Last week we talked about why you might want to use an editorial calendar. Now that you know how editorial calendars can help you and you’ve got a few ideas for how to use them, the problem becomes finding (or creating) one that’s right for you. For most people, that means an editorial calendar which meets these requirements; it’s:
As simple as possible
As easy to use as possible
From there, each person’s ideal editorial calendar is often vastly different from another’s. Even if you’re using the same tool as someone else, you’ll probably use it just a wee bit differently, and that’s fine.
To help you find your perfect editorial calendar, I’ve found six different possible solutions. They range from no-tech to high-tech, from no-brainer-simple to a tool complex enough to run an ad agency. No matter what your budget, or how complex a system you need, probably at least one of these can be adjusted to suit you.
Let’s start from the simplest option and move up.
A no-tech calendar
This is the paper and pencil option. If you want to add a “feature”, add moveable sticky notes. I know business owners who work entirely from free printed calendars they receive in the mail. They just pin the calendar to a wall and add monthly themes, blog post publication dates, and deadlines for advertising or printing or event planning. It’s about as low tech as you can get, but it works for some people.
The biggest drawback to the no-tech option is if you’ve got someone working remotely, they can’t walk into your office and see the calendar. That means you, too, when you’re on the road or even in another room of your office. But if you are new to editorial calendars, consider creating a solution like this first before you buy anything or set up an elaborate digital tool. You’ll probably outgrow it, but it’ll jump start your programmatic way to thinking, editorially speaking, and you’ll be readier for more powerful options.
A free WordPress plugin
If you’re using WordPress, there is a simply named “Editorial Calendar” plugin (https://wordpress.org/plugins/editorial-calendar) that can be downloaded from WordPress and installed on your blog inside five minutes. If you just want to manage a company blog and have other tools for social media updates and everything else you’re doing, this may be all you need.
A paid WordPress plugin
Again assuming you’re using WordPress (and as of February 2014, 74.6 million sites were using WordPress, including almost half of Technorati’s top-rated blogs), the next step up is a paid plugin that gives you an editorial calendar with more sharing and content management features, and a way to queue up your social media updates. Because blogging and social media work so closely together (blogging is actually classified as a form of social media by some experts), being able to have those two marketing functions work together in the same interface can be really nice.
The plugin, called CoSchedule, costs $10 a month. That’s not free, but most marketing budgets can handle it, and there is a free trial. There are two potential drawbacks to using CoSchedule. First, because it’s a more robust plugin, some WordPress admins will be concerned about it slowing your site down (though I have not see this happen yet). Second, CoSchedule is for blogs and social media only. If you’re doing print advertising or anything else, you may need to add a printed calendar or some other tool to coordinate everything.
Google Calendar can be made into a surprisingly effective editorial calendar. Because most everyone has access to it, and because it can be synced with so many other tools, it’s a very attractive option. And it is, of course, free.
The screenshot below is from their instructions. Google Calendar works similarly to other online calendars: you can set up meetings (Google calls them “events”), share the calendar with others, and include links to any research for your content, as well as a link to the draft of the content on your site.
You can also hook up Google Calendar with WordPress. There are plugins that make it super easy. The blog WPBeginner also has an extended tutorial.
The real power of Google Calendar lies in coordinating with others, so if you’ve got a remote team, it’s appealing. And because it’s so widely used, there are hundreds of apps and tools that work with it. So if you want to build the Starship Enterprise version of an editorial calendar, you can use Google and have at it.
A project management tool with a calendar feature (that can be synced with Google Calendar)
If you want to add some features to your Google Calendar, head over to Trello. This is a free tool that can become quite addictive (in a good way).
Trello was designed as a project management tool, but it has a calendar feature. It is based on the concept of boards. You can have multiple columns in each board, and each column is made up of individual cards. So if you wanted to have a column for blog posts, a column for print ads, a column for events, and a column for email updates you could do that.
Here’s what a Trello board looks like:
Trello also lets you add checklists for each card. If you have a content creation process (e.g., research, first draft, edit, publish, promote), you can track each piece of content as it moves toward completion.
But it gets cooler. You can also add links, documents, and videos to your cards, and you can share them with other people. Trello also coordinates with Dropbox, with iCalendar and with Google Calendar. There is a paid version with even more features.
Given the price tag (free), Trello has a lot of range. It even has a mobile app, so you can plan your wedding while you’re in line at the post office.
An advanced system for more complex marketing
If you’re running a larger company or if you’re an ad agency, DivvyHQ may be the solution. This editorial calendar deluxe lets you manage the creation of any kind of content (blog posts, social media updates, videos, presentations, case studies, eBooks, etc.). It also gives you built-in social media updates for Twitter and Facebook, unlimited users, and has task management and security features appropriate for a larger company. The cost is low: $30 a month. There is a free trial. I have not used this tool extensively yet, but it looks very promising.
So that’s the 411 on editorial calendars. Have you ever tried one for your marketing? Did it make things easier or did you run into snags? Have any tips, or a calendar you’d like to recommend? Let us know in the comments.
And once you have that calendar in place, what are you going to use it for? Check out Act-On’s free “Creating Killer Marketing Content” toolkit for tips and resources to help you create and manage your content.
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