By Sujan Patel, Web Profits
Excerpted with permission
I don’t keep a running score, but between posts for my personal and company site plus my columns on business media sites like Inc., Entrepreneur, and Forbes, I create around 300 articles a year.
Strategy plays a huge part in what I do. With my strategy, I need to ensure that I:
- Create the right content for the audience or publication in question
- Distribute my time fairly between publications and projects
- Promote content properly
- Listen to and take board feedback
- Meet goals and adjust them accordingly
I couldn’t do any of this – at least, not nearly as well – without an editorial calendar. This is how I manage it.
Create an editorial-only calendar
If you use Google Calendar to manage meetings, don’t try to cram your content schedule into it. Instead, create a calendar that you use solely for managing content production. This could be a purpose-built calendar, like CoSchedule. Tools like Trello work well for this too.
Don’t use Excel or for that matter the aforementioned Google Calendar. They’re fine at low volumes, but difficult to scale, and if you’re trying to use them to collaborate with your team, things can quickly get messy.
Manage all types of editorial in one calendar
To help keep things as organized as possible, I use my editorial calendar exclusively for that purpose – content planning and management.
If a task relates to the planning, creation, or promotion of content, it goes into the editorial calendar. No exceptions.
Manage the editorial process from the calendar
There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work both before and after the content is created and published. To ensure that each step gets the proper attention, I don’t skip steps. Managing everything in my editorial calendar is key.
The stages I go through with each and every piece of content I produce are:
To streamline the process to come up with an idea, I dedicate a section of my editorial calendar to collating and recording ideas.
My team and I come up with ideas in a lot of ways. We’ll brainstorm, sure, but often our best ideas materialize when we least expect it. This is why it’s important to record all ideas in one location.
I research my chosen idea and create an outline that details what I expect to include.
Not all writers create outlines, but I believe they make writing the content easier, and in most cases, better quality, and they help me figure out whether the idea has legs.
Sometimes when writing an outline I get an overwhelming feeling that something just isn’t right. If that happens, I generally go with my instincts, scrap the brief, and start again.
Just because I believe in an idea does not necessarily mean anyone else will. That’s why pre-promotion – a means of validating an idea – is important.
Pre-promotion has a lot in common with post-promotion. Though instead of asking a prospect to take a look at, share, or feature your content, you’re asking if they would be interested in looking at it when it’s finished.
Just bear in mind how many people you’ve contacted – not receiving replies doesn’t necessarily mean they thought your content idea wasn’t a good one. It’s possible they didn’t read your email or couldn’t be bothered to reply. One or more positive replies, however, is a sign the idea is worth an article.
At this stage, I often approach industry influencers and ask them to provide a comment or quote for the article. Anyone who is quoted is likely to promote the finished piece.
4. Content creation
It’s time to create the content. This is how I do it.
I sit down, remove all distractions, and write. I don’t really stop to fix mistakes. I keep going until the article’s “completed.”
Of course, it’s not really complete at this stage – what I have is a rough draft. That means I go back and edit, chopping out bits, rewriting sections, and adjusting order as necessary.
I then step away – usually for a day or two. This time away gives me a fresh perspective, and helps me spot mistakes and ways to improve the article that I wouldn’t have noticed without a break.
Taking a break from my own work is one way to spot errors and to make improvements, but it is no substitute for a fresh pair of eyes.
In fact, it’s scientifically proven that we struggle to spot our own typos.
Before publishing a piece of content, I always pass it to someone else to read through it first.
This stage isn’t needed for every piece of content. Ongoing blogs like this one, for example, already have been designed. However, when I write e-books or playbooks, the completed written text always gets sent to the design team to turn into something more visually appealing and, I hope, shareable.
This step entails putting the content on the site. I don’t necessarily publish my content right away. Depending on what topics have been published recently or are coming up, the content might be scheduled to go live at a later date. Your editorial calendar is an essential tool for identifying the best time to publish.
The last step in my content creation process is arguably the most important. That’s because the quality of the content is essentially irrelevant if I don’t bother to tell people about it.
The lengths to which I go to promote a piece of content vary according to the type of content and what I hope it will achieve. For example, I put a lot more time into promoting a playbook than a standard blog post, and more time again to promote an e-book.
This step generally entails:
- Emailing my list
- Posting about it on LinkedIn and scheduling a handful of tweets
- Notifying anyone mentioned in the article (whether they contributed personally or their work was quoted)
- Sharing with anybody who said in the pre-promotion stage that they would like to see the finished article
Sometimes, I also do one or more of the following:
- Send some cold emails to people I believe the article might resonate with
- Repost the article to LinkedIn Pulse and/or Medium
- Launch a paid social media ad campaign
- Write a guest post that ties in with the piece of content I’m promoting.
One more thing
What you will probably notice in the eight stages is that there’s a lot of collaboration happening throughout the production of my content. That is why I give anyone involved in the production or promotion of my content access to the editorial calendar.
In fact, the only power I don’t extend to those who are part of my editorial calendar is the ability to delete items.