3 Editorial Calendar Tools for Bloggers
One of the reasons so many bloggers resist using an editorial calendar is because they haven't found a system they love. No one wants to spend time planning their posts if they're using an app with an ugly interface or a printable that doesn't have everything they need! I'm all about pretty, functional solutions that make running a creative business more fun. I'm breaking down the three editorial calendar tools I couldn't live without as a blogger---and exactly how I use them. This could be the day the heavens open up and you rejoice in your newfound love for blog planning!
3 Editorial Calendar Tools I Couldn't Live Without
These three tools are my favorites because they're so versatile (and the first two are free)! I'm showing you how I happen to use them, but don't let that hold you back. There's no limit to how you can put these tools to use in a way that works for you. Some of the best editorial calendars are ones that think outside the box, so let those creative ideas flow as you think about how these tools could best serve you and your blog.
Trello is a versatile project management system that uses cards to organize projects and ideas. I use Trello when working with one specific client who's built their system around it, but it served my own blog well in the past when I had a VA helping out with posts. Let's take a look at how you can put it to work, shall we?
How it works
Trello is Pinterest for project management. It sorts things into boards that can be public or private, and you can invite whoever you want to work within your board. That makes it ideal for bloggers working with a team to get their posts published.
Each board is home to your lists, and each list holds individual cards. You could use this system in a lot of ways, but I like to think of lists as a blogging workflow. In my own editorial calendar, my lists represent each stage of the blogging process, as you can see below. Because I used this board while working with a VA to create post images, there are some extra steps to the workflow, like "For Review" and "Image Approved." This is how my VA and I communicated with each other about where each post was at without flooding our inboxes.
You can customize your lists to match whatever your blog needs. If you're the only one working on your blog, you could stick with more step-by-step list titles, like "Brainstormed," "Outlined," "Drafted," "Scheduled," and "Published." If you need a more robust workflow because you're passing posts back and forth between team members, you simply add the lists you need.
Cards are the individual projects---blog posts, in this case---that live inside each list. Trello's simple interface means you simply have to drag a card from one list to the next to move it along in the workflow. This is one of my favorite parts about Trello. Because it's so visual, it's easy to see at a glance if you're running out of brainstormed post ideas, or if you don't have a post scheduled for next week.
Trello also offers plenty of functionality within each individual card. You can follow cards, attach photos or documents, and carry on conversations with team members by @tagging them, all within the comfort of your Trello editorial calendar.
Oh Asana, how I love thee. I use Asana for no fewer than seven different tasks, and one of them is my editorial calendar. I mainly use Asana as my brainstorming space. It's an idea dumping ground that stays more organized than Evernote but just as convenient thanks to their handy mobile app.
How it works
Asana is a list-lover's dream. It operates around workspaces (similar to Trello's boards). Each workspace can have as many team members as you'd like or stay private to you. Within each workspace is a list of projects, and within those projects is a task list---and within those individual tasks is the option for conversations, attachments, sub-tasks . . . you can see why anyone who loves crossing things off a list is going to be in heaven here.
My Editorial Calendar project is basically just a list of post ideas. When an idea strikes, I'll typically add it as a task and then immediately fill out the description with a very rough outline of what I plan to say. If I get more ideas before I write the post, I'll just add them to the task description.
That's all the farther I go with Asana, but it has way more potential for people who want to make it their main blog planning tool. You can assign tasks to certain team members and give tasks due dates, complete with email reminders. Their calendar view also makes for a nice visual if you're like me and you need to see those calendar squares to figure out when to post!
3. The Day Designer
I've written before about why the Day Designer used to be my favorite planner. I switched to Emily Ley's Weekly Simplified Planner after Hadley was born because I wasn't using the Day Designer to its full potential anymore. Still, I've long been a supporter and affiliate of the Day Designer because I believe so wholeheartedly in their products. (P.S. The links to Day Designer in this post are affiliate links.)
Day Designer offered to send me one of their new A5 Day Designers to try out. I debated on it for a while before saying yes. I didn't want to accept a product I wouldn't actually use! Luckily for me, this baby has turned out to be everything I could ask for and more when it comes to editorial planning. Here's how I'm using it to handle all of my editorial management needs.
How it works
The Day Designer is meant to be a day planner (obviously), so I got a little creative to make it work for me. The beginning of the book comes with calendar pages that include spots for a checklist below. This is the perfect place for me to slot in those post ideas I brainstormed in Asana. If I have an idea for a post that would come out later this year, I'll pencil it in during that month so I don't forget about it. And I use the checklist to jot down any big blog goals or actions I want to make happen in a particular month.
The Daily Pages are where I really turn the Day Designer from a planner into an editorial workhorse. Each blog post gets its own daily page. I write in the publication date and post title at the top, as well as my main call-to-action or goal for that post. Then I use all that extra space to track metrics and my social strategy---which is a huge part of having a successful content strategy!
One month after a post is published, I'll write in the number of comments, social shares, and pageviews it received. I like to wait a month so that the post has some time to make its way around the internet. Over time, I can easily flip through and see how well a post did toward accomplishing its goal. This is something I skipped in the past because I didn't have a good way to track all those metrics. (Let's be real, spreadsheets are of the devil.) But skipping this step was a big mistake. You can't make improvements to your blog if you're not tracking what works!
The Day Designer also allows me to keep up with my social media strategy. I've wanted to focus on Pinterest as a marketing tool for a long time, but even with my handy Boardbooster helping me out, I could still never remember which posts I'd pinned to which Pinterest boards. Now I list any relevant Pinterest boards in the "to do" section. After I pin to one, I check it off and let Boardbooster take care of the rest with its looping feature. A similar strategy would work well for Twitter.
Last but not least, I use the Notes space at the bottom to note any feedback or questions that come my way through email or social media about a particular post. I haven't found an editorial calendar yet that has the space to fit allthethings I was looking for, so I was thrilled when the Day Designer fit the bill. They're not the cheapest calendar out there, but because I only use each page when I publish a post, it will last me well over a year as my editorial calendar.
The Day Designer's Expenses pages are a great way to track yearly blog expenses if they're separate from your other business accounting. Two checklists---Important Dates Coming Up in 2016 and 2017---are perfect for helping you think ahead on your content strategy. And as if I weren't already a nerd for loving a paper calendar so much, I'm using the Contacts page to keep track of other bloggers and creative business owners I want to keep in touch with.
What's your favorite editorial calendar tool? I'm always up for trying new things, so tell me about it in the comments!
P.S. Do you still resist having an editorial calendar because you think planning ahead will kill your creative juices? This post is for you, my friend.