Editorial calendars come in all shapes & sizes: Google Docs, whiteboards, Excel spreadsheets, post-it notes, Basecamp, Trello.
Here we’ll do a run-down of the top choices with a view on those setups that give content marketers clean, coherent, actionable, and global views on everything that’s coming down the content pipeline.
Many content marketers express a preference for Trello because it lets them organize their workflow including everything from blog posts in progress to potential guest post spots. The key benefits to Trello include:
- the UI is flexible: move posts, tasks, & labels in an instance
- there’s a built-in kanban-like management system
- easily adapted to specific needs, for example organizing boards by theme, channel, date, step, or campaign
- collaboration and task management is a cinch
- oh yeah, & it’s free
The main drawback to Trello is that information is siloed – many marketers end up linking spreadsheets or other tools to their Trello to make info accessible and available at a glance. As one marketer put it, “there is only so much you can realistically put in Trello.”
- Trello’s own take on using Trello as an editorial calendar – Trello blog
- Trello editorial calendar template – Denamico
Contentable is a newish content marketing tool that could be styled as a Trello plus. It’s got the kanban view for planning out content and full-scale writer management and collaboration, but it also has a text editor, integration with multiple platforms like WordPress, Slack, and Medium, and click-to-publish capabilities.
Content marketers used to endlessly sharing Google Docs links to get feedback and proofreading might appreciate Contentacle’s in-house approach. Between their markdown text editor and team commenting, Contentacle is a slimmed down alternative to cobbling together different tools. Of course, all that convenience comes at a price and Contenacle starts at $49 per month for 3 users.
- Contentacle is new but offers a 2-week trial to test it out – Contentacle
Contentools is a more robust tool for marketers that are already scaling their content and includes like the others content workflows, work-in-progress and due date tracking, centralized content management, content scheduling and planning, custom workflows, tasks and deadlines.
But Contentools shines elsewhere. Cool features include an idea pipeline for approving or rejecting ideas, built-in buyer personas and awareness funnel targeting, and layers of accessibility to all the different members of your content team including guest posters, hired writers and editors, and in-house managers.
Want a guest poster to only have access to a text editor, but leave the strategies strictly for managers? No problem. Want an assigned editor to be notified when a blog post is in the editing stage? It’ll happen automatically. One extra perk is that, for those content marketers who live and die by WordPress (like me), Contentools’ editor looks a lot like it, so they’ll feel right at home.
All those features come at a premium and Contentools will run you $79 – $290/month ranging from 3 users on 1 project to 20 users on 9 projects.
The guys at CoSchedule clearly believe social is content too and offer an editorial calendar that’s favored by many content marketers for including social media posts that can be published simultaneously. Blog posts can be assigned to writers, categorized by type, and filtered with color coding. And they also realized that many writers are obsessed with Evernote and added an Evernote syncing feature in addition to Google Docs.
Much like Trello, they have a calendar view with drag-and-drop rescheduling; and much like Buffer, they offer social media posting in bulk. They also built a CoSchedule plugin for WordPress that ranks posts based on popularity and lets you see how each post did individually with social media analytics. And did I mention they also have a Chrome extension? They do. Basically, CoSchedule has full social integration – and they know it.
The prices are similar to the other robust tools, starting at $60/month for 5 users, 10 guests, and 10 social profiles to $300/month for 25 users, 40 guests, and 100 social profiles. And one more thing, whoever does copywriting for CoSchedule should get a cookie – their website promises that you’ll save “a ton of time.” Where do I sign up?
5. Google Calendar
Google Calendar is old faithful for the back-to-basics content marketers who want to keep their deadlines and publishing dates top-of-mind. One freelancer simply sets up individual calendars for each client to show them when content was posted and color-codes to what channel – meanwhile he gets a master view of all of his work. Google Calendar doesn’t do everything, but it’s a frequent accompaniment to other tools like Trello that fill the gaps.
I’ve personally found after experimenting with a number of tools, including Trello, that I still find a lot of value in old-fashioned spreadsheets. The big problem is they’re not client friendly and might be too much for big teams without a traffic manager.
Spreadsheets are versatile that you might think – for example, it’s possible to automate Google Analytics in spreadsheets so that content calendars pull KPIs automatically (hint: use publish dates & slugs to extract reports using the Google Analytics app for Google spreadsheets). Here’s an example courtesy of Rui Nunes, Director of Marketing at Mitre Media Corp: sample spreadsheet.
Rui added that with a little more effort, spreadsheets can of course be upgraded to Kanban boards by adding tabs with simple functions and using the “Comments” feature for collaboration on specific articles and rows. Spreadsheets can be a poor man’s product management tool, but that can be all many of us need.
For those that like to keep it simple, turns out there are Google Doc editorial calendars out there for for free or purchase that promise conditional formatting and lifetime updates – take this one for $24. Here’s a free alternative from Blue Wire Media. Who knew?
7. WordPress Plugins
Use WordPress? That’s good, because there’s a plugin for most everything, including content calendars. The self-explanatory WordPress Editorial Calendar Plugin has had 50,000+ installs and is ranked 4.8 out of 5 stars. It works by letting marketers see all their posts and drag and drop them in a calendar view.
Another one that comes recommended is Edit Flow. Edit Flow gives you custom workflow statuses, a calendar, editorial comments, editorial metadata, notifications, user groups and more, all making it much easier for your team to collaborate inside WordPress.
Technically, Jira is a tool for product management, but I’ve heard that many marketers use it because it shines when it comes to workflow and delegation. There are additional plugins like the Confluence Calendar and the Jira calendar plugin that make it an even more powerful tool for content teams. If your company uses Jira already, it might be worth exploring this option for the marketing team as well – no harm will come to marketers who also adopt the principles of agile software development.
Jira starts at $10/month for up to 10 users and offers pricing to growing teams beginning at $75 for 15 users.
Yanado is another product management tool that many tech-oriented marketers find themselves gravitating towards since it’s already used in-house. The main differentiator for Yanado is that it’s built into Gmail – they promise time savings just from saving that click over to the competitors.
The idea is to empower our everday usage of Gmail. Yanado lets you turn emails into tasks, gives you notifications inside Gmail, syncs due dates and reminders with Google Calendar, and gives you the ever popular Kanban set-up for seeing workflows in a separate window – inside Gmail, of course. Tasks can be shared and delegated and you can use tagging the same way you always have in Gmail. And finally, if you’re already using Google Docs for writing and peer review, you can bet that fits right in as well.
For Gmail die-hard fans or people who believe that incremental improvements can have big effects, Yanado could be for you. They’re also, of the paid tools, the most inexpensive, starting at free for, well, just you, and jumping to $6/user/month up to 100 users. However, features are tiered, so pay attention.
10. Pen & Paper
Sometimes to really focus and get organized, we need to turn away from the computer. Upgraded “bullet journals” like the one over at Boho Berry can make it possible. More for the solo practitioner, a bullet journal could be a unconventional option for those content marketers who are still book nerds at heart.
Of course, sometimes, when it’s all said & done, it’s not really about what we want, it’s all about the guy paying the bills. If content goes through the development team at some point, Jira might come into play; if a company works with several clients, they’ll need something more than spreadsheets just for the sake of presentation. Many editorial calendars end up being based on company or client preferences. Then it’s up to content marketers to bridge any gap between what’s needed and how they – the marketers – work best.
Do you use something else? Tell us below.