Checklist: How to Create a Successful Editorial Schedule

by JD Supra Perspectives
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My colleague, Adrian Lurssen, recently hosted a webinar for law firm marketers on how to create an editorial calendar that an entire team can (and will!) use over the longterm.

Below are my notes from the session - consider these as the way forward/next steps as you implement your own editorial calendar(s) internally. Meant to accompany the webinar, which is available for you to freely watch in full here.

  • An editorial calendar captures more than a list of writing assignments. It answers for everyone on the team: why are we doing this? How are we doing it? Who is doing it? When are we doing it? What are we doing? (Most people just think it's the last item.)
  • Nothing fancy required. Use Google Docs. Ideally, create a folder on your Google Drive, start a Google Sheet, each section of your schedule is a new tab in this spreadsheet. Over time, place other supporting documents (like analytics exports) in the Google folder. (Or whichever shared folder you create for your team.) Adrian offers a sample spreadsheet in the webinar. Take him up on the offer.
  • If you can't use Google Drive/Docs, use an Excel spreadsheet. Same functionality. You will have to work harder to share the one, definitive copy of the schedule, and keep it up-to-date, but it's do-able. 
  • Start with: "Why?" Build a "Overview" page in which you capture, for the team's finessing and approval, your objective in a single sentence. Typically something to do with visibility and engagement in a particular sector, industry, marketplace.
  • The process of writing your objective creates a shared sense of purpose up front. Important way to start.
  • Overview page also captures: target reader(s); themes/topics you know (or believe) resonate with these readers; list of team members who will be part of this writing effort, among other info.
  • Also capture a list of benchmarks to 1) again, reinforce sense of purpose ("These will be measures of our impact") and 2) create a baseline understanding of current marketplace visibility and engagement before the writing begins. (You don't know your impact if you don't know where you began.)
  • Between writing a piece of content and a home run (a new client engagement) there are almost always a series of plays. Home runs happen, but you should be tracking: invitations to speak at conferences; invitations to present on webinars; client calls/emails with questions; media quotes/mentions/links; reporter contacts for story source info; total visibility; LinkedIn follower counts; email list growth; and much more. See webinar for Adrian's list. Add the ones that matter to you.
  • Make it easy to capture any idea as it occurs to someone. Keep it simple. This is separate from focusing the idea into an actual post and assigning it to a writer. Everyone on your team should have access to the "Idea Capture" page where all ideas can be recorded for evaluation at a later date.
  • Schedule a kick-off meeting (30 mins) in which your team (or key members) can confirm or adjust the objective, the list of targets, and other such information. Explain the document, the benchmarks, and show where to record ideas, as well how to use client feedback, reader analytics, and news to generate new writing ideas. (This from a supporting webinar on 3 great sources for writing ideas referenced by Adrian during his ed. sched. webinar.)
  • One result of kick-off meeting: everyone has access to "Idea Capture" and can record ideas there at any time. (Some will do so more than others. Fine. It's a team effort.)
  • At the start of a given period (say, quarterly) meet with stakeholders to evaluate and determine priority of all your writing ideas. Typically, this will be a list of evergreen topics (for more on evergreen, see the writing sources webinar). Either the team or key members can evaluate the ideas and prioritize by assigning a number to each. Sort your Google Doc/Excel sheet by that priority listing - and bingo: you have the start of a schedule.
  • Build your team's writing schedule after you have evaluated and prioritized writing ideas. Start with the idea given the highest priority and work your way down the list. Set a date to each assignment. Frequency of writing is entirely up to your team; adjust your template accordingly. Adrian offered two schedule templates; one includes space for scheduling time to respond to timely news, a slightly different editorial process (also addressed in the webinar).
  • When you schedule each writing assignment, also place it in a calendar (writer is notified) with two alerts: one to be sent a week before article is due, the other three days before it is due. The alerts go to the writer(s) and helps to keep everyone on track.
  • Capture analytics and include them (in export, or cut and paste) in your working schedule. One goal: take the guesswork out of writing ideas. A list of top posts tells you what your readers are in fact interested in reading. That's good marketing: give people what you understand they want. Also, of course: this is the first measure of your impact. Increased reach. Just the beginning...

This is the tip of the iceberg but certainly enough to get you started. For a full idea of how to implement an editorial schedule that an entire team can work with, watch the webinar (and share it with your team so they understand what you are trying to do).

Also watch the supporting webinar on great writing sources. It's the flesh that goes on the skeleton. And good luck! Let me know what works best for you.

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[Paul Ryplewski is director of client services at JD Supra.]

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