editorial calendar

What’s the first piece of advice you hear people give new bloggers these days? “Get an editorial calendar.” And yet blogs fail all the time, calendar or no calendar. What’s going on?

An editorial calendar can certainly help bloggers and publishers stay on track, but on its own, it can’t guarantee success. In fact, a calendar tool, if not properly engineered to work with your individual needs or strategies, can even hurt your chance of success.

Here are three tips to get your blog calendar working for the long run so you can stay on track.

Weigh Your Options

It took me a long, long time to find an editorial calendar tool I could actually live with. I’ve tried practically every solution out there. It was a frustrating process that I never want to repeat.¬†Having said that, I’m glad I tried so many tools and options, because it led me to a setup I love.

Don’t settle for the very first solution you find. If you hate your calendar tool, you’re much less likely to stick with it. Additionally, associating your calendar with negative feelings can lead to task avoidance and procrastination, and that can impact your blog in a very negative way.

Download or sign up for different tools and test them out for a few days. Do they have the options you need? Are they easy to maintain? Can your team members access the data with ease? Yes, it will take a little time to test everything, but it will be worth it in the end.

Make It Visible

Another contributing factor to editorial calendar failure? Lack of visibility. Sometimes marketing managers unknowingly “close off” their calendars by using private tools or an Outlook calendar, which keeps team members from knowing what’s going on and when — or even worse, how or when they can contribute.

The calendar you choose should be visible and easily accessible by all your team members. A web-based tool like Google Docs, Trello, or Basecamp make great content planning tools for this reason. These tools also allow simultaneous access by multiple users, which is another bonus.

Use One Calendar for Everything

I’ve spoken to a lot of people who use editorial calendars to manage their blog content, but find it annoying because it’s yet another calendar they have to look at.

This should absolutely not be the case! Your editorial calendar should include everything you do online. Your calendar should contain dates for blog posts, new pieces of content (like whitepapers or presentations), new pages on your website, press releases, and so on.

Consolidate all of your online activities into one calendar. This will not only reduce the number of tools you have to use to keep everything straight, but also hold you more accountable for every content marketing task you have a hand in. If you frequently find yourself forgetting to tweet about something, or to publicize your newest product, get it on the calendar!

For example, the editorial calendar tool we designed for use at WebpageFX has a social sharing (and re-sharing) schedule built in for our blog posts. This not only serves as a reminder of when I should be tweeting links to posts both new and old, but also holds me accountable for doing it. It’s easy to forget about these little details, but if they’re right in my face, I’m much less likely to miss them.

What tips and tricks do you have to make an editorial calendar really “work” for you? Share them with me in the comments below!