Editorial Calendar Templates: Pros, Cons, and What to Look For

 In Content Marketing Toolbox, Editorial Planning, Tips & How-Tos

According to our recently released Content Planning Report 2018, 80% of marketers now report using a content calendar in some capacity. That’s good!

However, only 42% say they’re using calendars to track publish and launch dates, and just 22% rely upon this resource to manage all of their content marketing milestones. Not so good.

“A documented content process allows everyone within your organization to understand the outcomes you’re working toward,” said Dave Charest, Director of Marketing for Constant Contact, in the report. “Without the documentation, your efforts can quickly become fragmented, less impactful, and you can lose sight of what you’re trying to accomplish.”

Adopting a strategic and centrally visible editorial calendar is perhaps the most critical documentation step your content team can take. If you’re among those who aren’t using a calendar, or among the many whose calendars aren’t informative or functional enough to deliver real value, one easy way to get started is with an editorial calendar template.

What is an Editorial Calendar Template?

These pre-built, editable templates provide a framework for scheduling and managing your team’s content output. They can come in the form of a spreadsheet, or PDF, or other editable resource. At their core, editorial calendar templates will almost always include publishing dates, titles, and author assignments, but other fields and inputs can vary wildly.

By running a quick web search for “editorial calendar template” you’ll come across many different options. You can also create your own pretty easily, customizing for your own process and workflow.

We highly recommend that larger content teams utilize a dedicated content calendar solution like ours, because templates inevitably become insufficient for higher volumes and distributed personnel. But for leaner teams seeking to add meaningful structure around their content production, or bigger teams seeking a quick fix, here are some elements that must be included.

via GIPHY

Every Editorial Calendar Template Should Include These 5 Elements

As you assess different editorial calendar templates available out there, make sure to look for the following essential fields and attributes.

Strategic Alignment

Every piece of content you create should be attached to a larger strategy. Keeping these overarching themes transparent for everyone involved is key. Without this aspect it becomes easy to — in Charest’s words — lose sight of what you’re trying to accomplish. Including (and mandating) a strategy field, which ties each item to a buyer stage, campaign or initiative, helps everyone stay cognizant of the big picture.

Editing/QA Phases

Content creation is an iterative process that usually requires involvement of multiple people. From concept to draft to revisions to final product, there are many steps and your editorial calendar should help with tracking and organization. It must be easy to see the most current version, and your schedule should have built-in deadlines based on the team’s standard turnaround times. This can be difficult to tailor with a spreadsheet template, which is one drawback to using a prebuilt one instead of creating your own.

Organization by Content Type

If you only produce one type of content (e.g., your team creates blog posts exclusively), a single calendar with no frills might get the job done. But most modern content marketers are distributing across several channels and formats — social media, email, case studies, video, infographics, guides, and more. Any useful editorial calendar template will make it easy to quickly identify and categorize your various types of content.

SEO Keyword Focuses and Audience Personas/Attributes

Which keywords or terms are you trying to gain visibility for with this content? Who is it intended to speak to, specifically? Keeping this information front-and-center helps the creator stay on point while also helping editors and publishers optimize properly.

Idea Bank

Every piece of content sprouts from a seed. The more easily you can collect, access, and nurture these seeds, the better. Your calendar should include an idea repository of sorts where people can log potential concepts and add comments, then draw from it when creating new content. In the DivvyHQ system, we refer to this as the Parking Lot.

Downsides of Using an Editorial Calendar Template

I’ll say this much: a template is better than nothing. But it’s far from ideal, especially as a long-term solution. By nature these tools tend to be rigid, thin and can become a management headache. Here are some of the shortcomings we’ve encountered with almost every editorial calendar template:

  • Lack of customization and adaptability
  • Difficult to organize and manage
  • Not universally adopted and utilized
  • Quickly becomes cumbersome and bloated
  • Not integrated with other functions or business units
  • Painful to filter and search through
  • Cannot share direct feedback and comments
  • A static document won’t notify you when you’ve missed a deadline

A Better Way to Schedule, Organize, and Execute

We built the DivvyHQ content calendar to help teams overcome the inherent flaws of templates and other ad hoc content planning systems. If you’re trying out different templates, we’d love to have you and your teammates take our platform for a free two-week test drive to see how its robust calendar functions fit your working style.

For additional tips on planning, strategizing and executing any new campaign, download our Definitive Guide to Planning a New Content Initiative.

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