You're too busy to create your marketing content yourself, so you contract that task out to a freelance copywriter. Problem solved right? Well, up to a point. Your copywriter can work wonders to keep your blog posts, newsletter articles and other content fresh and up to date -- but have you told that person what you want far enough ahead of time to ensure that it gets done? It's all too easy to bury yourself in other work and assume that your writer is fulfilling assignments you never assigned. Then one February 14th you sit bolt upright with the horrified realization that you forgot to request that special Valentine's Day article.
If that chill down the spine is a familiar sensation to you, then you probably need to block those assignments out with an editorial calendar. It doesn't actually have to take the form of a calendar, of course. But you need to list your anticipated needs for content over the coming months or quarters and then distribute that list among your marketing professionals.
This calendar can prove incredibly beneficial for all concerned. Your creative folks will always know which assignments are coming up and when, and you'll have eliminated the "Oops, I forget to tell you" factor on your end. In fact, it's smart to have multi-stage editorial calendars for collaborative pieces such as direct mail postcards or newsletters, with separate schedules for idea submissions, graphic design, copywriting and revisions. The whole piece then comes together with Swiss-watch precision, and your team can roll right onto the next job. I once received a 12-month editorial calendar from a mortgage firm in January that showed me quite clearly what I'd be writing come December. As a result, we had a year's worth of direct mail ready to go before Spring had sprung.
Of course there will be times when you need to respond to or take advantage of a recent event. But that's okay. You don't have to give your content creators license to bull ahead with a year's worth of stuff. Just ask them to keep an eye on the upcoming month or quarter with the knowledge that things could always change. It's much easier to change something that exists than something that doesn't, and if you have no editorial calendar in place everyone's just operating on the fly. This can hurt you if your freelancers are non-exclusive, because they haven't pre-booked the necessary time in their work schedules and may not be available when you need them.
If you're a marketing firm that includes blogging among the services you provide for multiple clients, then you face another obvious challenge. How can you prepare articles months in advance if you can't always get your clients to send you the necessary background information in a timely manner? Here's where you hedge your bets by adding alternate titles to the mix -- pre-approved, evergreen topics that will work pretty much anytime. As publication time draws near, if you can't get the intake for a particular topic on time, go with a tried-and-true alternative. Your copywriter can go ahead and write, you can post on time, and everybody's happy.
Editorial calendars can make the difference between a last-minute scramble and a clam, smooth ride for your marketing campaign. Create yours today -- and then assign the writing to me!