calendar to learn more.