How to create an editorial calendar for your nonprofit’s blog
An editorial calendar can help make a side-project blog into the centerpiece of a nonprofit’s website, transforming your online hub from a static series of descriptions into a dynamic and interactive community destination.
In this age of virtual volunteers, freelancers and telecommuting, an editorial calendar is more necessary than ever. An editorial calendar is key to organizing content creators in disparate locations and time zones, with different schedules and levels of autonomy.
Editorial calendars also help you organize the less content-specific aspects of your blog to maximize its SEO value. By that, I mean that while posts should be focused on the content first and foremost, there are other aspects of the article that affect how it will rank, in terms of keywords. Without the organizational boost that comes with integrating an editorial calendar into your workflow, it’s possible to accidentally neglect certain topics—and with them, their associated keywords. It’s important to ensure a consistent content spread across all of your major keywords; otherwise you risk losing pagerank.
Here are some important steps to creating an editorial calendar, as well as possible pitfalls along the way.
1. Determine the purpose and content mix of the blog
The purpose of the blog is the number one thing that determines the type of content you showcase. Is the blog designed to drive traffic? Then it makes sense to focus on catchy, sharable content like top-ten lists.
Is the blog intended to provide news to industry insiders? In this case, long-form, heavily-researched content will be the way to go.
There’s no worse blog than one without a mission. One site for which I was creating an editorial calendar was absolutely insistent that a wide variety of loosely-related information be covered. I had to acquiesce, and I believe that the content strategy suffered as a result. Conversely, hyper-focused stories can eliminate readers that might be interested in the theme of the site, but need to be enticed.
2. Identify contributors and their roles
Questions of responsibility can sink any publication, but this becomes even more of a problem when you’re collaborating across distances and time zones. In these situations, it can be difficult to get everything organized, so it’s extra important to assign responsibility in a transparent and easy-to-understand way.
Identify which contributors are writers, which are editors, and which are in charge of promotion on social media. If you don’t clearly and transparently assign responsibility for a task, don’t expect it to be completed.
Managing volunteer writers can be extremely difficult, and that is why I make sure that there is a constant line of communication. While annoying, the best policy for editors is to follow-up with writers as soon as a topic is assigned, and once again right before the article is due. It’s easy for volunteers to lose focus and forget to write an article, but not when the editor is following up.
3. Determine your tools
Luckily for editors, there is a wealth of tools available to ease the task of creating an editorial calendar. Most content management systems (CMS), like WordPress or Movable Type, have downloadable plugins that make creating calendars a breeze.
If you aren’t using a CMS, don’t give up hope! It turns out that Google Spreadsheets can be easily adapted to work as a scheduling tool. Just create some headings in a few nice pastel colors, and you’ve got yourself an endlessly customizable and extendable editorial calendar that’s intuitive, easily sharable, and most of all, free!
Using sites like Feedly.com or Topsy.com help me to conceptualize stories ideas. While you’re not aiming to cover what the rest of the field is, it’s important to know what is being covered, and by whom.
4. Find a schedule that works and stick with it
If you aim to create a blog that readers want to come back to, you need your content to be consistent in quality, but also in timing. Readers love to have a weekly top ten list to come back to at the end of every week, or an every-Monday editorial preparing them for events in the upcoming week.
5. Foster productive discussion
Your blog has the potential to be a community-creator. With the right content, you can provoke discussion the comment section; the issue is finding that content. Firstly, knowing the industry or niche, and the current events, is crucial. After that comes the part where you create content that resonates with the readers; a call to action.
In the right circumstances, this community will become a driver of traffic in its own right, and can even help determine the direction you go with content in the future. Without good discussion in the comments section, you risk them becoming a wasteland of bot-spam and trolling that will end up working against you.
6. Use Google AdWords to create a consistent keyword spread
The editorial calendar is also an opportunity to sharpen your blog’s SEO. With the calendar, you can ensure a consistent keyword spread over time, to make sure that you continue to rank in the important keywords. It’s easy to neglect one area of content if it’s harder to write about; the calendar will help ensure that doesn’t happen by making content gaps easily visible.
Using Google AdWords, in addition to metrics tools like SwissMadeMarketing, can give insight into the possibility of a site ranking for a particular keyword. Article titles can then be based on that keyword, for ideal SEO.
In a nutshell…
Creating an editorial calendar will streamline and automate the editorial process, liberating editors from time-consuming personnel management and freeing them up to do more important work. An editorial calendar enables each contributor to know exactly what content is required of him or her and when it is due. It also helps ensure that certain types or areas of content are not accidentally neglected, to the detriment of SEO. It provides a complete picture of editorial strategy and streamlines management of diverse workers.