Four ways to approach a blog editorial calendar

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Most bloggers start thinking about blog editorial calendars from a planning perspective. You want to make sure you have enough content to keep the blog updated somewhat regularly, and you want to make sure you are publishing content that your audience needs, without overlooking any of your prioritized topic areas for any length of time. If that sounds familiar, read on for some great content planning tips.

One thing we have found at SAS is that content planning with an editorial calendar becomes even more important when you're editing or managing a group blog. Over and over again we have seen that a common, agreed upon calendar and plan is essential to keep content coming in for group blogs. Without it, each of the individual contributors tends to think everyone else is keeping up with the blog ... and then nobody does the blogging, and the blog becomes stale.

To help you find an editorial calendar that works for you, I'd like to share four different planning approaches that our bloggers and blog editors are using on four different SAS blogs. I hope that you'll be able to re-purpose one of these ideas to make planning for your blog a breeze.

Monthly assignments

The JMP blog has a strong list of regular contributors that range from technical product developers to beginner users of the data visualization software. To help make sure content continues to roll in, the editor sets a regular monthly deadline (say, the 15th of the month) and asks everyone to turn posts in on that date every month.

She might still have to make some reminder calls or send reminder emails, but with the regular date, she gets her contributors used to submitting content on a regular basis, and she can publish the most timely pieces first, then publish the others throughout the month. She doesn't preclude contributions at other times during the month, especially if newsworthy topics come up - but the monthly deadline helps make sure that a good pile of content will continue to come in at regular intervals.

This is one of our most basic editorial planning concepts, and we have found that it works well for large groups of contributors. It's also an easy system to set up and maintain, so if you're just starting your editorial planning, it's a good place to start.

Quarterly focus on one topic

The Analytic Insurer blog is one of our newest blogs. It covers analytics in the insurance industry, so the team of experts involved in that area decided to plan their content around four of their top business priorities, and try to focus blog content on one topic each quarter of the year:

  • Quarter 1: Risk in insurance.
  • Quarter 2: Customer intelligence for insurance.
  • Quarter 3: Combat fraud in insurance.
  • Quarter 4: Business intelligence for insurance.

Again, if timely news arises outside of that quarter's topic, of course you can blog about it as well - but the quarterly focus helped the team make sure that they were covering each one of their priority topic areas with content that readers coudl use.

Divide by areas of specialization

If you're a regular follower of the SAS healthcare blog, A Shot in the Arm, you may have noticed the uptick in the number of posts and the number of contributors there. This is a direct reflection of the smart, new healthcare think tank we recently launched - and the team's efforts to be industry leaders in the area of healthcare analytics.

Since the team already has a wide cross-section of experts for every area of healthcare (including hospitals, pharmaceuticals, insurers, etc), they already know they have all the main topics covered. Authors are asked to blog about their topic area at least once every other month, and the content reflects the priorities of the team.

Pick - and stick - to three main themes

Rick Wicklin, the editor of The Do Loop blog, has chosen three main topics that align with three audience personas. He writes about each of these topics once a week to make sure he is creating regular content for each type of reader. From a recent post on his blog, Rick explains what he writes about each day, with examples:

  • On Mondays, I post Getting Started articles. These articles correspond to the upper right quadrant of my Johari window. They represent topics that I know that I know. I exploit this knowledge to get out a quick article that requires minimal effort.
  • On Wednesdays, I post articles on a variety of topics in statistical programming such as sampling and simulation and efficient SAS programming. These articles often correspond to the lower left quadrant of my Johari window. They represent topics that I am trying to learn. Usually, I am not an expert on these topics, so I risk making a fool of myself. However, blogging gives me an opportunity to share what little I know and it motivates me to get it right. I often experiment with several approaches before I feature one in my blog.
  • On Fridays, I like to post articles about data analysis. These articles correspond to the upper left quadrant of my Johari window. They are often inspired by reading other blogs or by having a robust curiosity about topics such as "What Topics Appear in The Far Side Cartoons?" Even after I explore the data and blog about it, I am aware that there is more that could be said.

Unlike the other blogs mentioned above, Rick's blog has a single author - but you could maintain this same type of calendar with a group blog by divvying out assignments as needed.

Flexibility is important

No matter which editorial planning method you choose, remember not to be too rigid within it. The planning system should work for you, not against you, so if the system is confining you and your bloggers more than it is inspiring - it's time to rethink the system.

You have to allow yourself the flexibility to work outside the calendar as well:

  • If you are using the monthly editorial calendar, and you have late-breaking news another day of the month, certainly write a post about it.
  • If you are blogging on one specific topic for the quarter but you have read a good article or attended a good presentation on a different topic, by all means, include it in your blog that quarter.
  • If you are dividing content by areas of specialization, but somebody has an informed opinion to share on a topic outside their assigned area, give them the freedom to express it in a post.
  • If you are blogging on the Monday, Wednesday, Friday calendar but feel inspired on Tuesday - by all means, blog then too. Likewise, if Monday is a holiday, take a day off!

Don't feel like you have to inform your readers about the changes, either. They likely won't notice - and will just be glad to find more content from your team that they can use.

This is the second in a series of posts that will recap the content that I presented at Content Marketing World in the session, Results-Driven Blogging for B2B Brands. Content Marketing World recently made videos of all presentations from that conference available for a package price of $199. This includes video of keynotes from Sally Hogshead, David Meerman Scott, and Kevin Smith. If you're anything like me, you'll get $199 worth of therapy from Sally's talk alone!

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About Author

Alison Bolen

Editor of Blogs and Social Content

+Alison Bolen is an editor at SAS, where she writes and edits content about analytics and emerging topics. Since starting at SAS in 1999, Alison has edited print publications, Web sites, e-newsletters, customer success stories and blogs. She has a bachelor’s degree in magazine journalism from Ohio University and a master’s degree in technical writing from North Carolina State University.

2 Comments

  1. Just wanted to thank you for this information. This is an invaluable post on solid blogging practices. I never really approached blogging as a planned activity. I took the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach, which is likely not as effective.

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