Despite giving us amazing ways to find and engage with clients and customers, sometimes social media and content marketing can seem (if only for a nanosecond), like an evil scheme created just to make all of us into workaholics.
When you start thinking like that, it’s time to take a break.
It’s also time to reassess your methods. Because while there is a lot to do, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Content marketing is not a nefarious plot to make you, or anyone else, into a workaholic. Really. It is a proven way to find and connect with your ideal customers and clients, and it costs 62% less than traditional marketing. It’s a good thing. But you have to know how to manage it.
It’s been said that modern marketers are more like publishers. “All brands are publishers,” Advertising Age once wrote. If that’s true, and you’re going to try to produce content at even a tiny portion of the rate of a traditional publisher, do yourself a favor and use one of the tools they use: an editorial calendar.
By the way, with 2015 on the horizon, you’ve got the excuse you need to kick off something new and organizational. So let’s go through all the nice, sanity-saving things having an editorial calendar can do for your business marketing.
1. It gives you time to think about the content you’re going to create.
Knowing what you’re going to write about ahead of time helps a lot. This may actually be one of the major differences between professional writers and everyone else. The occasional writer might sit down and take an hour to write a paragraph. When this happens, it’s, often because they first have to figure out the subject. In contrast, a pro almost always knows what they’re going to write about.
The pros don’t save the figuring-out part until they’re in front of a keyboard. They put that time in, in other ways than chewing on a pencil: they do it while they’re driving or sleeping or brushing their teeth. Or a conversation with a co-worker jump-started an entire concept, or they read something that started a chain of thought. They’re been pondering the topic, kicking its tires, for hours, if not days. Knowing what you’re going to write about ahead of time works because it usually gives you a way into your topic … and always saves a ton of time.
It also takes the pressure off. Many people have a terrible time coming up with ideas for what to write about when they’re looking at a blank page. (George Kaufman, a playwright who won two Pulitzers, was famous for working with collaborators. He said “It’s nice to have company when you come face-to-face with a blank page.”) But these same people can talk with coworkers and rattle off three, four, even ten issues around their business that would all make terrific blog posts. (Do collaborate with other people, at least on the ideas.)
If this sounds like you, take heart. You can make your writing process dramatically easier just by capturing ideas when you have them, instead of trying to scrape something together as the blinding blank computer screen stares you down. Just capture and record your ideas as they come to you (or are given to you), in a form you can use later. Then pull them out when you need to write. Add a schedule to this, even if it’s as simple as “this week” and “next week” and you’ve got yourself a rudimentary editorial calendar.
2. You’ll be able to coordinate your marketing plans with other parts of your business.
Marketing has a lot of moving parts. It requires quite a few skill sets to bring a complete campaign into the world. That means lots of coordination with other people.
Perhaps you’ll need to buy advertising soon, or you’re planning an event, or it’s time to send out another batch of postcards. Or your company is about to bring out a new product you should be blogging about, or your PR department is issuing a press release. An annual sale is coming up. Whatever it is, if you have an editorial calendar, you know what you’ll be doing next week and maybe even next month, and you’ll be better able to coordinate all the moving parts. This is a major benefit of editorial calendars. They are basically project management tools.
This planning ahead also means you won’t have to pay rush fees. Who wants to allocate precious marketing dollars to pay a rush fee to print something or to design something – when you could have had it done a month prior?
3. It means you can do themes for your marketing, across multiple channels.
Many publishers, especially magazine publishers (but also blogs, retailers, and webzines) will have a theme for each month. If you’re an accountant, you could do a taxes theme for a month (eh…) or perhaps a theme of how to plan for major purchases, like the trip of a lifetime (yay!) or how to buy health insurance for your pets (a first-world issue). Many people, both writers and non-writers, find themes helpful for writing posts, doing social media updates, planning advertising or direct mailings, or developing special offers. The theme gets them on a roll around a well-defined topic. (There are rumors of it even becoming fun.)
If you’ve heard the term “multi-channel marketing” before, and it sounded way too complicated, guess what: You’re already there. What I described above is multi-channel marketing. Once you’ve got an editorial calendar and a defined theme for your marketing each month, you have the necessary elements coordinating your real-world channels (such as signage) with advertising (say a pay-per-click campaign) and digital marketing (perhaps social, blog posts, a landing page, an email campaign).
4. Editorial calendars can help you to say “No.”
As marketers, we will always have more tasks we could do than we have time to do them in. We have to prioritize. Saying “no” to some projects is a necessary skill.
Once you’ve got an editorial calendar planned out, when somebody gets a bright idea for a huge project, you can point to the editorial calendar and either say, “Sure, we can do an open house that week”, or “No way – I’ve got a direct mail piece going out that week, a webinar, and two blog posts. It’s gotta be the week after.” And so once again, your editorial calendar becomes the tool of peace and harmoniousness.
That’s not an exhaustive list of all the benefits to editorial calendars, but I think you’re starting to see why people use them. Basically, they let you create better content, and more content, with less stress. That makes for a happier you, and more results from your marketing … which is the whole point.
So if editorial calendars are so great, how do you set up one? How do you use one? Glad you asked! I’ll have answers for you in a post next week.
While you’re thinking about editorial calendars, would you like to learn how to be a content marketing superstar? Check out Act-On’s free toolkit: