What is the marketing buzzword, hot topic and yearbook's “most likely to succeed” of 2016?
Everyone from the small, local 5k to the big boy marathon series can benefit from investing effort, resources and late nights all hopped up on 5 hour energy to improve and streamline their content marketing strategies. This, in turn, drives race registration, builds brand awareness and basically gives you the most awesome - and talked about - event possible.
Since it’s my job to make your life easier, I want to introduce you to one of the most handy dandy tools in any effective content marketer’s arsenal.
The editorial calendar.
What Is An Editorial Calendar?
So first thing's first: An editorial calendar is a tool to help you visualize, plan and schedule your content marketing efforts across all of your channels (not to mention make your content marketing about 45,421 times easier to manage). Most are laid out just like run-of-the mill calendar (although you’ll be hard pressed to find a Cutest Puppies of 2016 or Hottest Firemen of NYC editorial version… those are reserved strictly for your desktop calendar) with additional features to help you organize the types of content you want to schedule and when that content should be pushed out. With the right editorial calendar, you can manage the entire content marketing cycle from the first light bulb of an idea all the way through to hitting the “publish” button.
Editorial calendars are also clutch if you have different people writing content; they allow you to assign content to different members of your team, stay on top of projects (like who’s supposed to be writing what and when, so you know who's neck to wring if it doesn't happen) and make sure that every piece of content you create is helping you take one stride closer to the content marketing finishing line (race pun intended).
Why Do You Need An Editorial Calendar?
So, you might be thinking “I’m a race director, not a writer. Why do I need an editorial calendar?”
You need one because having a solid editorial calendar is an absolute MUST to any successful content marketing strategy, and it’s a double must if content marketing isn’t your only area of focus (you know, in case you’re also busy trying to set up your race management software or scrambling to rebuild after an event cancellation or any of the other million and one things you have to handle as a race director). Editorial calendars can be a huge help in keeping you organized and making sure your content marketing train keeps chugging along during the times leading up to your event when any number of race-related calamities threatens to derail them.
On a separate note, it’s also an easier way for you visual learners to look at your content; if long lists, blocks of texts or (heaven forbid) group email chains make you feel dizzy, you’ll have an easier time seeing how the overall content strategy comes together when you can look at each piece (emails, blog posts, social media posts, etc) laid out on the calendar from today all the way through your event.
What Should You Ask Yourself Before Creating An Editorial Calendar?
If you want your editorial calendar to be a solid time investment instead of a solid time waster (and who doesn't?), you’ve got to begin with the end in mind. You want to make sure that that whole of your content strategy - the type of content you’re creating, where you’re promoting it, which keywords you’re including, and when it goes out to the masses - is getting you from where you are to where you want to be.
So before you create your editorial calendar, you need to ask yourself these 3 questions:
What’s your goal?
What’s your ultimate goal with your content marketing? Do you want to get more opt-ins for your email list, drive traffic to your online race registration or get more likes on your Facebook page?
Different goals are going to have different content strategies (#duh), so being crystal clear in what you want to gain from your content is absolutely essential before you even think about creating your editorial calendar.
Who is your audience?
Who are you creating content for - who’s your audience? Obviously, your audience is chock full of athletes. But who exactly are these athletes? What motivates them? What gets them revved up for an event? What’s their favorite brand of protein bar?
Knowing who your end user is (and their taste in delicious protein-packed goodies, of course) will help you draft an editorial calendar that makes sense for them.
What’s the best way to reach your audience?
Depending on your athletes and the demographic they fall under, you’re going to want to customize your approach in reaching them. Are your athletes brand spankin' new runners signing up for their first race, or are they seasoned athletes lacing up for their 15th Ironman? Because, let me tell you, those are two VERY different people, and taking the same path to reach them both is probably not going to help you to reach either one.
Understanding your audience and the most effective way to deliver content to them is super important before you go scheduling a bunch of stuff in your editorial calendar.
What Should You Track On Your Editorial Calendar?
Depending on the type of content that you’re creating, what you track on your editorial calendar will vary as much as a random sampling of participants at the Color Run. Start off with an “Ideas” spreadsheet where you can store all of you (and your awesome team’s) ideas for content. Once you’ve got some ideas that you want to roll with, it’s time to start building your calendar.
At the very least, you’ll want to track:
Platform (WordPress blog, Facebook, etc)
Author Responsible (you’ll only need to track this if there are multiple people on your team creating content)
Content Status (scheduled, published, etc)
If you’re an overachiever like me, you can also track things like email clicks, opt-ins and other deep data that will help you calculate the overall ROI of your content marketing (I’m such a nerd).
What Editorial Calendar Tool Should You Use?
There are TONS of editorial calendar templates and tools on the market, ranging from super simple to “putting together an entire bedroom’s worth of IKEA furniture without instructions”. The one that you go with depends on you, your race and your needs.
If you’re a pretty small operation and don’t have a ton of content to schedule (for example, you’re only going to be focusing on publishing content on your event blog), using a simple spreadsheet should be fine. And don’t worry about creating the structure yourself - a number of companies have released free editorial calendar templates; there’s no need to reinvent the wheel here - just look through the templates and find one that feels good for you.
Now, if you have a gaggle of team members and volunteers that will be creating content and/or a bunch of different platforms that you’ll be publishing on, you might want to skip the free templates and go straight to a premium editorial calendar software. Tools like CoSchedule let you create your editorial calendar, assign content to team members, schedule your content and all sorts of other amazing-ness in one easy to use interface. It connects with WordPress, social media platforms and email auto-responders to make managing your editorial calendar and team smooth like butter on breakfast toast.
Let me chime in as Captain Obvious here with a word to the wise: whatever tool you choose, it’s important that you actually use it. Creating an editorial calendar can make your content marketing process easier, better and more effective, but not if it sits on your computer desktop, collecting dust, never to be clicked again.
I’ve given you the scheduling key to the content marketing kingdom. Now get out there and use it.