June 8, 2010

Creating Your Editorial Calendar

Last week’s blog post explained why you need an editorial calendar. This week we’ll put the calendar into action, specifically for blogging.

Before setting your calendar, you should create a list of topics to cover throughout the year. There are several ways to make your list.  

  • Mind Mapping. I hadn’t done this since high school. But recently, Susan Weiner, an excellent financial writer, reintroduced me to the concept. In fact, I’m stealing a link from her blog. (It’s OK. We’re friends.) Read this excellent article (with diagrams!) from the ProBlogger site and see how mapping your ideas can lead to blog posts you’d never dreamed of.
  • LCDs. No, we’re not talking about flat-screen televisions. LCD, if you remember your school days, stands for “least (or ‘lowest’) common denominator.” At BNI we teach each member to break his or her business down to its simplest parts. What are your products and services? Who are your target markets? What separates you from your competition? Take these questions and create a list of topics in as specific terms as possible. For example, listing your products as “auto supplies” is not enough. Break down auto supplies and suddenly you have topics such as motor oil, tires, anti-freeze, car mats, wiper fluid, air freshener, car batteries and jumper cables. And from making that list you now have eight specific topics rather than just one in general.
  • Brainstorming. The most common way to go, though not as focused as the two suggestions above. Write down everything you can think of that relates to your business. Consider your services, what the benefit is to the client and any education you can offer. What would make your readers return to your blog? Is it informative or entertaining? Think from both your point of view as well as your readers’. Now grab a pad and pen and go make that list!

Now that you have a good list of topics, break out your calendar and see how seasonal posts can attract more readers. If, for example, you run a bookstore, then smaller holidays and occasions can be as important as the big ones. We all know you’ll need to have a great holiday season in November and December, but don’t miss important sales opportunities tied to occasions like Father’s Day/Graduations (“Dads and Grads”), New Year’s Day (“New Year, New You”), and Opening Day (“Play Ball!”). These would make excellent blog posts to promote your bookstore online.

Also, depending on your business, don’t forget other dates that would draw in readers (April 15 tax deadline, Earth Day, Back to School, Administrative Assistant’s Day, and my personal favorite, International Talk Like a Pirate Day.) Here’s a list of “unofficial holidays” that your readers might enjoy.

To create the calendar itself, you can use several methods. A traditional calendar works fine, as does a weekly planner or an online calendar (Google, Apple, Microsoft and Yahoo! all offer free calendars). My only suggestion when using one of these is to keep it exclusively about the blog. Don’t mix in your appointments and to-do lists. It’s too much clutter. If you like to work in Microsoft Excel, download this template from Andy Wibbels, author of  Blogwild!: A Guide for Small Business Blogging.

Now you have all the tools you’ll need to plan specific, timely blog posts that your readers will enjoy and appreciate.