Create an editorial plan 2021: The smart way to use your content planning

Besides the fact that an editorial plan helps you – SURPRISE – when planning your content, you can put other important information in it, which will help you and your team with the content creation and for further projects. In my blog post, I’ll tell you which information is essential for me in an editorial plan and what a sensible content planning should contain.

Why do I need an editorial plan for my content marketing?

You should definitely ask yourself this question before creating an editorial plan. This is the only way to ensure that it serves its purpose and doesn’t become an annoying document that you have to maintain because of your boss. It’s best to write down what your editorial plan should be able to do and then decide what needs to be included.

In my experience, it is best to view the editorial plan as a holistic document. It contains everything – really everything – that is important for the creation, the success and the measurement of success. This content marketing document for all makes it easier to keep track of everything and ensures that everyone has the same level of information.

What HAS to be included in the editorial plan?

It is used for scheduling, whether this is an annual, quarterly or monthly plan, and helps to keep track of the increasing complexity of the workload. Therefore, in my opinion, the following things should be included in a proper editorial plan:

Deadlines

These serve as an orientation in terms of time. It is not uncommon for other departments to rely on keeping to the deadlines. Therefore, they are an absolute must.

Release date

When your content is published is critical to the start of your measurement of success and the true finalization of the content process.

Responsibility (employee, customer, agency)

Who is responsible for the creation? With the input of a responsible person, everyone knows who to contact if something changes, questions arise or if a deadline is not kept.

Topic

Use a column for the exact topic or the preliminary headline of the content, so everyone knows what it’s about.

Format

Video, text, infographic, whitepaper or something else? The format should be noted in a column. However, this can also be integrated into the topic column if necessary.

Type of Content

What kind of content do you want to create on this topic? Should it be news, evergreen content or snackable content? Determining the type of content is important for evaluating the success of your content.

Channel of publication

If you have control or know where your content will appear and will be promoted, it’s helpful to note this in the editorial plan. On which website, blog or platforms will your content appear? This makes it easier to evaluate the success.

Channel of distribution

On which channel are advertising activities pushed? Is it purely organic reach or is your content also promoted by paying for it? Make a note of this in the editorial plan, so you won’t be surprised afterwards about a sudden rapid increase in visitor numbers.

Keyword(s)

If the content to be created is search engine optimized, then note the main and secondary keyword in the editorial plan. If the project is larger, you can immediately see if and when which keyword has (already) been used.

Used CTA

What call-to-action do you use in the content? Write it down and measure the success afterwards!

Goal of the article / KPI

What goal are you trying to achieve with the article? NOTE: This does not always have to be the same goal that the customer is trying to achieve with the text. For example, if your customer wants to generate more sales via the innerpage, your own goal can be to increase the number of visitors by 10% by date X or to increase the ranking by X positions. Sometimes it makes sense to set internal goals differently than external ones.

By the way: Increasing sales starts with getting more traffic and then depends on the conversion rate which always needs to be optimized longterm.

Often, as a copywriter or content marketer, you don’t even notice after the project is completed or the text is delivered whether your client is really making more sales with the site or not. The number of visitors or rankings are in many cases easier to measure and create a sense of achievement for you and your team in the meantime.

Status of the content

Approval given? Completed? Still open? Briefing done? Running? Finished? Online? – Use a column for the current status of the content. A classic “red-yellow-green traffic light system” is also useful here.

Reporting results

Is your text successful? Transfer your reporting results (measured by yourself) in relation to the respective content into the editorial plan. A “Goal achieved: Yes/No” is sufficient. Or you can enter a more precise result such as the current ranking with the current date.

Prioritization

If you have to do several things at the same time, set a priority. Which content has 1st priority, which can perhaps wait a little longer, because, for example, before the relaunch of your customer in the next few months, nothing will go live at the customer’s site anyway?
This is not a valuation of your work or devaluation of the customer according to the slogan, customer X has only Prio 2, but it’s a useful tool to make your work easier in busy times.

To-do field

Who will provide additional information by when? If there are still unanswered questions? Some input from the customer is still missing? Then make a note of it in your editorial plan.

What CAN to be included in the editorial plan?

In addition to the “must-haves” of your editorial plan, you can add other things as needed. Depending on how and with whom you work on the editorial plan, it makes sense to include the following things:

Persona

If you are not writing for just one customer or if your customer has defined several buyer personas, you can name them in the editorial plan for the respective content.

Media planning/special promotions

If other advertising measures are planned that directly affect your content, it can be useful to note the advertising timeframe or the action in the editorial plan.

Social media planning

Will the post be pushed via social media? Are clicks or likes to be generated from it? If needed, note the social content format for your content or the social media planning goal for your article.

Campaign info/goals

Is your content only a tiny part or a huge part of a huge campaign? Then you can write the campaign goal in your editorial plan.

Snippets

Sometimes it can be useful to write the used snippets for the created pages in the editorial plan. This way you don’t forget any snippet and can check the snippets again after a while. This is helpful if Google or your customer changes something.

Internal linking options

You noticed that your content could be perfectly linked to other already existing pages or vice versa? Use a column for possible linking options.

Links

You have discovered similar content at the competition? Now it can help to bundle the links in the editorial plan at the respective post. This way you can

  • use it as an additional source of inspiration,
  • get an overview of what the competition has in the topic area, and
  • prevent duplicate content if necessary

How hot is the visitor?

In the unlikely event that you know where your readers are in the customer journey, make a note of this in the editorial plan. This helps to tailor the text exactly to the sensitivities/desires of your readers.

Let’s move on to the next question: Is an editorial plan for internal & external employees then also a good solution?

Do I need an internal and an external content plan?

The advantage of an internal and an external editorial plan is that you can use an internal plan for all your clients. The disadvantage is that you have to create additional external plans. From my experience, this is not as time-consuming as it sounds. Most of the time, external editorial plans are created together with the clients for a certain, fixed period of time.

For example, at the beginning of the year for three, six or twelve months. Once the topics are fixed, changes are usually made on-the-fly within the already planned, fixed period. If there is no shared access to a plan, an updated form of the editorial plan is then sent out as needed.

The goal of sharing a plan with your clients is that you will have less communication overhead, saving both parties time and money. In order to really achieve this goal, the plan must be properly maintained and handled with care by both parties.

Otherwise, in the worst case scenario, you will have significantly more work with a shared editorial plan and no one will be able to keep track of it afterwards.

How important are the goals in the editorial plan?

It always sounds super simple: we need to set goals for our content. But hardly anyone actually does that. In practice, it’s not always that easy to implement the goals, but that doesn’t change the importance of it. As described above, internal goals do not always have to be congruent with those of your customers. However, your internal goals should not vary completely from the customer’s ideas either.

When setting goals, you should always think about measurability. If you’re creating content for a shoe store, it will be difficult or impossible to measure how many customers have gone to the shoe store in the last two weeks and bought something because of your Instagram video. Therefore, if possible, set goals that you can measure.

Advantages of the editorial plan in relation to the objectives

An editorial plan can help ensure that content goals are set and reviewed. Because experience shows that even the last step tends to happen only moderately or not at all, and if it does, then no insights are drawn from it and the review remains without consequence, it is important and worthwhile in the long run.

An editorial plan in which the success or failure of certain content contents and formats is recorded and conclusions are drawn from it for the further handling of projects and further content for the customer is worth a fortune.

The more of it, the better. This way you can check the success in one document, have a proof of success or failure and a great source of inspiration for further content.

Let’s move on to the next question: If you then enter all these to-dos, doesn’t that become confusing? Maybe it’s better to have a plan visible to everyone instead of trying to keep track of everything with post-its.

Managing an editorial plan: stressful, isn’t it?

Regular maintenance of the editorial plan is the basis for an up-to-date document that everyone can rely on and work with. You can achieve an up-to-date status without much effort through routine. Create a daily routine in which you update and check the editorial plan once a day.

It is advisable to have one person in charge and a substitute for the person in charge, so that someone feels responsible. To ensure that the editorial plan is not neglected, a weekly update for the client can be helpful. In this way, you are “forced” to maintain the plan and automatically create a routine.

Does the editorial plan really make sense?

Regularly check your editorial plan for sense and nonsense. Three months ago it was the best idea ever, but now it can be complete crap at the time of the planned creation. It is therefore important to create room for change for the customer in advance and to critically question your own ideas from time to time.

Responding to current events, depending on the customer and the type of content, is an option that you should consider and that can be worthwhile for all sides.

Tips & tricks for the editorial plan

In addition to the information already mentioned, you can also integrate other things into the editorial plan or use a few tricks to gain further advantages from the document. In the following, I’ll tell you a few little tricks on how your editorial plan can further simplify your everyday life.

Content planning: First the topics, then the rest

It’s easier to plan the topics first and then determine the format and time frame. Not every topic is suitable for social media and not every product needs an explainer video. Therefore, it’s much easier to narrow down the possible topics first and then think about formats and the necessary time frame.

Pay attention to the strategy

With an editorial plan you can make visible and follow a common thread along the content strategy. If there is no strategy or you don’t know it, it is still advisable to establish a kind of common path. This makes planning easier.

To address seasonal conditions or specific buying behavior of the target audience, you can gather information from the customer and Google tools such as Google Trends. This can help you determine a suitable time frame for certain topics.

For example, at the beginning of the year, more searches are made on the topic of dieting than in December, so a topic related to weight loss is better planned for being prioritized in January than in October.

Show difference between date inputs

How much time do you have to submit your contribution? Is there an internal and external deadline? To get a better overview of your time frame, you can use Excel or google sheets.

Create possibility for spontaneous ideas

Even the biggest nonsense can be recorded as a spontaneous idea in the editorial plan – who knows what else can come out of it?

Use a spreadsheet within your editorial plan as a “creative quarter” and, together with your team, note down all the ideas that spontaneously occur to you about the customer, types of articles or similar. Most of the time, these ideas get lost if they are not written down right away, and what better place to do that than the editorial plan?

Match topics and keywords

Oops, it’s already happened. A colleague is already writing a similar article and you both didn’t know about it? Besides the fact that talking to each other should be a matter of course, even in the home office, a topic or keyword comparison is advisable, especially for large projects that involve many different people and possibly also other service providers and agencies.

If possible, have the other topics or keywords sent to you and compare them with your topic plan. This does not always result in frustration, but can create great synergies that lead to new topics – even if the competition has their fingers in the pie.

Communication is not always transparent enough to let you know if someone else is involved. Simply ask the customer if there are any other topic plans or topic areas already taken over on the customer side for the project to be worked on. This often provides clarity and makes it all way easier!

Plan ranking content: Ask the right questions

For a straightforward, clear and practical content plan, you can ask yourself the following three questions when planning your content from the start:

  • Can content be reused? And if so, how?
  • Which topics are popular? How can this be (re)used?
  • Which texts can be supplemented with meaningful, new/additional texts on related/important keywords?

The point behind this: Content developed in this way should rank and, in the best case, rank around the topics and formats already established. This is ideal for new topics and to strengthen the page for a specific topic area.

Reduced schedule of topics for externals

A nice way to save the external editorial plan in its volume is to send your customers a not too extensive topic plan.

The reduced topic plan then only contains the topics and the deadlines, the format and notes on the respective topics – that’ s it. Everything else you write down in your editorial plan, for example, and so does the customer. This is simple, uncomplicated and easy to implement.

Editorial plan ready? Be careful, there is still one more thing

Since there is usually more than one department working on a project, you should find out about the other marketing measures at your customers/clients. It makes sense to know the entire project, only then can you consider and refer to further media planning or possible offline campaigns, for example.

The guardians of the content plan

Just quickly maintaining the editorial plan – that can work well, but it doesn’t have to. The more people work together on a document, the greater the sources of inspiration and, unfortunately, the greater the potential for errors. From my experience, it makes sense that those who are to maintain the plan have a certain basic understanding in various areas.

Who maintains the plan, the best case scenario should:

  • have a good understanding of the product/service and its marketing potential
  • have a sense of the customer’s needs
  • have project management skills, which also means: being aware of all important project/customer information and changes and, if in doubt, finding out about them yourself
  • have content marketing know-how
  • have an understanding of the structure and expansion of the target audience
  • be able to analyze and interpret data
  • be open to optimizing the plan
  • be in close exchange with other departments from the project
  • be reliable and able to provide inspiration
  • have marketing distribution skills
  • recognize upselling potentials

I realize that very few editorial offices have a person who combines all of these qualities. But having a few of these qualities is an advantage when it comes to maintaining an editorial plan. In addition, you can perhaps create and maintain the plan together with another person: In this way, you combine more skills.

4 essential advantages of the editorial plan

Finally, I would like to briefly summarize the four main advantages of an editorial plan:

  • Time saving
  • Overview
  • Source of information
  • Evidence

My final thoughts on editorial plan and content planning

Every editorial plan is different. There is no perfect content planning. The perfect plan is one that people, or you, implement!

The point is not to make it as complicated as possible, but as simple and results-oriented as possible!

If you want to know more, sign up for our newsletter now!

Do you already work with an editorial plan and want to share your experiences with us?

Or do you use a specific tool to plan and keep track of your content? Feel free to leave me a message about your experiences with editorial plans or tools. I’m curious to hear what you’ve had good and bad experiences with! If you have any questions, the same applies: please just leave a message in the comments.

All the best,
Fabian

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