How to Build a Content Calendar (Plus a Free Template)

How to Build a Content Calendar (Plus a Free Template)
Creating a content calendar from scratch is one of
those tasks that seems so much more complicated than it actually
is. Even just opening a blank Excel spreadsheet can feel
overwhelming. Thankfully, sometimes all that’s needed to get on
the right track is a quick how-to and a great starter template,
which is exactly what we have for you here.

In this post, we provide a guide to building a content calendar,
plus a free template for the year.

The Definition of a Content Calendar

Before we jump into calendaring our content, let’s talk about
what a content calendar actually is, plus a few baseline
requirements for success.

We define a content calendar as a shareable
resource that teams can use to plan all content activity. This
allows you to visualize how your content is distributed throughout
the year. We prefer a calendar-based format, as opposed to just
creating a long list of content to be published, because it comes
with several benefits:

  • Gain inter-and cross-department alignment: Inform
    everyone about what is being published, when and where, so
    there’s no surprises or duplication of efforts.
  • Get a 50,000-foot view of content: Create a clear visual
    of how your content is distributed throughout the year.
  • Identify content milestones: Plan content around key
    events or important dates.
  • Spot content gaps: Gain a sense of what content still
    needs to be planned, with plenty of lead time to line up more
    content.
  • Inform the content creation workflow: Make sure you have
    your content ready in time to actually publish when needed.

Consistency is insanely critical to content
success. Yes, amazing new ideas and brilliant sparks of creativity
help, but we can’t rely on them alone. They’re too inconsistent
and unreliable. Instead, everyone needs to be on the same page with
what content is being created, plus where and when it’s being
published, and it has to be done on a regular, ongoing basis. And
that is precisely where content calendars come into play.

The further ahead you plan, the better positioned you are to
produce a consistent flow of content.

The 4 Keys to Content Calendar Success

Whether you plan content on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly
basis, depending on how quickly your industry or organization
moves, there are several universal keys to content calendar
success:

  • Open your calendars to everyone: While not everyone should
    have the ability to edit a master content calendar, everyone should
    at least know where the content calendar is located and have
    viewing access.
  • Iterate constantly: A content calendar is a
    living, breathing document, and it should change and grow as your
    content needs do, too.
  • There’s no one right way to calendar your
    content:
     There are a million different methods, templates
    and approaches to take. We’re providing you with a baseline
    template and a proven process that we use for ourselves and

    Convince & Convert clients
    , but you should also play around
    with the approach and modify elements, as needed. We tinker with it
    all the time, too.
  • Create a content repository: Don’t get stuck
    on ideas that you can’t implement immediately, or don’t get
    hung up on the “we’ll never be able to do that” ideas.
    Instead, create a repository of content ideas that you can tap into
    whenever needed.

Fantastic! Now that we have all of that out of the way, let’s
get to the good stuff: calendaring all of our amazing content.

How to Build Your Content Calendar in 3 Easy Steps

Step 1: Start with Existing Content Assets

There’s a lot of focus on creating new content when we should
really be focusing on creating more with less.
It’s also usually not necessary to produce all your content from
scratch since we often leave heaps of valuable content just lying
around.

Instead, start by taking note of all of your existing content or
resources to see what can be repurposed and remixed. For
example:

  • Slide decks: Repurpose these as videos, blog posts, or
    key takeaway slide decks.
  • First-hand data or research: As long as you use that
    data safely and in ethical ways, leverage your own data or research
    to create infographics or news stories.
  • Colleagues and coworkers: The expertise of your
    colleagues can be tapped for video, audio, or transcribed
    interviews.
  • Whitepapers or reports: Break big content pieces into a
    series of blog posts or social takeaways. We call this content
    atomization, which we’ll dive into in just a bit.
  • Old blog posts: Make minor adjustments and updated with
    fresh information. Or if they’re all on the same topic, combine
    them into an uber-post or whitepaper, which is a process we call

    reverse atomization
    .

Repurposing content assets takes away some of
the strain of having to come up with a million new content ideas.
It also helps you efficiently fill gaps in your content schedule. A
single content asset can also often give rise to several pieces of
content, which we refer to as content atomization. It’s the
process of taking one big piece of content and spinning it out
into
eight smaller pieces of content
. For example, an infographic
can support a blog post that analyzes the integrity of the data it
was based on. You could also include a video which explains the
wider ramifications of its findings. So on and so forth.

Content atomization will become your best
friend when it comes to content calendaring, so get to know a bit
more about it, plus get amazing examples and inspiration here:

49 Tactics to Atomize Your Content Marketing
.

Step 2: Identify and Create Your Content Shows

If you’re not familiar with Jay Baer’s concept of creating
content shows, you can
read his in-depth post about content shows
. If you’re already
familiar or just want the highlights, content marketers need to
start to think like television networks and create content shows.
In short, these content shows become predictable, steady,
initiatives that our audiences can rely on and recognize. In fact,
these shows are something that they actually look forward to.

Content marketers need to start to think like television
networks and create content shows.

Click To Tweet

There are 3 types of shows you need to identify within
your content:

Binge-worthy shows: These shows are big, steady, ongoing
content initiatives that have the same theme and format. They
should target at least two audiences, otherwise. they’re not
worth the time or effort to produce. These are often podcasts,
video series, webinar series, white papers, reports, etc. You
should be able to execute this show at least twice per month. These
also get plugged into your calendar first.

Binge-worthy show example: I’m a massive fan of
Retro
Replay
, a relatively new weekly YouTube show that pits two of
today’s most well-known video game voice actors against some of
the most difficult and/or nostalgic video games of the past. It
premiers live every Thursday at 4:00 pm PT, and includes a live
chat with the hosts. Aside from being super fun to watch, this show
is also a fantastic case study for what a true binge-worthy show
looks like, plus how to build and engage with an audience.
Seriously, check it out.

One-time shows: These shows are special quarterly or
yearly shows that attack a major customer pain point or topic.
Although they’re less frequent in cadence than binge-worthy
shows, they’re still fairly large content pieces. Think white
papers, research papers, contests, user-generated content
campaigns, etc. These don’t have to have the same level of
consistency, but they should still be in line with your branding
and voice and tone.

One-time show example: Who doesn’t love
CMI’s annual
Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends
report?! This yearly report is
chock-full of goodness. Even though the report varies slightly in
design and layout each year, it’s consistent enough that
audiences know exactly what to expect.

Regularly scheduled programming: These shows are ongoing
content initiatives that round out your calendar, and they don’t
have to necessarily connect completely or be 100 percent consistent
in theme. Like in the case of blog posts, they may have a different
author, topic or format, depending on the content, but they always
connect back to the content strategy and have at least one clear
audience in mind. Think of them as what a local nightly news show
is to any major television network.

Regularly scheduled program example: Convince
& Convert’s own blog is our version of regularly scheduled
programming. We have our weekly ON newsletter (binge-worthy show)
and our big masterclass courses (one-time shows), and then we have
our blog to help round out the calendar and provide ongoing
information (regularly scheduled programming).

It’s important to note that you most likely already have
content shows in your existing content assets, so check your
inventory first. It may just be a matter of spinning assets a bit
differently, giving them an official show title, or connecting them
in more consistent ways.

If you don’t have any shows in your existing content assets,
or you need more shows to round out your calendar, then you’ll
want to focus on creating new content shows.

Step 3: Plan, Schedule, Publish, Promote, Track and Tweak
Your Content

Regular editorial planning meetings between all those involved
in content creation should be scheduled well before the next
publishing period—be it monthly or quarterly. This meeting can be
used to schedule the publishing content from your repository with
realistic time frames and to support social media activity, email
newsletter inclusions, etc.

Your planning meetings can also be used to review the visit,
engagement, and revenue (if available) stats from previous periods
to assess which types of content are most successful (and perhaps
need to be replicated) and which are less successful (and perhaps
need to be rethought).

Analytics (both web and social) and revenue data can also be
used to make tweaks to already published content e.g. titles,
introductions, outbound links etc to optimize visits and
engagement.

Your Free Content Calendar Template (Excel File)

We’ve provided a basic content calendar for you to use. While
there are a ton of amazing, wonderful content calendaring platforms
and tools, we’ve opted for an Excel spreadsheet. That’s because
it’s a great starting place, easy to edit and modify, and almost
everyone has the ability to open the file.


Download your free content calendar Excel template
now
 >>

Right click and save as

To add your content to the calendar and get the most out of your
content:

  1. Start with binge-worthy shows: Add these into your
    calendar first, and make sure to pay attention to any key dates or
    big events.
  2. Add your one-time specials: Pay attention to how they
    overlap or complement your binge-worthy shows.
  3. Round it out with regularly scheduled programming: Last,
    but definitely not least, add in your regularly scheduled
    programming. These should help fill any gaps in your cadence and
    keep content consistent.
  4. Add content to the content repository: Don’t have a
    place right now in the calendar for some great ideas? Add it to the
    repository. Let this be your storage solution for great ideas, and
    check back on it often.

That’s it! Now you can edit and update it, as needed. The
actual calendaring part is pretty quick, once you get your shows
established. Now, bring this to your editorial meetings, and make
sure to keep tabs on how content is performing, so you can adjust
your publishing flow and content ideation, as necessary. Happy
calendaring!

This post was originally written by Jamie Griffiths in 2014,
and extensively updated by Anna Hrach, Digital Strategist here at
Convince & Convert, in 2019.

The post
How to Build a Content Calendar (Plus a Free Template)
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first on Convince and
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