Digital Marketing

How to Use a Content Calendar to Back Your Content Strategy (+ Free Google Sheets Template)

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It’s a must in today’s business world to have a content marketing strategy that delivers useful and valuable information to your current and potential customers. But having a proper plan in place behind it is vital to ensuring that your content actually gets delivered in a way that’s most useful to your customers.

Content calendars bring all these different parts together. They ensure that everyone is aligned on the key aspects of your content strategy, and that everyone is on task and on target to hit deadlines.

But not everyone realizes the benefits of having an effective content calendar in place. Others think it’s too much work and just gets in the way. With tools like Google Sheets, putting together your content calendar has never been easier.

What Is a Content Calendar?

Content calendars are plans that help you structure all your content production and output. They help you track your content team’s workflows, ensuring that deadlines are hit and key team members are delivering when they’re supposed to. They also ensure that content is posted on the days that pack the most punch. This can be anything from a weekly blog post, a new social media post throughout the day or periodic email campaigns.

The size of your content calendar will depend on the complexity of your content production strategy. If you have a small team and you’re just posting a few articles to your blog a week, a simple planner might be good enough. If you have a complicated project with numerous stakeholders producing content across multiple mediums, you’ll need to have something that’s fit for the task.

You can’t go without it. Content creation is the name of the game for marketers in today’s business world. From blog content to eBooks to white papers, one of the most effective ways to drive traffic to your website and boost engagement with customers is to give them something valuable to consume.

That’s where a content calendar comes in.

All-in-One vs. Separate Calendars — Which Is Better?

When assembling your content calendar, you might be stuck between an all-in-one calendar or separate ones. While separate calendars can help you keep different content initiatives distinct from each other, all-in-one calendars put everything into a single master spreadsheet that lets you easily examine everything at once from a bird’s-eye view. This can help you avoid conflicts more easily and better manage larger campaigns.

Who Does a Content Calendar Benefit?

In short: Everybody! (Or at least everybody who has a stake in your content production cycle.)

Content calendars help break down larger campaigns into smaller, more easily managed projects. This helps to ease the workload on each of your creative production teams, better manage workflows (which your managers will thank you for), and ensure that everything gets completed and posted when it’s supposed to.

At the end of the day, it’s your company that stands to gain most of all. Content that’s posted consistently and on time has the best chance of engaging customers and increasing sales leads. When you can show your customers that you’re able to provide relevant and timely content on a regular basis, you’re more likely to develop profitable long-term business relationships.

More than that, having an active blog or account on a popular social media platform (think Facebook, Twitter or Instagram) helps boost your online presence, which can go a long way to increasing your brand awareness among customers and potential customers. They’ll begin to recognize your brand as a leader in your space, and that ensures you’re top of mind when it comes time for them to buy.

Why Does Using a Content Calendar Make for Effective Content Marketing?

  • Create a content plan for the future: Proper organization doesn’t just keep everyone on task and help your content team avoid unnecessary (and counterproductive) multitasking, it also helps you plan ahead. That means you can put more projects in motion, anticipate key dates, safely plan future campaigns and put backup plans in place in case something goes wrong.
  • Keep your content relevant: The last thing you want is to let key holidays or events pass without being addressed in your content. Content calendars give you a clear look into the future so you can plan and produce content to go out alongside key dates (for example, if your company sells sweets of any kind, you need to know that July 7 is National Chocolate Day. On second thought, we all need to know that). That helps you stay in touch with the world around you, a major boon in the eyes of your customers.
  • Speed up your publishing cadence: Content calendars ensure everything moves along at an appropriate pace, but with the overview your calendar gives, you can also identify areas where the process can be quickened to help speed things along, if needed. Whether that’s adding additional stakeholders, shortening timelines or cutting out unnecessary parts of the process, content calendars can help you make adjustments and improvements.

What Goes Into a Content Calendar?

Understanding content calendars is the first step — actually designing one for yourself is a whole different thing. But it’s not as daunting as it might seem. These are some of the main components you should think about including:

  • Content ideas and pieces: First off, you have to decide the types of content you plan to produce. This will set expectations early on and get everyone on the same page for the beginning. It also helps you identify right from the beginning which teams will need to be involved in the production and delivery stages of your strategy. List out each of your content ideas and clearly indicate what type of deliverable it is.
  • Stakeholders: You’ll need to identify the individual stakeholders that will have their hands on the content at every stage of the process. That means strategists, project managers, copywriters, designers and everyone in between should be named right from the beginning and briefed on the goals of the project.
  • Notes: Your content won’t get anywhere without everyone knowing exactly what it is that needs to be produced. Add a notes section that each of your stakeholders can easily reference whenever they need a reminder about the context of the project. If a piece of content is priority and absolutely has to be out by a certain date, add that to the notes.
  • Deadlines: Your due dates are the glue that holds everything together, and you’ll need a lot of them if you have a big project. Start by identifying the final date for publication of the content, then work back from there. Choose the day you intend the entire project to be completed (but not published), and then break the entire rest of the project into its constituent parts, check in with each of your stakeholders’ schedules, and put together a series of project deadlines at which each team member should have their portion completed.
  • Tracking: Publication shouldn’t be the end of your content — in lots of ways, it’s only the beginning! Have a way to track which pieces have been posted so you can keep track of the status of different projects. This also helps you get an understanding of how well (or not well) your calendar is working, allowing you to make adjustments as needed.

How to Build Your Content Calendar in Google Sheets?

  1. Start by downloading a content calendar template. You can download ours for free below.
  2. Assign stakeholders to each phase of the content production process.
  3. Fill in your calendar with different content deliverables and change titles and notes to reflect key information.
  4. Include word count and all relevant SEO information, including keywords to hit and questions to answer.
  5. Outline a regular cadence and identify key deadlines. This should include draft, completion, review and publication dates.
  6. Share your calendar with all relevant stakeholders to give insight and visibility to all involved.

Our Free Content Calendar Template

If you’re unsure where to start, don’t sweat. Download our free content calendar template for easy organization and convenience.

Download the Content Calendar Template:

 

Content calendars are a must if you plan to deliver content to your customers and email subscribers on a regular basis. They optimize workflows, minimize mistakes and help you make sure your content is packing the most value for everyone.

But that’s only the beginning. If you’re ready to take your content marketing strategy to the next level and start driving traffic to your site and generate leads for your sales team, get in touch with Brafton. Our consultants are experts in all things content marketing, and we can help you craft the perfect strategies to fit your organization’s goals.

Contact us today to get started.