I don’t know about you, but I spend the majority of my day as a library marketer making decisions. I answer probably two dozen or more questions a day from co-workers, staff, and friends about everything from the title of our library’s next blog post to the photo used in an email campaign to the kind of swag we give out at library events. This may be why my poor husband often has to choose the restaurant when we go out to eat. By the end of the day, I’m tired of making decisions!
Library marketing often feels like air traffic control. So how can a library marketer work effectively without losing their ever-loving mind? Organization, my friends. And the best way to get organized is to live and die by a working editorial calendar.
An editorial calendar will define and control the process of creating content, from the creation of an idea through writing and publication. A good editorial calendar will help you decide which content ideas to publish, where to publish, and when to publish. After those decisions are made, the editorial calendar will help you assign tasks and keep up to date on deadlines.
The editorial calendar is literally the heart and soul of the library marketer. Mine is open all the time, as long as I’m at work at my desk. It’s a score card, to-do list, and road map all rolled into one. Without it, I’d be lost.
A number of readers have asked me how they can create an editorial calendar that will lead to effective marketing. I’ve broken it up into two parts. First, let’s go through the steps to setting yourself up for success by funneling your team and tasks into one tool. You need to pick the tool, define your process, and learn how to work your calendar in your role as the project manager.
The Library Marketer’s Definitive Guide to Creating an Editorial Calendar, Part One: How to Pick Your Tool and Use It
Step #1: You need a tool that will help you keep track of everything… and I mean everything! You should consolidate all of your team’s tasks into one place. That means anyone who has anything to do with creating content for your blog, social media, video, email, print, press release, digital signage, or newsletters is on the same tool.
The one tool approach will help everyone to know where each promotion is at any given time. It will also help to maintain a consistent voice and message throughout all of your marketing. Working off the same tool will also maximize the effective use of every piece of content. The one tool approach will also help you, as project manager, to minimize overlap and mistakes.
Set expectations with your team early. Tell them you’ll do your best to pick the right tool for your team. Then make it clear that there will come a point at which everyone will be expected to have transitioned to the new tool.
Step #2: Get your team involved in picking your tool. First, you’ll want to explore how the new system will make their jobs and their lives easier. You can do this by asking your team to list the problems they have right now with content creation. Then, ask them to prioritize them. Which problems cost your team the most time and energy?
How to create an editorial calendar in Google Calendar
Marketing Strategy Bundle from CoSchedule (includes editorial calendar)
Free Excel Spreadsheet-based templates from Smartsheet
Step #3: Enforce compliance. Once you pick the right tool for your team, you have to delete all your other calendars and tools. I’m not being harsh. Your team may need that extra push to use one tool. And it’s likely there may be someone on your team who doesn’t like whatever tool you end up choosing. You cannot allow them to go rogue. In order for this to work, everyone has to use the same base.
Step #4: Make checking your editorial calendar a part of your daily ritual. As the project manager, your job will be to keep everyone on track using your new tool. Some days, this task will take five minutes. Some days it will take longer.
I add promotions into my calendar as soon as I learn about them. I have some promotions planned six months in advance. Advance planning helps me to visualize the promotions I’m doing and make sure everything gets the proper attention it needs. I can still be flexible and change things around as needed. But if I know what my marketing will look like in October during the month of July, I’ll have a better chance of getting everything done in time. That also gives me time to think about what’s coming up and to work on creative and innovative ideas to make those promotions better.
Step #5: Leave plenty of room for data. Measure the results of your content so you can adjust the editorial calendar and improve the effectiveness of future promotions.
Analytics should drive most of the decisions in your editorial calendar. I say most because I believe analytics should be responsible for 75 percent of the decisions. The other 25 percent is experimentation, gut instinct, and a deep knowledge of your audience.
Measuring results has two benefits: It helps you to decide what to do and it helps you decide what to drop. If you find a particular content subject or format isn’t getting the results you want for your library, you have data to back up your decision to drop it. Likewise, when something is working well, you can use data to reinforce your decision to that thing more often!
Read this next!
Part Two of the Library Marketer’s Definitive Guide to Creating an Editorial Calendar That Actually Works!
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July 8, 2019 at 4:48 pm
The editorial calendar is my own savior when it comes to sanity. I have never worked without it and never will. Just wondering why you think analytics should be exactly 75% of your decision-making? I have it at about 60% with about 35% new research and 5% based-on-experience posts ( similar to your gut feeling).
Awesome stuff. Can’t wait for more.
July 8, 2019 at 4:54 pm
For me, I honestly think it’s the quality of analytics at my fingertips. A lot of what I learn from data isn’t quite as robust as I like, and I am not empowered to do things based off of new research on a regular basis. Library data is much different than data in other industries in that there is a lot of inference and supposition. Does that makes sense?
July 17, 2019 at 10:53 am
Hi Angela – what tool do you use? We don’t have one (yet) so open to recommendations…
July 17, 2019 at 11:22 am
We use Trello! I really like it. And it’s free for my small team.