A content calendar is an indispensable tool for school marketers. A content calendar (also called an editorial calendar) is a tool that helps you plan and manage your content creation and publishing schedule. Using one helps establish an additional layer of organization to the editorial process by keeping everyone on the content creation team in communication and accountable for their respective responsibilities.
There are many reasons I encourage you to use a content calendar if you’re not using a content calendar already. Here are some reasons you should consider it. A content calendar will help you:
- Align your content to the needs of your audience and marketing goals
- Think about the “big picture” of your content marketing plan
- Give your audience consistent value
- Establish a rhythm to your content marketing
- Reduce the stress involved in creating and publishing content
- Get your team on board with your plan
- Work more efficiently
- Fuel innovation and idea generation
- Create better quality content
- Increase your key performance indicator outcomes (or benchmarks, metrics)
Have I convinced you to develop a content calendar for your school marketing yet? If so, you might be wondering how to go about creating one that is tailored to your needs. Here are four steps to developing a customized content calendar for your school.
Step 1. Choose your format
There are many different ways to design a content calendar, such as:
- A printable calendar that you use with pen and paper
You can even search Pinterest for aesthetically-pleasing calendars. This is a good choice if you want to write your plans directly on it. However, it can get messy if you want to make changes.
- Post-it notes that you stick on your office wall
Sticky notes are easy to move and categorize using color coding. However, you will need a blank wall to post them on and a space where all team members can visit. Another downside is that you can’t interact with post-it notes when you’re out of the office.
- Google Sheets / Excel
Spreadsheets are simple and straightforward if you’re familiar with using them. If you decide a spreadsheet will work for your team, you can either set it up yourself or use a template that you can modify to fit your preferences.
- Google Docs / Word
Some people prefer to use a simple table in Word / Google Docs. This is an advantage if you’re familiar with Word and it’s the easiest way for you to do your planning.
- Google Calendar or other online calendar
Using an actual calendar is a no-brainer, especially if you’re familiar with Google Calendar. It’s easy to share with team members and easy to make changes. For many, the visual nature of the calendar makes this an ideal choice.
- A project management tool like Trello, Asana or Basecamp
I use Trello myself. It’s a simple, straightforward, visual tool that is an interactive way to organize your content tasks. It’s instantly understandable to new hires and makes it easy to communicate using cards. Project management tools keep everyone accountable and keep the lines of communication open. It’s easy to see what everyone is working on. When you find the right one for your team, project management tools tend to be very useful and user-friendly.
- Paid content calendars like CoSchedule or DivvyHQ
These are the state-of-the-art content calendars with all the interactivity and features you can imagine. I use CoSchedule and have found it to be great for saving calendar views, using task templates, social media scheduling, integrating tools like Google Analytics and Evernote, and quickly identify who is working on what.
Step 2. Design the layout of your content calendar
Start by making a list of the elements you want to include in your calendar. At a minimum, you will want to include:
- Monthly Theme
- Completion date
- Publish date
- Publish time
- Publishing frequency
- Blog title
- Social post
- Content format
- Image location
- Call-to-action (CTA)
- Target audience
- Author (who will write the content?)
- First draft due
- Supporting media (video, podcasts, etc.)
- Integration with other assets
- Evergreen (Y/N)
- Includes parent, teacher or student testimony or graphics (Y/N)
- Key performance indicators (KPIs)
- Content asset ID
- Related content
- Other categories that make sense to you
Once you know the categories you want to use, you can design your layout in whatever way makes sense to you.
Step 3. Choose content topics that speak directly to your target audience
Before you can add content topics to your calendar, you will need a deep understanding of your audience so that you know what topics to write about. Start with an analysis of your audience and then create an audience profile (also referred to as a persona or avatar) for each audience segment (i.e., mother, father, grandmother, etc.) Once you have a good understanding of your target audience, it will be easier to write compelling content for them.
Step 4. Conduct an audit of your current content.
A comprehensive content audit will help you identify what type of content is working, what needs to be adjusted. It’s pretty straightforward to conduct a content audit. I like to use Google Analytics to review my blog inventory. Once you log into Google Analytics, set your search parameters to the timeframe, you are interested in. On the left-hand side, scroll down until you find “Behavior.” Click on it to open another menu. Find “Site Content,” and you should be able to view your pages and blog posts according to how many people visited that page. The number of Pageviews and Average Time on Page will give you a good idea of the most popular posts. Scroll through your Posts to see the most popular ones.
Step 5. Decide how often you should post on your blog.
There are many benefits to maintaining an active, relevant and engaging blog. There are so many reasons a blog is a very valuable marketing tactic for your school. A blog will help increase your audience and strengthen your search engine optimization as well as strengthen the branding of your school.
So how often do you need to post to your blog to reap the rewards of publishing content?
There isn’t a hard and fast rule.
There are many variables for you to consider. It generally takes at least a year to really gain momentum, so plan on blogging as a long-term strategy. Use your past history to determine which blog posts lead to an increase in traffic. Experiment, continue to analyze your results and revise your strategy until you find a “sweet spot” for your blog.
Remember – when it comes to marketing, and especially content marketing, consistency is the key.
A content calendar is an essential tool for school marketers. There’s no “one size fits all” calendar, which is why I encourage you to try different tools until you find what works best for your team.
Do you already use a content calendar? What type of calendar do you use? Please share with the rest of the school marketing community.