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Content Marketing: 6 Steps to Building Your Editorial Calendar

I've seen content marketers in a state of paralysis, overwhelmed with the responsibility to create a constant stream of quality content. I get it. It's daunting to even get started because it’s not just about churning out blog posts, either; part of content creation is fitting each piece into an overall strategy. 
In the last B2B Content Marketing benchmarks, nearly half of those with stagnant programs said content creation was a major factor. Which makes sense. I get questions from marketers who ask me, "where do I even start?" Or claim, "we just don't have enough content.
Let's conquer this together. 
It all starts with an editorial calendar. An editorial calendar is a tool you and your team can use to map out content for the entire year. Building out your calendar naturally focuses your strategy, ensuring that you have the right mix of content types, the right topics covered, and enough content for each stage of the buyer’s journey.
Now that you know where to start, here’s just 6 steps to building out your editorial calendar that I guarantee we relieve any paralyzed marketers. 

1. Find Your Topics

First things first -- it's your job to identify the most relevant topics for your audience. You’re looking for the sweet spot where your audience’s needs and your brand’s expertise overlap. But don't lock yourself in a room and stare at a blank whiteboard. Act like an investigative reporter and hit the streets, if you will, to understand what resonates most with your audience. 
  • The Field: What are the conversations they're having with prospects -- what are their pain points, what keeps them up at night?
  • Buyer Personas: Assuming you have these already, use these as a catalyst to understanding what's important to them. 
  • Social Media: What content topics and thought leaders are your audience engaging with the most?
  • Keyword Research: Leverage Google Adwords to understand the key phrases around your brand's expertise, their search volume and competitiveness. 
  • Forums: Find where your audience goes to get answers and consume content. 
Basically, anywhere your customers are talking is a place your brand can listen. All of these sources will help identify the broad topics that will shape your calendar.

2. Audit Existing Content

When marketers tell me, "we just don't have enough content" for a content strategy, I quickly dismiss their argument. Sure, if you're literally launching your business today, chances are you don't have much content. But in most cases, your marketing team has been sending emails, promoting eBooks and whitepapers and publishing blogs for some time now -- perhaps just not at the always-on pace and volume of an effective content strategy.
So start your quest for sourcing more content by auditing the work you have already spent resources creating. Once you have your topics in place based on your research conducted in step 1, check your back catalog for content that fits. 
I always say if you have a 20 page eBook, you can squeeze 20 blogs from it. Or if you have just 5 blogs on a similar topic, you have an eBook. If you want to test me, find me on LinkedIn -- happy to prove my theory. 
Dig into your Big Rock assets and slice and dice. Look for older blog posts that still have value but are due for a makeover and re-launch. Find successful email content and convert into a blog. Turn webinars into Q&A blogs and presentations into SlideShare decks.
Odds are even your most popular content last year still didn’t reach your entire potential audience. So don’t be shy about adding new value and republishing.

3. Plan Content throughout the Buyer’s Journey

Once you have identified some re-purposed content that can act as tent poles to your calendar, it's now time to work on the gaps. Make sure each piece is targeted at a specific stage of the buyer’s journey, and aim for a healthy mix of early and late stage content.
Many marketers focus their content on the late stages, because perception is that this content is contributing more directly to revenue. But without a healthy proportion of early-stage content, you won’t be building an audience for the late-stage stuff -- a cart before the horse issue, if you will. 
For help turning your topics into blog posts, try HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator, or Portent’s Content Idea Generator.

4. Set Your Cadence

Is it better to publish daily, three times a week, once a fortnight? Plenty of research has been conducted to find the perfect publishing cadence. But I'm sorry to say, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The one thing we do know is that consistency is far more important than frequency.
So as you plan your calendar, plan to publish as frequently as you can reliably create high-quality content. Your audience may prefer short-form content every day or more substantial pieces weekly. Use your best-performing pieces from the past year, as well as your current capacity, to set a sustainable cadence.

5. Fill in Your Blanks

Now it’s time to actually fill out your calendar. This is the fun part because you start to really see your content strategy come alive. Start with your broad topics, then fill each of your content slots with related posts from your existing content and your idea generation sessions. Aim for a mix of content types for variety, and make sure to vary the stage of the buyer’s journey.
A few recurring series can help fill out the calendar, and can give your audience something to look forward to every month. For example, on the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions blog we do a Marketing Book Worth a Look and Millennial Minute each month, and a Trending Content roundup weekly.
It’s also a good idea to leave an open slot or two each month for timely posts, new turkey slices, guest posts, or news jacking—anything that would add value but is hard to plan in advance.

6. Adjust As Needed

Once your calendar is complete, it can guide you throughout the year. But don’t carve it in stone—it should be a living document, evolving and iterating. Evaluate how each piece of content performs, and use that data to make strategic tweaks to the calendar. The focus should always be on what is resonating with your audience, not what you planned six months ago.
Creating a year’s worth of content is a hefty challenge for marketers. Start with a quarter or just the next two months. Leverage your research to generate broad themes and then build out secondary and tertiary topics based on those broad themes. Add existing content, recurring series, and a few wild cards, and you will find your calendar starting to fill up in no time.


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