How to build a content calendar

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Learn how to build a content calendar and the best tools to bring it to life.

Sophie Knox

Let’s all agree that building a content calendar is an essential tool for everyone involved in content creation. As we mentioned in part one in this series, content may be king but the marketing and planning function that powers your content is queen. So, where do we start? By nailing down our content purpose.

Step 1 What’s your content purpose? 

Many of us create content as a knee-jerk reaction to marketing needs or social trends but our content success is always boosted by the content strategy we create – and this work needs to be done before we begin commissioning content

Questions to ask include:
  • What’s our content mission? 
  • What are our content pillars? 
  • Who is our target audience? 
  • What is our end goal? 
Perhaps you want your content to ultimately drive sales, or serve as a pure brand play to position the product in a certain light. Doing the foundational content strategy work before you build the content bricks will make your house of content stronger and more effective in the long term.

Step 2 Do a content audit 

Unless you’re starting from scratch with a new brand or a business that hasn’t created any content to date, it’s worth looking at what already exists in your content pool. In fact, when it comes to planning your content and optimising for search, repurposing existing content is a masterful way to tick those boxes. 

Start by documenting the existing content in a new spreadsheet organised by content channel (if there’s more than one) and time stamp or chronological cadence. Then you can use this inventory to populate future content and avoid duplication later down the track.

Step 3 Pick your tool 

Finding the right content tool comes down to what you want to include in your calendar. There are lots of free templates out there, but if less is more, then a standard spreadsheet model will be just fine. Using Google Sheets means your calendar is sharable and collaborative (why don't you try ours?). Web-based Microsoft Excel will also do the trick.

If your content is published through social channels, then Trello or ContentCal are great apps that appeal to those who need visual cues to get the job done. Think of these software tools as your social media managers. There are lists! And pinboards! Add publish times and approval reviews. There’s also functionality to upload imagery and preview posts before they go live.

CoSchedule is another tool that lets you organise your blogs and social content in an integrated way across a calendar. You can drag and drop ideas and the embedded scheduling of that content moves accordingly.

Do you want to take your content calendar to project management levels? Then Basecamp is where you could land. This app allows you to map out content in a calendar, as well as set up to-do lists, chat with colleagues and establish status reports on tasks.

Step 4 Plot your proof-points 

Now that you know your content purpose, what’s under your content hood and which tool you want to use, it’s time to map out how your content will be organised.

Consider these proof-points:

Cadence – how regularly are you publishing? If you have a super regular and predictable publishing rhythm then map out your horizontal axis with days of the week and all the variables like content type, pillars, channels and assets down the vertical axis.

Content type – these days a thorough content marketing approach includes multiple media from digital articles, e-books and white papers through to video, audio and infographics. And don’t forget to factor in content series ideas as opposed to standalone content pieces.

Content channel – how will the content reach your audience? Is the video filmed as an Instagram Reels? Perhaps the white paper is promoted through LinkedIn, the podcast is promoted on Facebook by an influencer and the digital article is sent out to your audience through an eDM? 

Other factors to work into your content calendar include:
  • Content creator – if the work is attributed to specific people it’s good to make that clear to all involved. 
  • Risk – some brands might have a risk factor to mitigate or prepare for internally; highlighting content with the green, amber and red status works well. 
  • CTAs – the brand may have products or call-outs to be included in each content piece. 
  • Evergreen or topical – it’s good to ensure you have the right mix of content between timeless and current. 
  • Keywords – do content creators need to include certain keywords? 
  • Links – are there internal hyperlinks or links to cross-promotional brands that need to be included? 
  • Assets – is there imagery or material to be obtained in order for the content to be created? 
  • Ideas – not every content piece has a natural home or fit at its ideation point, so create a new sheet or tab to work as a dumping ground to house potential content ideas. 
If you’re bringing to life a social media strategy, this Hootsuite video helps define some of the best practice planning and posting tools.

Step 5 Iterate regularly

Consider your content calendar a living, breathing document that fluctuates and evolves with the same variables that affect brands on a regular basis – your content should be shaped and informed by this.

And don’t forgot to make your content calendar shareable. Allowing access to this document is important for content success but only one person should own responsibility for editing the master content calendar and championing its implementation.

So, what are you waiting for? Take your content marketing to the next level by downloading your content calendar checklist.

Sophie Knox, editorial director

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