We are all in Summer Planning Mode here at meganflatt.com. I’m always looking for ways I can streamline my business tasks so I can have more time with my family and doing the other things I love. One tools that has been key for me in planning has been an editorial calendar. As the summer promises to be even more hectic than the school year around here, I an excited to welcome my friend Lacy from ghostblogger.co to the blog today to tell us why an editorial calendar is going to make our business run more smoothly this summer (and year round!) And Lacy has an amazing course starting next week called Blogstorm, where you’ll crank out your editorial calendar and have the rest of the summer to relax (do moms ever relax?) She is generously offering my readers 20% of the registration (just use this link). I am a Blogstorm Alum, so I can vouch for its awesomenss. Now…on to the plan!
Whether you’re blogging for your business or your business IS your blog, having a plan is going to make blogging a whole lot easier.
Before coming to professional blogging I had a fairly successful career as a journalist—an award-winning food writer and assistant editor for a hyper-local magazine in Boulder, Colorado. It wasn’t exactly hard-hitting journalism, but I did get to play out my His Girl Friday fantasies (without Cary Grant or the fabulous hats, sadly), and I learned a lot about how to convey information concisely, how to write quickly, and how to plan and use an editorial calendar.
I didn’t know it at the time, but those were all skills I would take with me when I left the magazine for the world of ghost blogging.
But let’s step back for a second.
Why do I need an editorial calendar?
Every newspaper, magazine—and yes, major blog—that you read has an editorial calendar. It can be simple or very complex, but it’s basically just a tool to help you plan and keep track of your content.
Magazines have an editorial calendar planned a year or more in advance, giving them the ability to work on stories long before they go to print. (Which is why you can see images of Martha Stewart’s blossoming garden—taken a year earlier—in the spring issue when your garden is barely turning green.) Filling a newspaper is easy when there’s tons of breaking news, but editors need something to rely on when it’s a slow news day to fill column inches.
Even major blogs use editorial calendar to plan content a few weeks to possibly a few months in advance—especially when they want to use the blog to promote a new product or service they’re launching.
If you want to use your blog to help turn your readers into raving fans and customers, you’ve got to have a PLAN for how you’re going to achieve that.
Use the 5 Ws to build your editorial calendar.
What you can steal from journalists here are the 5 Ws—who, what, when,where, and why. That’s like Journalism 101 for covering a story. (In fact, you probably learned that writing reports back in grade school.)
But it’s also Blog Editorial Calendar 101. You have to be able to answer the five Ws for your blog and all the posts you plan to write if you want your blog to be an effective marketing and selling tool for your business.
When I build an editorial calendar, I answer each of these questions for every post I plan to write:
Who are you writing for?
Who is your ideal reader? (Here’s a hint: your ideal reader is the one who converts into a customer!) If you only have one ideal reader profile, write as though you were speaking directly to him/her; but if you have more than one, be sure you know which reader each post will appeal to.
What are you going to write about?
This is where you answer that age-old question that plagues writers everywhere. But if you’ve got a bigger overall plan, it shouldn’t be too hard to answer.
When are you going to write each post?
In the most basic sense, this is the calendar part of the editorial calendar. But it also refers to that bigger plan that takes into account your sales cycles, your product launches, discounts and coupons, guest blogs, and the like. Start with the stuff that’s already written in your calendar (a product launch, for example, or a holiday your customers will be celebrating) and work backwards.
Where are you going to promote it?
Derek Halpern over at Social Triggers says that writing the blog post is only 20 percent of the work, and promoting it is the other 80 percent. If you’re not thinking about where you’re going to promote your work, you’re wasting a lot of your effort.
Why are you writing this post?
You shouldn’t write anything unless you can answer this question, because the answer tells you where each post fits into your overall blog strategy. Is it to grab attention? Create desire for your post? The reason will change how you approach the subject.
Thinking about each of these components will help you plan to make your blog work as hard for your business as you do!
But what about spontaneity?
And if you’re thinking right now, “But what about creativity! What about inspiration! I can’t work with every little blog post planned out like that!”—don’t fret!
The editorial calendar is just a tool. You’re still the boss. If inspiration strikes and something new comes up that you want to write about it, go for it! Your editorial calendar is a living document, that changes as your business needs do.
When the inspiration is flowing, flow with it. When it’s not, your calendar is your backup plan.
Don’t write another post without a plan.
Got questions about this? I’d love to answer them in the comments!
Lacy Boggs has been telling stories since she first learned to talk, and knew from childhood that she would turn her lifelong love of writing into a career. In 2011, she gave up her 60-hour-per-week job as a food writer and magazine editor to become a full-time mom and part-time work at home freelancer. After growing her personal food blog more than 800 percent in a single year, Lacy realized she could help other small business owners do the same and launched Blogstorm—a course to help all bloggers learn to embrace (and love!) the power of an editorial calendar. Lacy lives like a foodie in gorgeous Colorado with her husband and daughter.