Last year on Slaw, Steve Matthews wrote ten tips for building a law firm publishing culture. One of his tips included using an editorial calendar as a useful tool to keep track of who was writing what in the firm and when, but also to include guidelines, set reminders, and help identify opportunities, and in my last post on using Evernote as a marketing tool, I mentioned that lawyers may want to keep their editorial calendar within Evernote.
Editorial calendars help you plan content and ensure that you are posting consistently. They are also handy tools to help you jump-start your content creation. When it’s time to write a post or create other kinds of content, rather than wasting time trying to come up with an idea about what to write about, your content will already be planned out. Your topic, and possibly even keywords to include and resources to help you write, will all be gathered in one place so you can get down to the business of writing.
When planning your editorial calendar, keep in mind that you’ll still want to cover breaking news, unexpected updates or new information that comes to your attention, so you’ll want to be flexible. But having more content than you need – or more ideas about what to cover – is a good problem to have.
It’s a good idea to do an overall yearly plan for your editorial calendar, but iIf that seems overwhelming, do a rough outline of your Editorial calendar for the year and then flesh it out and revise it quarterly.
Whether you use Evernote, Outlook, Word, Google docs, Excel or some other method to keep your Editorial Calendar, here are some practical tips to help make it work better for you:
1. Know Your Audience
This is always the first step in any marketing planning you do; you may have one audience or more than one (for example, if you plan to use your content to reach both clients and referral sources, or if you practice in multiple areas and have different client bases for each practice area). Take some time to think about your different audiences, what their needs and interests are, what information is valuable to them, when they like to receive that information, and in what form. When you have this intelligence handy, creating your editorial calendar will be much easier to do.
2. Determine your Purpose
As with other marketing initiatives, you’ll need to consider not only your audience, but also your purpose for creating content. Again, your purpose may vary across audiences or platforms; your purpose for participating on Facebook may differ from your purpose for blogging, or for sending a firm newsletter, for example.
3. Develop Your Themes
When you organize your content around themes, planning becomes much easier. Some people like to develop one theme per month; others develop a list of themes and then rotate them throughout the year. Your theme can be related to the time of year, or simply a topic that your audience may be interested in.
Once you’ve developed your list of themes, you’ll want to brainstorm some specific content ideas within those themes. Include potential post topics and titles, along with keywords you would like to target or include, and which audience or audiences you intend to reach with each post.
As you come across interesting articles, blog topics or keywords you want to include in future content, add them to a folder, Evernote notebook, list, or to the editorial calendar itself to help with the creation of your content.
You may also want to develop specific calls to action for each theme, topic or post. Calls to action can be as simple as a reminder to contact your office for a consultation, or they can include a special offer, a free download, a link to subscribe to your firm newsletter, etc.
For example, if you have white papers, checklists or other information available on your website related to the theme or topic of your post, you may want your calls to action for those posts to direct readers to your site to download that information. If your post relates to an area for which you provide a very specific service, you may want your call to action to be a request for readers to call for your free year-end estate plan review, etc.
4. Identify Content Types
Not every piece of content needs to be text-based. Content can also include images, video, infographics, audio or podcasts, and slideshows or presentations.
Even within text-based posts, you can identify numerous ways to reach your audience by choosing different types of posts. These might include interviews with experts, “how to,” updates on the law, law in the news, a “roundup” of posts written by others on a topic of interest to your audience, a client story, FAQs, events, etc.
As always, you’ll want to think about your intended audience and purpose when deciding which type of content to post and what will provide value. Although most of your content should be directed toward your audience, you can also celebrate firm successes, promote firm activities and employees – just make sure you balance those more ‘promotional’ pieces with valuable content of interest to your audiences. On social media, as opposed to your own blog or website, remember to share others’ content in addition to your own (some experts say social media posts should include 80% content created by others and 20% of your own content).
5. Keep Track of Your Channels
Channels are simply the different places where you distribute content. These could include not only your firm website or blog, but also firm and individual social media profiles. Examples include:
- Law Firm Newsletter
When you create a new article or post on your blog, you will probably post links to it on several different social media channels. But depending on the audience you are trying to reach, and the channel you are posting to, the social media post may have a different ‘teaser’ with the same link, or you may want to schedule the post for a different time of day or day of the week. On some channels, you’ll want to post the same content multiple times. For example, many experts say you should post links to each new blog post at least 4 times on Twitter, at different days and different times, so that you reach different audiences when they are looking at Twitter.
As you might imagine, it’s helpful if your editorial calendar keeps track of what you post, where, and when. This is also helpful when you want to get more traffic to older content that is still relevant.
6. Create the Schedule
The editorial calendar itself is simply a schedule to plan and keep track of your content. It should include:
- Who will post (if the channel has multiple authors, managers or administrators, such as a law firm blog or website, firm social media pages, etc.)
- How frequently you will post (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.)
- When you will post (specific day and/or time)
- Post topics
- Post titles
- Images associated with the post
- Post keywords
- Post categories or tags
- Post audience
- Post deadline
- Actual post date
- Url of the post
- Content type
- Channel(s) to post to
Although the editorial calendar is a useful planning tool and a helpful guideline, you can also use it to track of what has actually been posted, since we know what often happens to the ‘best laid plans.’ Although you can keep track of this information separate from the editorial calendar, it is sometimes helpful to keep it all in the same place. This will help you to identify topics, posts, or themes that you ‘missed,’ either due to a failure to post or because a more pressing issue arose which ‘bumped’ your original plan.
There are many tools available to help you create and implement a successful content marketing plan using your editorial calendar. Use a scheduling helper like Buffer or Hootsuite to schedule social media posts in advance, or, if you use WordPress, you can try the WordPress Editorial Calendar plugin, which will give you an overview of your blog and scheduled posts. You can drag and drop to change post publication dates, and edit posts directly from the calendar.
If you’ve never tried using an editorial calendar before, give it a try and see how much easier – and less stressful – it can make the content creation process.