How to Build Your First Content Calendar

Every content marketer feels it at some point. It’s a realization. It’s a disappointment, a mistake or missed opportunity. It’s that point at which your brain just can’t keep up with all the content balls you’re juggling and you’re waiving your white flag.

You need a content calendar.

Why have you waited this long? A content calendar is your central hub for all content planning and operations. You may not realize it, but you are about to embark on a new journey, one that will revolutionize how you work. Now, it’s time to learn how to build your first content calendar.

There are so many advantages to using a content calendar! From eliminating that stress of remembering everything that needs to happen, to bringing more visibility to your hectic schedule, to higher productivity and reducing the chance of missing deadlines. Your content marketing is about to get a makeover. So, all you have to do now is create your first calendar.

I’ll be breaking down all the steps you need to build your first content calendar that is tailored to your team’s needs and preferences. Let’s jump in and get started.

Step One: Organizational Alignment

Because every company, organization or brand is unique, the core structure and organization of your content calendar will be as well. Sure, you can do a quick Google search online and download any editorial calendar template, but it’s structure and formatting may not be suited to the uniqueness of your organization.

That’s why the first step is taking stock in your organizational structure. Are you a simple company with a simple offering? Or are you a multi-faceted organization serving multiple markets with multiple business units and geographical locations?

The complexity of your organization needs to be considered before you bring on something to manage it. A small business or small team may be just fine with a single content calendar as content volume for a handful of channels is easy enough to manage. But multiply that by multiple business units and teams, you’re gonna need something more robust.

That’s why you want to choose a content marketing software solution that enables customizable configurations. You should be able to configure by channel, business unit, department, and geographical region.

With a robust calendar solution, you can allow groups to have their own schedules, work in their own space, and share their visibility across other teams as needed.

Step Two: Establish Accessibility

The great thing about a content calendar, provided it’s in some sort of cloud-based environment, is that it can be accessible to a variety of people across different teams and departments.

With a content calendar, you offer everyone true transparency. So, when conceiving your first content calendar, you’ll need to decide who can access it and what permissions they should have. Some need to be able to edit and revise as necessary; others may only need to view what’s going on from a high level.

Take the time to map all the parties involved in content creation and decide based on your analysis who should have access and what type of access they need.

You can create both shared and private calendars, depending on your team and the type of content you produce. This flexibility also enables you to control and broaden access.

Step Three: How Far Out Should You Plan?

build your first content calendar

How far out should your content calendar go? This depends on many factors, including the volume of content you produce, your sales cycle, who your audience is, and much more. To create your first calendar, you need to know how far out you are planning.

A good rule of thumb is to do at least three months but be aware that what you plan to produce in three months may very well change because of external or internal shifts.

Step Four: Decide What Information to Include

For your content calendar to be meaningful and adopted by your team, it has to contain the right information. But what should it include?

It can be as detailed as you want it, and usually, more detail is better. But don’t go overboard. It might not take much to create a management nightmare. Most content calendar will typically include information like:

  • Due dates
  • Content themes
  • Content formats
  • Working Titles
  • Assignees
  • Keywords
  • Publishing and promotion details

Plan out exactly what you want to include in the calendar that will keep you the most organized and enable your team to collaborate without restraints.

Step Five: Craft Powerful Filters

Another great asset of a content calendar is being able to find what you need quickly. You’ll want to build your calendar with the right search and filtering options so you can instantly narrow the scope.

By filtering, you can gain insights into where gaps may reside in your content strategy as you’re able to filter to see content that is associated to certain topics, keywords, buyer stages, and more.

Step Six: Enable Collaboration

build your first content calendar - collaboration

Your content calendar needs to be a place where ideation and collaboration can occur. Your content team must embrace collaboration and it has to be easy for them to do so. Ensure that your content calendar is built to allow for notes, comments, files, and more so information can be shared and discussions can occur.

Having a space to park ideas is also essential to an effective content calendar. Anyone who is involved with marketing should be able to offer up ideas for content here. It could also be a place for content requests. With this as part of your content calendar, it enables seamless collaboration.

Step Seven: Determine What to Automate

Content calendars can make your operations run ship shape, especially with the ability to automate certain features. So, what exactly can you automate on your content calendar? Well, that certainly depends on what platform or technology you’re using. Obviously you can’t really automate anything with a spreadsheet. But you can automate a lot with a robust content marketing platform like DivvyHQ.

First, you can build out templates for workflows, campaigns and content formats so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time. This saves you much needed time because there’s no more manual formatting, updating, or distributing.

The other major thing you’ll want to automate is notifications. Your content calendar is a living, breathing thing that’s always changing, so whenever a project is updated or a deadline changed, people need to know. They’ll receive automated notifications on their dashboard as well as emails, improving your team’s communication.

Step Eight: Ensure You Have Analytics Capabilities

Your content calendar has a lot of important data that tells the story of what you are producing and how it’s being published and distributed. So, you want to set up your calendar to ensure you can understand this data and what it means to your content workflow success.

Within your content calendar, you should have assigned goals or KPIs to each of your projects. You want to be able to measure against these and keep track of them so you can make adjustments in your calendar as needed, such as focusing on new topics or different keywords.

Step Nine: Time to Implement

Now that you have your foundation ready, it’s time to build your content calendar. Ideally you would have a user-friendly technology solution that allows you to quickly configure its settings, get content projects imported (like demonstrated below), and train your team on how to use and administer it.

Bonus Tip…

Don’t underestimate potential hiccups or adoption issues that may arise while you build your first content calendar. Organizational change is hard, especially in large institutions who have done things a specific way for a long time. Stay positive and spend some one-on-one time with team members who may need some help getting comfortable with a new way of planning.

If you run into roadblocks or need some guidance regarding content calendar best practices, we’d certainly love to help. And before your brain explodes and you start throwing keyboards at your boss, why not schedule a demo today!