How To Create the Online/Offline Editorial Calendar


Photo by Monica's Dad

The planning process for all of your publications—both online and offline ones—can be difficult, but trust me, it’s well worth it. (When I refer to online publications, I’m thinking of e-newsletters and blogs, while offline includes print publications like journals, magazines, and newsletters.)

Forcing yourself to sit down for a few hours without any interruption so you can focus solely on your 3/6/12-month editorial strategy will make your job easier.

Here are 4 reasons why:

  1. You’ll save LOTS of time down the road. Scrambling for last-minute content—whether it’s online or offline—actually takes more time than knowing what you’re going to publish ahead of time. Since you’re the subject matter expert, coming up with the idea of what to write about is half the battle. So thinking about it all at once saves you more time than thinking about it when the deadline is approaching.
  2. You’ll save yourself from stress and panic for last-minute posts. I don’t think I need to explain this one. 🙂
  3. A strategy will help your content “make more sense” to your readers. If you can take a bird’s eye view of what your publications will talk about in the next quarter (or two) you’ll be able to tie each topic into each other, make it more linear and flow better, which will help your readers follow you.
  4. Better content guaranteed. Getting into “the zone” when you’re planning will open your mind to topics your publications can talk about. You’ll think of new topics you can explore, old ones to revisit, and even find topics your audience just needs you to talk about.

Your online and offline publications don’t necessarily have to be on separate content tracks; in fact, depending on your audiences and the purposes of each publication, you could devise a calendar that will help each publication complement the other.

So here are steps you can take to create an editorial calendar for all of your publications:

Goals First

This is the most important step because it’ll set the pace and guide your content strategy. Think about what you want to get out of your publications. Do you want to provide content that will fill unmet needs? Do you want to inspire your community for a specific call-to-action? Are you educating your readers?

Also think about who your audiences are or will be. Are these people who are affected by your cause? Are you reaching out to a new sector in an upcoming event? Are you educating people who know everything, some, or nothing about your issues? What is their education level and do you need to scale your literacy level up or down in any way?

Themes and Topics to Help Reach Goals

After you’ve identified your goals, think about the topics that will help you reach them. For example, let’s say you have an upcoming awareness campaign for heart disease. A theme could be heart disease prevention, and three topics could be: exercise and nutrition tips for women over 40, how to talk to your doctor, and how to de-stress your life.

Your themes and topics can be evergreen (not just campaign-oriented). Think about topics that will educate and excite your followers about your campaign, but will primarily benefit your readers; your publications should be useful to them and not always talk about yourself (that gets old, quick).

Break Topics Into Time Periods

Once you’ve figured out the themes and topics to go with your goals, put it into a timeline in an Excel spreadsheet. If you have one big campaign a year, start talking about it several weeks in advance, and coordinate your publications to point towards that.

I like to start with monthly themes, and then break it down into weekly and daily posts. The more “granular” you get with your timeline, the easier it will be for you to keep track of your personal to-do list and the better your content strategy will be.

If you’re also going to rely on other people to write the content for you—whether they be staff, volunteers, or paid writers—include deadlines for them in your calendar. Give yourself 1-2 weeks to receive their posts; that’ll give you enough time to implement a Plan B in case they can’t get their posts to you in time.

Identify the Writers

Once you’ve got the topics you want to write about, figure out if you need some extra help getting them published. If you’re going to use staff or freelance writers, begin reaching out to them now and give them a deadline to get the copy to you. Here are a few tips on how to find the best writers for you.

What other tips or tools do you use to manage your editorial calendars?