January 4th, 2013
The Mayans are notorious for building one of the most accurate and extensive calendars of all time. Their system used three distinctive calendars to track historical, religious, and astronomical events. The “Long Count” calendar—used for historical events—completed its 13th cycle at the end of December 2012 leading to the well-publicized “end of the world” theories. Far from that view, research tells us the Mayans believe that a calendar—like time—has no beginning or end. The completed 13th cycle of the Long Count is much like our Gregorian calendar reaching its second millennium in 2000.
In the business world, starting the year off with a well-organized editorial calendar can keep your team on track and headed in the direction for a successful year. The hardest part is always at the beginning. If you have not built out a long term calendar before, three questions must be answered before you can begin.
WHAT should the calendar include?
At Sales Engine, we break our calendar into two main sections. One is the actual calendar organized like a true monthly calendar, and the other is a list of the completed content we have to offer. On each day we plan to post, our monthly calendar includes: the campaign name, a brief description, and the time it will launch. We make this section public to the entire company so that our sales and support teams are included on all communication we send out. Our content list is ongoing and we pull from it when we find ourselves in need of content.
WHEN should the calendar begin and end?
The correct answer—like the Mayans believe—is that the calendar should not have a begging or an end. It should be a continuous project. However, it is a good idea to experiment with how far into the future your team wants to plan. For us at Sales Engine, we have tried building our calendar two ways: monthly and quarterly. The key is to make sure your content stays relevant while minimizing the work your team has to put in. Building out a calendar too far in the future can lead to stale or irrelevant content, but spending too much time updating your calendar every step of the way can be counterproductive. We have found that for our team and the amount of content we deliver, our calendar is most successful when we build out our email editorial calendar quarterly and our social media calendar monthly.
HOW should the calendar be built?
The technology world offers many tools to help companies build out and organize their calendars. I have personally worked with two: Divvy HQ and Central Desktop. Below are three options for building out your calendar and the pros and cons of each.
- Divvy HQ: This is a great calendar tool that allows organizations to manage their calendars, assign roles to team members, track the status of projects, and create a parking lot of future ideas and projects. The drawbacks are no color coding and there is limited mobility when you want to make edits to a project or move items around.
- Central Desktop: Central Desktop is more than a calendar tool. It is a collaboration and file sharing tool as well. This is the tool we use and love at Sales Engine. Every department has their own work space and their own calendar. The only drawback is that the calendar does not include project status functionality.
- Excel: Don’t forget about Excel. It could be your free calendar tool (assuming you have Microsoft Office). I have used it in the past to create an editorial calendar for our blog alone. In one tab, I created a running calendar, and in second tab I kept a list of written blog posts and future blog post ideas. Since Excel is not really meant to be a calendar tool, much of the work is manual and there is no functionality for collaborating on or sharing your calendar.
If you find your team deviating from your calendar from time to time, don’t worry. Unlike the Mayans, our editorial calendars are not set in stone. Last minute projects or events will arise and require adjustment. However, planning in advance ensures that as your marketing team becomes busy with additional tasks, the outbound programs will not be interrupted because there was no time to think of a topic.