Image details: Desk // Chair // Sheepskin // Garment Rack (sorry all items on rack are old and sold out)
I didn’t anticipate quite how many messages I would receive when I shared a quick glimpse of my editorial calendar on Instagram stories the other day as I was planning for the rest of the year. A lot of them with notes like “teach me your ways” or “wow so impressive.” Let’s just get one thing out of the way, that could not be further from the truth. I am an actual cluster f$ck (my desk looks like it could be in an episode of hoarders right now). I am very sporadic in my organization, sometimes I am hyper-focused and will spend hours cleaning and organizing, and sometimes I can’t be bothered and am buried in a mountain of clutter. I think one of the main reasons I hated corporate America so much was because I felt so confined. There was really only one way of doing things, one way of working, one way of evaluating performance, one way of presenting (f$cking PowerPoint!!!!). I’m being a little extreme here but my point is, I’m a little all over the place, and I like it that way, you could call it organized chaos. I often get the question “what does your daily schedule look like?” and it’s hard for me to answer that question. What I’ve come to realize over time is that one of the reasons I set out on my own was to shed the confines of the traditional 9-5. I’ve come to embrace the reality that my schedule never really looks like a schedule. No day looks the same, which is for me, the beauty of being my own boss, something I struggled with in the beginning. Probably because I was so conditioned to think that I needed to be most productive during certain times of the day. It’s less about times and schedules and more about flow. That might sound a little new agey, but the point I’m trying to make is that how and when we work best is different for everyone. Pay attention to when you are most productive and what type of environment is most conducive to that (for example, I CAN NOT WORK IN COFFEE SHOPS AND I DO NOT UNDERSTAND HOW PEOPLE DO THAT). Sorry for yelling.
When I first started blogging there was little to no planning involved. I was just winging it. Eventually I realized that was not sustainable. About two years ago I started planning content in an editorial calendar. I wasn’t great at it and I didn’t really stick to it all that well but it got me started. Now, almost into my 5th year of blogging (can’t believe it’s been that long) there is a method to the madness. The reason I love having an editorial calendar is because it allows me to compartmentalize. As someone that doesn’t like a ton of structure and needs to feel like they have freedom but also has to run a business, an editorial calendar helps me stay organized, be strategic, and maintain consistency. At the end of the day, it’s just a planning tool, it is flexible, but for me it’s incredibly helpful.
My editorial calendar template is actually quite simple. I stumbled upon a version Geri Hirsch had created and tweaked it slightly to suit my needs. If you want to use the template, just click here, go to “File” in Google Docs, then click “Make a Copy” and save it to your own Drive. Just do a quick Google search and you’ll find hundreds of free editorial calendar templates so if you don’t like mine I am sure there’s one out there for you. Now to get down to what I assume most of you are here for, how I actually plan my editorial calendar.
Before the ideas, the planning and the execution, I do my research. Now that I have some years and experience behind me, it’s easier to go back and look at what has done well (and what hasn’t). There’s a few key things I look at:
There is so much valuable information in Google Analytics, as a content creator/business owner, it really is your BFF. I look at where my readers are located, when they are on the site most often, what content categories and blog posts are most popular, what search terms are used most frequently, where my traffic is coming from, how they are viewing the site (desktop/tablet/mobile), etc. It gives me insight into the content and categories that perform well and helps guide my planning from there. I’ve said this from day one but my blog is and always has been my number one priority. It is the one thing that I own and have complete control over. Instagram is not mine, it’s owned by Facebook, and as we’ve seen, social media platforms can change in an instant, that’s not to say it’s not important, but I’m not putting all my eggs in the Instagram basket (or YouTube or any other social media channel).
Behind Instagram, Pinterest is my second highest source of referral traffic. Their analytics are also incredibly helpful in understanding what types of imagery and content performs well. In addition to their analytics, Pinterest’s business insights provide a lot of incredibly useful information for content planning. They give monthly trend reports and in depth trend predictions for the entire year (which Craig and I used when we had a brainstorming planning strategy).
Given that a large portion of my audience is from Instagram (many of whom only follow me there), I use analytics and insights from Instagram and Planoly to help plan my content on that platform. I don’t actually plan my Instagram content that far out, I barely plan it at all, but seeing what types of posts and imagery does well can help inform the type of content I create specifically for Instagram. Planoly is great because you can easily sort your top performing content by week, month and year.
On a scale of 1-10 how douchey is it that I used the word ideation? Haha. After doing the research above, I sit down and ideate, which is a fancy way of saying I sit in my office and jot down all the ideas running around taking up space in my brain. Sometimes I do this on my own, but most often Craig and I sit down (a few times a year) and do it together. We are both visual people so Craig made a white board in my office that we use to jot down all of our ideas. We usually start with some big picture ideas and then drill down into more granular topics.
Planning and Strategy
Planning is ongoing, and while we have a big strategy/brainstorm/planning session at the beginning of the year, we also do this every few months to touch base, see where we are, what needs to change, etc. In terms of content, I like to start with high level planning, using major holidays and seasonal/monthly themes to get started. This helps a lot in coming up with content ideas as well. Planning looks slightly different throughout the year. Some months content may be slightly scaled down or not planned as far in advance. Since Q4 is the busiest time of year for us, it’s planned out the most. Of course the editorial calendar always has flexibility but it’s really helpful to have it planned, particularly for seasonal things like gift guides, holiday content, etc.
All this fancy talk about analytics and ideation mean nothing without execution. It is so much easier to execute when you have a plan, and that’s why all of the above is important. The more puzzle pieces you have in place before you get to actually creating content, the more you can focus on being creative and enjoying that process.