Six Foolproof Ways to Fill Your Editorial Calendar

Posted by Jeffrey Lee on Sep 19, 2013

For content marketers, an editorial calendar is the ultimate stress reducer. Instead of scrambling to come up with a compelling topic when you have a newsletter to deliver or you’re overdue for a blog, you can simply pull up your strategically planned content calendar and get started.

But the forethought and planning that make editorial calendars such useful tools are also the traits that make them challenging to develop. Instead of just coming up with one enthralling article idea that you can use right now, you need to develop dozens of engrossing topics that will work throughout the year ahead.

As an editorial lead at Hanley Wood Marketing, I regularly create and revise editorial calendars for content campaigns, especially as planning for 2014 begins in earnest. And I’ve developed a few foolproof methods for coming up with content ideas that will capture an audience’s interest.

Pick up the phone

Look, I said these methods were foolproof, not easy. Picking up the phone and talking to experts and members of your audience is the best way to come up with ideas for new content. It’s also one of the most time-consuming.

At some point in the development of every editorial calendar, I try to make the time to schedule a call with a subject matter expert to talk through all of my content ideas. Not only does this process validate the topics I’ve chosen as relevant and meaningful to the audience (or, sometimes, better off left in the “revisit later” column), it invariably generates new topics and twists on my current ideas and fleshes out the ideas with potential sources or approaches. Find a reliable expert you can count on for this conversation; treat them to coffee, lunch or booze as necessary.

Like any good beat reporter, you’ll also need to place a phone call to your best sources a couple of times each year. Members of your audience (or related manufacturers or association reps) can tell you about the things that are keeping them up at night or the subjects they’d like to hear more about. Ask about people you can profile, legislation they’re keeping an eye on, or industry trends that are affecting their business.

Tools of the trade

Professionals in any industry are always on the lookout for tools and resources that help them do their job better. If you’re running  a well-rounded content marketing campaign, you’re likely creating some of these resources yourself in the form of white papers, training courses or handbooks. Add the releases of these resources to your editorial calendar schedule so you can promote them in your communications.

But not all “product” topics need to be self-promotional. For Hanley Wood’s construction audiences, the types of products they use in their job range from hand tools to design software to home financing providers. If you can provide informative and credible content on a product category that’s important to your audience, they’ll treat all of your content marketing efforts with higher regard.

Dig into the data

Schedule regular times to review analytics on how your content is performing, and put what you learn back into your editorial calendar. Is there a particular type of article or subject matter your audience just can’t resist clicking on? See if there’s a way to revisit the topic with a new spin or twist for future content.

Celebrate the season

One of the prime benefits of using an editorial calendar is a reminder to focus on seasonal subjects even when they’re not yet on your radar. These may correlate with the actual seasons — the time of year certainly affects how our construction audiences operate their business — or with industry conferences (don’t forget the preview and the wrap-up), selling cycles or company goals.

Steal that idea

Become a relentless reader of industry newsletters, publications, blogs and Twitter feeds, and keep a swipe file where you can quickly store ideas you’d like to use in your own content. Maybe you see an industry topic where you think your brand could provide a unique or in-depth take, or maybe you see a style of article you’d like to explore for your own audience. Count your BuzzFeed or Huffington Post reading as competitive research. If they’ve figured out an interesting way to get readers to click, there might be something for you to try in your own campaign.

Try something completely different

Put one or two entries on your editorial calendar that will force you to do something uncomfortable or unfamiliar. Commission an infographic. Storify a conversation. Write something long-form. Not all of these efforts will succeed. But at best, you’ll find a new and exciting way of building engagement with your audience. At worst, you’ll have an interesting failure. And slotting it in on your editorial calendar is a great way to force yourself to find out.



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