The Content Calendar That (Almost) Runs Itself

August 4, 2020

By Taryn Hefner

Taryn runs Marketing at Join It and is a lover of all things data! You can frequently find her experimenting in the kitchen, absorbed in a book, or brushing up on her Python coding skills.

View other posts by Taryn

At Join It, we have a content calendar that maps out what we’re writing about, when we’re writing about it, and where it lives. At its core, this is all a content calendar is! A place to plan and store information about the content that you’ve published. But how do you make a calendar do most of the legwork for you, so you can spend your time actually writing? 

Choosing Channels 

The nice thing about a content calendar is that it can be a complex strategy that spans multiple brands and platforms, or something a little more simple. You may decide that your organization only needs your blog, Twitter, and Facebook. Or maybe you’re a retail store that performs better on Pinterest and Instagram, and you don’t really garner that much visibility on Facebook. That’s okay, skip it! Only include what you need. Similarly, if you’re a very niche organization, specific Facebook groups or even Reddit pages might be a better place for you to publicize your information. 

Review, Review, Review 

Even if it’s just you creating content for your organization, make sure you have enough time in your schedule to write, take a few days, proofread, and then proofread again. You’ll make fewer typos, and seeing things with fresh eyes can help you find any glaring mistakes you may have made in your draft. If your team is a little larger, invite them to the calendar and ask for feedback on your topics! You can even assign responsibility in your document so you know who is writing, who is proofing, and who is publishing. That way, you have less chance of dropping the ball because nobody was on the same page. 

Topic Generation 

One of the hardest things about creating a content calendar-- aside from actually writing all the content-- is deciding what to write about. Generally, your calendar should be made a month in advance, though some very large brands have content penciled in by three-month chunks. (A good goal, but not necessary, and some may argue that it keeps organizations commenting during relevant cultural moments. Decide what works best for your team ahead of time.) 

During these topic generation sessions, be sure you cover a few bases before you get into specific topics: 

  • Highlight any national holidays 
  • Celebrate any company achievements or product launches
  • Talk up any industry events 
  • Promote any of your organization’s events that consumers can still register to attend
    • This is an important one. You may not want to heavily promote an event that is at capacity; you’ll only frustrate your readers!
  • Seasonal items 
    • Is it the beginning of summer? Get out your solstice holiday party ideas! Winter coming to an end? Grab your spring cleaning content.
  • Be responsible
    • Especially in the time of COVID-19, when much of the United States is still shut down, it can be irresponsible to promote ideas for large parties or gatherings, in-person events, or other risky activities during a pandemic. Be sure that you keep your ear to the ground and aren’t accidentally promoting something potentially harmful.

You don’t have to discuss every topic on every channel. In fact, celebrating a national holiday might be a better Instagram post rather than a whole blog post. You’ll be able to dictate which messages get pushed to which channels within your calendar. 

Once you have these items filled in, you’ll probably have a good portion of your next month’s content decided! Then, get specific for your organization. 

  • What are the questions you get from your members or customers consistently? 
  • What are some common roadblocks in your industry that you’ve found you can overcome? 
  • How does your organization outperform the competition? What do you offer that they don’t? 

Have A Crisis Plan

Having your content on a set schedule doesn’t mean you can completely clock out. You need to remain tuned in to what’s happening in your industry and your organization so that if a crisis comes up, you can be prepared. Whether it’s something relatively minor like products being shipped to incorrect addresses, or something life-altering like a fire at one of your operation centers, you need to be prepared to discuss the hard things when they come up, because unfortunately, they will come up.

What to include in your crisis communication: 

  • Description of the incident 
  • Your organization’s response, follow up, or statement regarding the incident 
  • Details on what users or customers can do 
  • Contact information for follow up questions  

Having a crisis plan in place means that you don’t need to worry about your regular content publishing in a panic, because it’s already done. You can just focus on the best messaging for the moment, and being there for your customers. 

What’s Working? 

On a regular cadence, look at the content that you’ve published and see what got traction, what garnered conversations, and what fell flat. You can use that information to inform your next month’s content creation! 

Use A Template 

Using a template will make it easier to get right to the point of what you’re doing and make sure you don’t miss out on any channels or engagement strategies. To make things easier to get started, we created a template that’s free to use, with examples! To use this template in Google Sheets, go to File and select Make A Copy. After you’ve done that, you can edit your own copy without needing to request access to the original. 

This template works in two ways: both as a content planner and as a tracker of where your live content lives. You can add columns, reduce the channels you distribute to, or completely scrap it and make your own.