Guest post by Marty Diamond.
Did you have to wear school uniforms in high school? My school didn’t require uniforms but my best friend’s did.
I felt lucky not being confined to the same outfit day after day, week after week. I liked the freedom to choose and to be as individualistic as I wanted.
She, on the other hand loved the freedom that not having to choose gave her. She’d laughed when I would obsess over what to wear the next day and point out how much time I wasted picking the “perfect outfit.”
When I first read about using an editorial calendar, it felt just like wearing a school uniform.
I was sure it would curtail my writing freedom. I’ve never liked being told what to do, and I was sure that using an editorial calendar would be confining and stifle my creativity.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I’ve found that defining a theme for the month has made me more creative and a better writer. It has forced me to go much deeper into topics where previously I only scratched the surface. And, it frees up time I was previously spending obsessing over finding the perfect topic to write about.
Knowing your theme for the month can be a real time saver.
You’ll be able to do the research for your posts all at once. Instead of researching 10 or 15 different topics, by focusing on one theme you can afford the time for more in-depth research.
You’ll be able to build on what you learn from one post to the next and re-use the research in your articles, videos, and social media interaction. You’ll also have time to make better use of additional types of media.
An editorial calendar allows for greater media variety.
Knowing your theme each month gives you time to incorporate other media into your posts such as:
• Books on the theme you can review or quote
• Expert interviews that you can video, record as audio or write up as an interview article.
• Videos you can create around the theme that can be referenced throughout the month.
• Insights from surveys or questions around the theme you design and post to your social media audience
• Theme based graphics and images to use on your posts and on social media.
By identifying your theme, you can use your time on social media to engage people around your monthly topic. Post questions and solicit opinions. The feedback you get can be used as a guide to ferret out the sub-topics and sub-sub-topics with the most relevance for your audience.
Circling your posts back to topics you’re discussing on social media creates a virtuous circle.
Instead of feeling confined or stifled by an editorial calendar, your writing becomes more conversational. You can use the theme based on questions and insights of your social media community for post ideas. These highly focused pieces are more interesting for your audience and more interesting to write.
An effective editorial calendar isn’t a whip you use to bring your posts in shape but a tool you use to make your posts more interesting for you and your readers. As a tool, you’ll want to set it up in a way that’s the most compatible with your writing style. Using the outline function in most writing programs will work, or you can use a word document or spreadsheet.
I like to use a spreadsheet for my editorial calendars.
On the horizontal axis I list the months and under each month the weeks. Across the top I list my theme for the month and all the channels I’ll be posting to. So for example, along the top I might list:
• Monthly Theme
• You Tube
• Linked In
Each month gets its own theme.
Then I’ll detail the sub-topics I’ll be focusing on each week. Going across the page I’ll jot down ideas for each of the channels.
• Post and article ideas
• Questions I might want to ask my audience or use on surveys
• Ideas for a video or graphics
• People I might want to interview.
• Books on the topic that I might want to read and review
• Links to research I’ll be using
I use the spreadsheet as a combination idea factory, ongoing brainstorming session and a guide for next steps. I like it to be as pliable as possible.
If you prefer a plugin, check out this editorial calendar plugin.
A flexible editorial schedule works best for me.
I’m not someone who likes to be pinned down to a schedule. Give me a rigid schedule and I rebel. But I find it challenging and not stifling to work on one theme a month, because I can approach it from so many different angles.
You don’t need to create an entire year’s schedule. Try it for just a month or two and adjust it to meet your own needs.
I’ve learned to appreciate the freedom that comes from an editorial schedule.
Like my best friend who never had to think about what she was going to wear to school, I no longer wonder what I’m going to write about.
Focusing on a single theme opens up a world of post ideas, more than I need for the month. No more obsessing over topics and no more writers block…things I experienced regularly when I picked blog topics at random.
Do you use an editorial calendar to pre-plan your topics and publishing? How do you keep it all organized?