If you want to be consistent with your content marketing then you need to know what you plan to create so that you can create it. You need to build a content calendar. It sounds simple on the face of it – get a calendar, stick in what you plan to publish, and hit publish. But then I see one question I see from other business owners all the time:
Have you got a good content calendar template that works?
Now, over the years I’ve used plenty of content calendars. Some have been on a Google calendar, some on Trello and many more on a spreadsheet. I’m all for a good spreadsheet but it needs to be simple. I’ve rocked up at a client’s and found the most difficult and overly complicated spreadsheets masquerading as a content calendar. And I’ve had to rip it all out and start again.
You see, before you build a content calendar, you need one other thing in place first – a content strategy
The first step to building a content calendar
It’s all well and good chucking some content ideas into a spreadsheet and saying that’s what you’re going to post but if you haven’t got a strategy behind what you’re doing then you’ll end up wasting a whole lot of time.
Here’s what usually happens: you plan out a month of content, go off and create a week or maybe two, get them scheduled up and maybe finish off the month as you planned. Except, by month two you’re already missing off stuff you wanted to talk about. By month three you realise you’ve not posted anything in a week.
And then the cycle repeats itself.
This is because you’ve not got the right foundations in place. That is knowing what you’re going to launch and when, having a strategy of how you will do that, and an end goal.
Then you can nail the content calendar without it being a total time suck, put out the content you need to market your vegan business AND know what metrics you need to track to hit your goals.
Ready to get started?
Right, if you’ve not got a content strategy in place, go read this blog here and then come right back. Once you know what content you need and how often, you can start to bring the rest of the planning together.
Next, you want to nail down your content buckets. You might also know these as content pillars. Or stuff you talk about.
You’ll want content buckets for your big content. That’s the blogs, videos and podcasts. The stuff that lives on your website. You’ll want a wider range of content buckets for your social media. And you’ll also want a plan for your newsletter.
For example, my content buckets are blogging, content marketing, content strategy and editing.
Got all that stuff in place? Right, next we can start with the spreadsheet.
How do I create a content calendar template?
Download your template calendar here. What I’ve learned as a content manager for businesses both big and small is that you build the content calendar to fit your needs.
This is why you’ll see lots of people using lots of different spreadsheets and none of them quite working just right. Some have too much info and some too little.
I realise this isn’t helpful when you’re struggling and looking for that perfect content calendar option but if you try to hack something to work for you, you’ll have way more chance of sticking to it rather than bending how you work around someone else’s ideals.
Set up your content system
Once you have your content calendar in place, you then need to set up your content system. Start with the big stuff. That means sticking in your big sales periods.
If you don’t know what you’ll be launching over the next 12 months, now is the time to sit and work it out. Maybe you’re a service business, like me. Then you’ll need to have some juicy offers to sell over the year alongside any other client work.
For example, I have my PIMP programme, which mentors founders in content marketing over the course of a year. I sell this about four times a year as it takes up a large chunk of my time and attention so places are limited.
Then I have my Kick-Ass Sales Package. I’ll give this a push a few more times a year. And I know that my Content Strategy package sells more during November than any other time of the year. Plus, I have a Content Clinic that I will nudge folks about in between all the rest of the stuff.
Once you know your big stuff, then you can add in your launch periods. These are usually around 1-2 weeks where you really push the content on these products.
Next, you want to pencil in your content buckets. Let’s say you have 3-4 content buckets for your blog. You’ll outline when you’re going to talk about each one across the year. Trying to tie it in with any launches you have as well.
You might then want to use your blogs to push your social media content. This is content repurposing. You take your big points from your blog and turn this into the socials. Make sure to add in any extra content buckets you have for social media such as behind-the-scenes or personal posts.
If you do this across your calendar for the next three months, you should see how the plan is starting to come together.
Fill the gaps
If you’re losing the will to live a little at this point, that’s okay. You might find you have gaps to fill and no clue what to put in there. If it’s more than a couple of months away, leave your brain to tick over what might go in there and don’t worry about it for now.
Remember, you don’t need to put something out every day. You can always use those blank days to have a conversation with people in your network. Send some DMs, and comment on other people’s posts. This is all content but not the content everyone can see.
But if you have gaps that need filling then check for any industry events or awareness days.
A word on awareness days – many people use these as the sole reason for their content calendar. Instead, save it for what is timely and relevant for your audience. As a vegan business, you should definitely mark things like World Vegan Day, Earth Day and Veganuary. In fact, it’s good to have campaigns running around these days.
You might be a food business, in which case, there are plenty of food-based dates that you can use for inspo when creating your content calendar.
If you sell vegan dog food, don’t start worrying about how you can angle national sit on a mushroom day into your content plan. (As far as I’m aware there is no sit on a mushroom day but it wouldn’t surprise me if there was).
Don’t forget your lead magnets
While you’re doing all of this, it can be easy to forget to promote your newsletter or lead magnets. I forget this all the time and then wonder why my newsletter list doesn’t grow as much one month compared to the last. It’s always because I forgot to tell people about the Thursday Brew! Silly me.
Bung it in your content calendar at regular intervals and people will join you.
By now, you should have a pretty full content calendar but remember – this only works if you use it.
Take out a day a month to create as much content as you can. Draft it out in more detail, and take the photos and film that you need. You might need to tweak it as you go.
Also, don’t be afraid to reuse old stuff. This blog post came from an awful blog I wrote when I was first starting out. My advice wasn’t terrible but the world of content marketing has moved on a heck of a lot over the years.
What works now might not be relevant in a couple of years’ time. So I’ll come back and update this blog.
Save yourself some time and repost old stuff where you can. Especially old stuff that you know will do well.
Give yourself space
While you have a plan, you can go left field when you need to. Let’s say something’s happened and you want to comment on it with your morning post. Go do it. Whatever you have drafted out can fit into another day. You need to leave space to add things on the fly.
And don’t beat yourself up trying to do all the things. Get done what you can that you know is going to bring in sales (if you’re not sure, book a call with me and I might be able to help with one of those packages I mentioned).
Use the content calendar
Finally, you want to make sure you use your content calendar. Over the years, I’ve learned that if I diarise an event to update my calendars, it gets done. I use Click Up for this and so far I’ve been blooming consistent with using my content calendars across my business and my clients’ businesses.
What should a content calendar include?
A content calendar should include:
- What you’re planning to sell or promote
- The campaigns you’ll be running to make those sales
- Any big content that lives on your platforms such as your blog or podcast
- Any video content
- Social media that you plan to post
- Evergreen content – this is the stuff you put out regularly like your lead magnets
- Newsletters that you want to send
- Any key dates for your industry or business
- And any sales posts.
Plus, don’t forget to tell your brand story. This could be about the person behind the brand, what happens behind the scenes or fun stuff that folks can relate to. And you need to put it all in your tone of voice.
How do I create a content calendar in Trello?
Alright, let’s say the free content calendar template I gave you at the start of this blog isn’t right for you and you much prefer to use Trello. Here’s how to create it in Trello.
First, you’re gonna need to make a list for each month. Next, you’ll need to make cards for each date you have something you want to post. You can use the colour tabs to organise what’s a blog and what’s a social media post or what’s a newsletter. And if you repeat the process a lot then make use of those lists. It’s very satisfying checking stuff off.
Then you’ll want to outline your content as you would with any other content calendar. But the great thing about Trello is you can drop in your pictures and copy onto the card so you’ve got it organised. And if you’re super organised, create some more lists according to your content buckets so when you’ve posted your content, you can drop it onto the list and reuse it sometime in the future.
Future you will thank you for this when you’re out of content ideas and need to put something out.
Need a content planner?
Fancy a digital content planner to make this all work better? I’m launching the first vegan content planner for 2023. It’ll be jam-packed with all the relevant vegan dates, exhibitions and events. Plus, you can read interviews with vegan leaders, change-makers and founders. And I’ll be sharing ways you can create campaigns around big events like Veganuary (and when you really need to start planning them).
Register your interest now. No payment is needed, you’re not obliged to buy, you’re just letting me know that you’d like to hear first when it goes on sale.