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Get The Most Out Of Your Editorial CalendarAn editorial calendar is a vital piece of every content marketing strategy. It’s a tremendous time management tool, it provides a comprehensive view of your content offerings and direction, and it keeps your posts coming on a regular basis.

To wring the most value out of this editorial device, we asked two content strategists to help us identify the best ways to manage a content calendar and how to populate it with valuable, must-read content.

Plan ahead

Megan Horn

Be ready when inspiration strikes, says marketing specialist Megan Horn. Never miss an opportunity to build out your editorial calendar.

Planning in advance will help you make sure your blog is consistently published and on-topic. You’ll be able to work on content well ahead of your publishing schedule and still have time to proof it and schedule it in advance, Megan Horn, marketing specialist at Far Reach, suggests.

“Keep a backlog of content that’s not time sensitive so you have it when you need it,” she says. “That way, if one topic falls through or you don’t have time to write that day, you’ll still be covered.”

Stay organized with apps

There are a variety of apps that can keep your content on track. From project management software like Kapost and the WordPress Editorial Calendar plug-in, to social media managers like Sprout Social and Hootsuite, you’ll want to find the right combination of apps to help you keep your content schedule organized. If you prefer a bare bones approach, spreadsheets like Excel and Google Drive are also a viable option.

Be ready when inspiration strikes

Ideas won’t just come to you when you sit down to generate a list of future posts. New topics will pop into your head at the most inconvenient of times, Horn says, which is why you need to be prepared.

“When an idea comes to you, write it down,” she says. “Trust me. If you get a great blog idea as you’re going to bed, put it in your calendar or to-do list so you’re not saying, ‘What was that great blog idea I had?’ in the morning.”

Use the notepad app on your phone, or try a to-do list app like Wunderlist. If you need a good place to store your ideas and research, try using Evernote.

Write for the platform

Most brands run a website, maintain a blog and also post to social media. Juggling all of these digital platforms can be tricky, but it’s important to write and schedule content for each one separately, Horn says.

For example, if you write a stellar blog post, you’ll want to post it to Twitter and Facebook. However, your status update and tweet shouldn’t be identical. You’ll want to write content specifically for each platform you use. The content of a Tweet will probably look very different from an article showing up in your Facebook feed.

Liz Carroll

Content creator Liz Carroll says top bloggers keep a flexible calendar to take advantage of topical posts.

Stay flexible

Be willing to evolve with your content strategy, Liz Carroll, content creator at Goedeker’s, a home goods store, says.

If a timely topic comes your way, it’s more important to get that article out as soon as possible. If that means you have to reschedule some material, do so; that’s the benefit of having an editorial calendar. You should stay flexible, Carroll says. That goes for your content frequency too. If a post a day is too much, cut it back to three times a week, or whatever frequency is manageable for with your schedule.

Now, let’s talk about a few tips to help you fill your editorial calendar with some creative and useful content.

Plan a weekly feature

The weekly feature was born in newspaper, but it’s taking on a new life in the online world. Brands are now incorporating a weekly feature into their blogs as a way to offer consistent content and give the idea machine a break.

“Whether you have a link round-up, featured product or brand, or weekly contributor column, it can take the hassle off of thinking of new content,” Carroll says.

On the Goedeker’s blog, for example, they have Featured Brand Friday, which is an in-depth look at a specific brand.

Goedeker's Featured Brand Friday

One example of Goedeker’s Featured Brand Friday. Having a weekly feature makes it easier to post consistently.

Add guest posts

Guest posts can add additional value to your site. While it’s important to manage your expectations for content quality when you’re accepting these posts, if you select the right bloggers you can fill in some empty slots on your calendar.

“Don’t be afraid to allow guest posts,” Carroll says. “Despite the recent fears behind Google’s latest update, guest posting is alive and well. You just can’t accept junk posts generated by companies spewing it out. Create some solid relationships with other people in complementary industries, and trade a couple of guest posts each month.”

This can also help expand your content distribution; a guest blogger promoting his or her own work automatically gives you an increased social media reach.

Write holiday and seasonal features

Whether your business revolves around seasonal commerce or sees a jump in sales during holiday weekends, consider creating content that’s tied to these timely topics. Create a gift guide for your customers to help them bring home the perfect holiday gift, or give your viewers tips to deal with the changing seasons.

While your product or service certainly defines the type of piece you can write for features like these, also remember that you can revisit these same topics annually, further filling out your calendar in advance.

Have another tip to manage or populate an editorial calendar? Add it to our list in the comment section below.