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From the Trenches

Are You a Slave to Your Editorial Calendar?

Yvonne Lyons | September 18, 2014
Are You a Slave to Your Editorial Calendar

You did everything right. Created the content marketing plan (victory), created an editorial calendar (victory), assembled an army of writers and volunteers, and after probably much arm twisting, you started to execute (victory). After which… you clicked autopilot.

It was all working, right? You had the calendar and you just followed it. That’s what everyone told you to do.

But what no one tells you is that your editorial calendar should really not be carved in stone, it should be a fluid, almost always-changing document. And when I say that, I don’t mean in the sense that you are moving deadlines around or inserting a new content piece when you get a brainstorm for a fabulous idea in the middle of the night (congrats), although you should definitely allow for this.

What I mean is that you should revisit your editorial calendar in a big picture kind of way. You need to understand if what is in there is meeting your content marketing objectives. Here are some ways to do that, and some ideas to make adjustments if the needs aren’t being met.

Circle back to the plan

This is where it all started. Your content marketing plan is the foundation of your whole content effort, but what happens in so many cases is that people work very feverishly on the plan, they create goals, develop ideas, messages and themes that are then used to inform editorial planning, they present the plan to their leadership, bask in the glory of a job well done — and file the plan away.

Do you remember everything you said you were going to do six months ago? I don’t remember half the things I said I was going to do last week.

You have to revisit the plan. The economic environment may have changed, which may have forced an adjustment in marketing goals or even corporate business objectives. If this happens, you have to adjust. Maybe you have to add new ideas and themes to accommodate those changes. Maybe you have to look at your distribution strategy again. Maybe you even have to reconsider the target audience(s).

Even if change has not been that drastic, a visit to the plan is important just to make sure you are staying true to your intentions. You can veer off course quickly. Everyone changes the editorial calendar — a little tweak here, a change to an idea there — and before you know it, you are moving in a different direction than you originally intended. Take a look back at what you said you would do in each section of your plan: with content ideas, where you would be as far as goals are concerned, and what you would do with your social media effort. Then make a list of what you are actually doing as comparison. It’s possible that what you are doing, even if it is not what was prescribed by the plan, is really the right thing. But you need the whole picture.

Check the metrics; improve your batting average

Are you tracking awareness, readership, engagement? It’s good to stop and take a look at what you’ve created and understand which pieces click with your audience and which pieces don’t. That information should help you make some changes to what is planned for the future. Are people sharing your content? Which pieces? Are they commenting? What types of content has actually generated leads for you?

Once you do your analysis, you may find that some of the content pieces that you thought would be home runs were really singles, or even strikeouts. If you have several “should-have-been-home runs” planned for the end of your year (that you now think may go the other direction), a shift is probably in order. Find out what really engages your audience and plan more of whatever that is. Eliminate the potential strikeouts.

Talk to staff

Get some feedback from staff on what types of content and topics seem have a positive effect. Ask the CEO what he finds most engaging and shares with people. Poll the sales team about which topics generate response and reaction.

While you are peppering the sales team with questions, it’s not a bad idea to query them about what kinds of questions they get from customers and prospects. I often suggest this as a good way to come up with new content ideas, so find out if there are new problems or concerns that have come up since the last time you got a list from them. If they fit with your plan’s ideas, messages and themes, create new content ideas from them.

Review the calendar

When you came up with all of your content ideas, they were awesome, of course. Like any piece of content you write, when you let it sit, it can look a little different when you go back to it. Take a good look through all the ideas you put into your content calendar. Do you still like them? Even if they make sense with the plan and the objectives, and no radical shifts are necessary, do you actually think they are good ideas? Are they viable for the piece of content you have planned for them? Sometimes what seemed brilliant in January makes you wonder what you were thinking when you look at it in June. It’s ok to throw out some of those ideas. You might just have to generate some new ones.

Rethink the process

When you created the plan and the whole content marketing effort, you likely created a process for getting it all done. Maybe you put that on autopilot with everything else. If things are clicking along that well for you, bravo!

But any pause offers time for reassessment. If you have added any staff, take a look at who is doing what. Do you really have the right people connected with the right tasks to be most efficient with your content production? Can you recruit any new writers from your staff? Is this the opportunity to add freelancers to create that anchor content that’s been scheduled but no one has time for?

If your content marketing plan has become a distant memory for you, dig it out. Getting reacquainted with it —and being willing to change it — can be the best thing you do for the success of your content effort. Need more tips on growing your business with content marketing? Download our eBook: How to Grow Your Business With Content Marketing.

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About Yvonne Lyons:

Yvonne Lyons is Right Source’s vice president of creative services, overseeing content and design for all of our clients. She ensures that all creative produced at Right Source is of the highest quality and is aligned with our clients’ business strategy and goals. Yvonne received a bachelor’s degree from the Johns Hopkins University in writing and literature and has more than 20 years of experience in marketing, branding, and communications.