How to choose the perfect content calendar

The bigger your team grows, and the more complex your marketing becomes, the more challenging it is to manage a content calendar. Many editorial and content managers spend just as much time planning, mapping workflows, and scheduling content as they do actually producing the content itself.

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with forethought (measure twice, cut once, right?)—but without smart processes and smarter tools, bottlenecks can paralyze your production.

The heart of these processes and tools—what we refer to as your content operations—is your content calendar. You’re probably already using a content calendar of some kind, but not all content calendars are created equal. In this article, we’ll give you the information you need to choose the right content calendar for your team.

What is a content calendar?

A content calendar is a tool that helps you strategically plan out your editorial lineup, gives your stakeholders visibility into your content pipeline, and makes it simple for you to keep production on track. Some calendars only list out assets and publish dates; other calendars help you understand pre-publication deadlines, quickly see important metadata, and connect content back to themes, campaigns, and goals. Building a content calendar can  help your team brainstorm ideas, assign tasks, track progress, and manage content reviews all in one central location. 

Advantages of using a content calendar

Effective calendars help you do everything from improve performance to close gaps in service delivery. Regardless of what type of content you’re publishing, a content calendar should introduce useful processes, drive clarity, and save your team time. Here’s a list of key advantages your content calendar should bring your team—does your calendar check off every box? 

  • Keeps your team on track and organized

There are often many team members involved in content planning and publishing. With so many cooks in the kitchen, it can be challenging to keep tasks organized. A content calendar should allow you to easily assign tasks to specific people, so everyone knows what actions to take and when.

  • Fosters communication

An effective content calendar allows you to tag and create comments all in one place, so no piece of communication falls through the cracks. It provides a shared space for all parties to add updates, feedback, changes, and ask questions, reducing the need for excessive emails and meetings. 

  • Lets you see the forest through the trees

Having a high-level, bird's-eye view of your schedule can help you better break down and understand the steps you'll need to take to accomplish your goals. For instance, capturing metadata like content type and theme can help you ensure there’s a good balance of topics, or that you aren’t overly reliant on one channel. 

  • Saves you and your team time

Better, more effective means you and your team are left with more time to focus on more creative work, like brainstorming ideas for campaigns, developing and shaping content, and coming up with innovative new ways to use metrics to improve your efforts. 

What to include in your calendar

No matter the type of content your team is publishing, each content calendar should contain the following elements: 

  • Post title - What do you plan to call your asset? You might start with a placeholder or "working title" in the early stages of production.

  • Author - Who will write or create the content? Capturing this data makes it easy for you to appropriately distribute work among your team.

  • Editor(s) - Who will give the content a second look and verify that it meets your brand's guidelines, legal requirements, and marketing goals?

  • Deadlines (for writer, editors, producers, etc.) - When is the content going live? You might also add in deadlines for drafts, reviews, and approvals.

  • Publication channel - Where will you actually share the content, and how often will you need to post to stay relevant? 

  • Categories/themes - What campaign or value proposition does the content relate to?

  • Images - What images will you use to catch your audience's attention? Add images or notes about what visuals are needed to take your content launch to the next level. 

The features of a good content calendar

As you may have guessed, given the different types of content and other variables (labeling for themes, deadlines, etc.), calendars can vary according to a team's structures and goals. So, what constitutes a "good" content calendar is subjective. Still, there are particular features you should look for to ensure you create a content calendar that works for your team: 

Collaboration capabilities

If you’re managing multiple projects, it’s crucial for all team members to have the ability to give input, communicate changes, and keep stakeholders informed throughout the process. For example, a calendar might offer features like @ tagging and revision history. These capabilities can help you better handoff and request feedback and track changes, respectively. Together, they can  help you collaborate with teammates in real time, no matter their location. 

Integration with popular tools

Integrations save time and allow you to automatically sync changes across platforms, databases, and systems. Popular tools to integrate with your content calendar include your content management system, customer relationship management system, social media platforms, communication tools, and more. Together, these integrations can help keep all of the information and features you need in one place. 

Intuitive, easy-to-use interface

A hard-to-use or inaccessible content calendar is a waste of your team’s time, and a huge barrier to adoption. If it’s a struggle to use, your team won’t see the value in it and will eventually turn to other tools. And while some of your team members will be excited to learn a new system, others might approach it with skepticism. Look for features like pre-built design elements, pre-made templates, and robust filter and labeling options that make it easy to organize and communicate information for the whole team—from newbies to power users.

Flexible formatting and views

A good content calendar should also be highly customizable—your team will want to view and share information in the ways that match their personal workflows. This means that you can share or hide information as needed, and also that you can visualize your information in different ways. For example, you might want to view your content data in a grid, calendar, or kanban view.

  • Grid: This view type, akin to a traditional spreadsheet, presents your information in vertical rows, or records. Because a grid view can contain so much information, you may want to create custom grid views for different needs—for example, a grid view that only shows content publishing this week, or a grid view that shows only titles, drivers, and due dates. In Airtable, you can also group assets by any kind of data—like content type, production status, driver, etc.

  • Calendar: Use this view to organize content based on the project due date in a calendar format. This view is best for thinking about information in the context of a timeline. It’ll help your team see what's in the pipeline, and makes it easy to plan content according to themes/categories. 

  • Kanban: In the context of a content calendar, kanbans are most frequently used to visualize the production stages of your asset. For example, you might sort them into “Scoping,” “Drafting”, “In review,” etc. In Airtable, you can simply drag an asset from one group to another, which will automatically update the project status.

Automation capabilities 

You also want a content calendar that allows you to automate parts of your workflow. Look for capabilities like the ability to automate specific actions, like pushing out email notifications when a content asset is ready for the next step in your process . Not having to deal with these repetitive tasks manually saves your team time, increases communication efficiency, and prevents things from falling through the cracks.

Choose the right content calendar for you

From organizing your content and team members' input to streamlining your process, there are many advantages to using a content calendar. Now that you've identified  features to look for, the next step is choosing a tool that best suits your needs. 

With Airtable, you can quickly build a content calendar that fits into your existing workflows. The intuitive, pre-built design is user-friendly and lets you customize your view—even create multiple views of the same information. And since Airtable is, at its core, a relational database, updating a task or record in one place on your calendar means that that record will get updated anywhere else it appears, no matter which view or format you’re looking at. Airtable also integrates with popular CMS platforms and applications, like WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, and Google Drive, making content planning and execution seamless.   

Want to see how Airtable can take your content calendar to the next level? Check out our free content calendar template or visit our website to learn more

About the author

Dana Frederickis a content marketing strategist and content operations expert at Airtable.

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