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How to Create a Content Calendar (No Matter How Big or Small Your Biz)

When I first started blogging, I never dreamed I’d need to create a content calendar. I was new to writing. I simply wanted to finish a post and get it online. That meant I worked on each post for a couple of weeks, if not more. My first dozen site pages took the better part of a year to complete and upload.

How to create a content calendar with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #WritingTips #amwriting

Fast forward a decade or two when a webinar participant asked me, “Do I need to create a content calendar?”

(Here's a simple content calendar template you can use.)

Bloggers and small biz owners – especially those new to online content creation – hear the term “content calendar” and hit the panic button. Just what is it? Do you need one? And how do you create it?

The whole idea sounds complicated.

It’s not.

A content calendar is simply a way to help you be organized. And there’s no single right way to create one. These frequently asked questions are designed to put your mind at ease even further. Read on to learn whether or not you need to create a content calendar for your blog or biz … and if so, how to go about it.

How to Create a Content Calendar FAQs

Q. What is a content calendar?

A content calendar is a written schedule of what, when, and where you plan to publish upcoming content

Q. Who needs to create a content calendar?

Anyone who produces content. Large to mid-size companies typically have a marketing department that handles the schedule. The rest of us need to take the proverbial bull by the horns and plan our content purposefully. By “the rest of us,” I mean small businesses, nonprofits, ministries, solopreneurs, and bloggers. 

Q. What is the purpose of having a content calendar?

Mainly, to help you stay organized so you can produce your content on schedule.  Creating content is a multi-step process: concepting, writing, editing, creating graphics, loading/printing, scheduling. When you’ve got your content plans on the calendar, then you can create back off dates for each task so you can make sure you actually publish consistently.

Q. What are other benefits to using a content calendar?

  • Reduce stress. Scheduling content ahead lessens or even eliminates the “what-should-I-write-about” panic.
  • Maintain an overview.  A calendar gives you a big-picture view of topics you’ll cover over the upcoming weeks or months. This way, you can sync your content with specific seasons or holidays. You can plan a multi-part blog post series. You can avoid a scheduling snafu, such as publishing two profile interviews in a row when you typically change up your format with how-tos, listicles, news items, and opinion pieces.
  • Save time. Plan ahead and you can gather information along the way. If you’re a solo content creator, you can add bits and pieces to your calendar as they come to you. If you work with a team, a content calendar reduces numbers of planning meetings. (Can I hear an “Amen”?)
  • Collaborate more easily. A content calendar helps your team work together more smoothly. You can keep the schedule on the cloud, as in Google Sheets, so everyone can refer to it. Staff, employees, volunteers, contractors, and contributors know the plan and can meet deadlines accordingly.

Q. What kinds of content go on my calendar?

Your content calendar can include blog posts, articles, guest posts, mailings, social media, newsletters, case studies, white papers, podcasts, webinars, eBooks – pretty much any kind of content you plan to produce.

Think like a television program director: what are your regularly scheduled shows and what are your special programs? Regularly-scheduled content includes regular posts, emails, podcasts, and social media that you produce at a regular interval – say, once a week. Specials? They’re the new eBook release, webinar, or online course. Place both kinds of “programming” on your content calendar.

Q. What information should I include when I create a content calendar?

At the very least …

  • Topic or concept (What you’ll publish)
  • Date of post or mail (When you’ll publish)
  • Platform (Where you’ll publish)

My email content calendar also includes issue number, a link to the posted page (once it’s on my site), the email’s ads, and additional internal links for further reading. This way, I have a record of what I offered to my readers so that I don’t repeat myself unintentionally. I also keep a list of content ideas on my calendar to use every month or two as I update it.

If you’re working with a team …

  • Include back off dates: date that editorial content is due; date that edited content is to be sent to the designer; date that final creative team review must be completed; date that the project must be sent to the printer.  
  • Color code different kinds of projects: use different colors for blog posts, email newsletters, webinars, social media campaigns, letters, podcasts

Q. What tools should I use to create a content calendar?

Whatever works for you. Yours can be a good old-fashioned print calendar you picked up for free from the drugstore … a calendar you maintain online … or a made-for-content-management tool, app, or software like CoSchedule. 

Confession: my content calendar is a simple table in Microsoft Word. You can do the same or create a spreadsheet in Excel. If you work with a team, you can use Google Sheets or Google Calendar so every member can access the calendar from the cloud. My point: your content calendar needn’t be fancy. Use a tool that works for you.

(You can get a copy of my simple content calendar template here.)

Q. How far ahead should I schedule content?

As far ahead as you like.  For my personal websites, I plan content about one to three months in advance. That allows time for me to move one idea here and another there as I get new ideas or inspiration.

But when I’m working with a team, I create a back off schedule for up to year in advance. This provides wiggle room when things invariably don’t go according to plan. Either way, I revisit my content calendar once a month and make changes.

Q. What are the absolute “must-need-to-know” tips to help me create a content calendar that I can stick with?

The biggest “need-to-know-rule” is that there are very few rules.

Your content calendar’s purpose is to help you stay organized so you can publish on schedule. Keep an updated record of what, when, and where you plan to publish upcoming content.

Everything else? Nice extras, good to have … but don’t get hung up on them. Remember your goal: to keep publishing. Your calendar is a tool to help you do just that.

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