Ask any content marketer the key to success in content marketing, and 9 times out of 10 they will probably tell you it’s having an editorial calendar. However, anyone who has tried to put one together for their company knows that this can often be much easier said than done.
We’ve tried it all. Excel spreadsheets. Google sheets. Word docs. Post-it notes. Our brains. We even tried developing our own calendar system because we just couldn’t find one that worked...
Until we found Airtable.
I started using Airtable about three years ago, just when it was starting to be “cool” among fellow content marketers. I had tried it a few times prior but found the learning curve to be tedious and decided my spreadsheets worked just fine.
But the moment I realized the magic that could happen through Airtable, I gave up my spreadsheets and made a day of moving everything to my new databases. And I haven’t turned back since.
Step 1: Tracking Inspiration
Whether you’re a writer, a marketer, or a business owner, you’ve probably heard some variation of the following quote:
“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope.” — Mark Twain
Staying creative is difficult. So much so that when you Google “how to stay creative”, there are more than 826 million results.
There are many ways to stay creative (apparently 826 million of them), but one of our favorite methods is to find inspiration everywhere you look.
Yet, inspiration alone only gets you so far. If you’re not capturing it for later on, then it’s pretty much useless.
While it may not be the first thing we see when we open the database, the Inspiration tab is easy to access the moment we start the editorial planning process. We use this tab as a sort of digital swipe file for our clients, keeping anything and everything that inspires us.
Here, we keep it simple. Name of article/resource/content/thing, URL, and how closely it relates to our own audience & content. In many cases, we also add a description field so we can take notes on what exactly inspired us or what it could be used for.
Step 2: Brainstorming Content
If you’ve ever done a brainstorming session, you know exactly how messy those things can get. There are ideas all over the place, one person is in charge of taking notes (and yet still has no idea how to actually capture them), and everyone ends up talking over each other at some point.
They can be great for getting new ideas out there...or they can be a hot mess. Whichever way it ends up, it’s almost always a disaster to get all the ideas in one place after.
We use a tab called “Content Ideas” as our messy place to keep track of everything. The plus side? It’s extremely easy to clean up and link back to when finalizing all editorial later on.
Here, we can just add one row after another of ideas — some good, many bad. Each row has the opportunity to further expand with a notes section, link to campaigns, and identify key components such as personas and CTAs.
And when all is said and done, all we need to do when finalizing the calendar for the quarter is to link to it from the editorial tab.
Step 3: Schedule the Editorial
Once we’ve gotten through the messy content brainstorm alive, the last step is to bring everything over to the editorial tab.
Doing this with spreadsheets now seems like a headache. I’m remembering lots of copying and pasting, reformatting, and making sure all the rows are just the right size to see things later on.
And what if a date changes or the client no longer likes the content idea they approved three months ago? Well, back to copying and pasting and reformatting all over again.
With Airtable’s linking and drag-and-drop system, we’ve found it extremely easy to keep everything exactly where it should be. It all keeps the right campaigns, the right publish dates, the right personas, etc.
When we bring our content ideas over to the editorial side, the rest of it automatically populates and we’ve just saved ourselves potentially hours of work. Later on, if and when something does change, it takes just a couple of minutes to get everything updated and we’re all good to go.
See The Planning Process in Action
Everything Under One Roof
Whether you use Airtable or any other method of tracking your editorial calendar, one piece of advice we have is to keep all related information and materials together. Outside of the three steps I just outlined, we also have tabs to keep track of personas, campaigns, keywords, lifecycle stages, and more.
This way, when we’re planning a campaign, we can keep all related resources for that campaign linked in one place. Not only does this make it easy to access later on, but it also makes sure everyone has everything they need to reference at any time.
We use Airtable with all of our Inbound Retainer clients here at A Brave New because it works. Each one of our clients that we create content for has a database that is updated regularly and keeps the whole team — including our clients — on board with the editorial plan we’ve put in place.
Try the template for yourself, click here to access it for free. Airtable is completely free to use (with limitations, of course) and can get you well on your way to organizing your content.
If you’re ready to take your content marketing to the next level, let’s talk. A Brave New specializes in inbound marketing for B2B companies who are looking to generate leads and grow brand awareness in 2020 and beyond.