4 REASONS YOU NEED A CONTENT CALENDAR
I officially started nerding out on content calendar creation in the year 2007. This was the year I was introduced to a marketing guru with a serious thang for Excel. I think I might have taken an online class, in fact, to get up-to-speed about how to navigate the (wondrous!) world of the big XLS.
While I learned how to organize spreadsheets to the point where we’re about to leave the house to buy groceries and I’m like, “Hey, want me to just throw our grocery list in an XLS and organize it by food group and aisle!?” And then my family is like, “Oh gawd, no, not again.”
But seriously, once I learned how to use the delicious tool so plainly referred to as a spreadsheet (it should be called a Lickety Split), I graduated to the next level and witnessed how powerful it can be for my freelance business.
Content calendars are often what I propose to new clients. I can capture the current online strategy of my potential clients in an XLS and then offer a new way to gather and distribute their content (also shown in an XLS). Showing the process in a visual way is powerful and for clients who are needing their content organized and disseminated, presentation of a content calendar often seals the deal for me.
I’ve come to realize Lickey Split Content Calendars are powerful tools in the business of freelance writing and content creation for these reasons:
1. Content Calendars are Flexible and Plastic:
They are a living document flexible to change but concrete enough to feel substantial. Fill in where you need to, revise and shift as the year goes on. Here are the items that are often contained in content calendars I create. I do the below this way because I’m all about creating a piece and then broadcasting it across various social channels.
For instance, a blog + picture post turns into a Facebook post, turns into an Instagrammy, becomes a feature in an email newsletter, is used as a homepage stage image update, gets tweeted and pinned and wisely used.
Okay now here are some of the items often contained in my content calendars:
- Blog topics
- Facebook posts
- Twitter posts + hashtags
- Email Newsletter Subject Lines
- Dates of everything
- Boards for Pinterest
- Images + content for Instagram
- Digital Ad Plan
- Event Titles + Locations
- Monthly Website Updates
- Print Campaigns
- Status (in process, with client, live)
- Redesign Calendars
2. Content Calendars are Historical Documents
One way these calendars are powerful is they show where you’ve been, where you are and where you’re going. Typically I create content calendars that span an entire year. Then I do monthly updates and track the exact subject line used or the exact date a blog was posted (and things of this nature).
These small updates are crucial because even though it is possible to scan a blog to find the date it was posted or to go back and (slog) through Facebook posts to see when, exactly, mention of the event was posted, tracking dates in one place is like cool water to a parched throat.
If you’re organized with your content you can look back and see what was working hard for you, what wasn’t working, what shoe you advertised in May of 2013 on your homepage. Powerful, right?
3. Content Calendars are a Sign of Confidence
Creating a content calendar for my clients shows them immediately that I am trustworthy (look! I have this big thing I created with due dates and colors!). I can’t tell you how bad it looks to have a bunch of dates or ideas or suggestions scrambled in 58 different email threads with subject lines like: “Website” or “Have a quick minute?”
Email is a very poor way to organize (more on this when I blog about email etiquette) and it is especially poor when you’re freelance writing. Content calendars gives the client confidence in you, but they also act as a confidence-builder all their own. When I take myself seriously and get organized I am better prepared, write better and nab more clients.
4. Content Calendars Make Pretty Wallpaper
Okay this is kind of a joke, but my marketing guru I mentioned earlier was adamant that we print out these huge content calendars to bring to clients in person. At first I was thinking, “Um, PPT, heard of it?” But I learned that when a client has something in their hand that is all about their favorite subject (ahem, themselves or their product) it is hard to resist. It has yes, yes, yes, approve, approve, approve written all over it.
I had to employ some of my arts and crafts talents with those big old calendars printing, cutting and taping them together (this is before I realized I could print them on one sheet at FedEx Office). But totally worth it. And all of my clients would actually hang them on their walls (and since most corporate biz zones are various shades of bland and blah, a pop of colorful XLS cells is a huge improvement for a cubicle).
Go create content calendars! Plot your blog post themes and post dates. Plan your client’s events schedule. Create a flowchart that has you meeting that redesign deadline.