HUGH CULVER

Create an endless stream of blog ideas with an Editorial Calendar

Updated to Productivity on January 2, 2023.

If you’re serious about blogging you need an Editorial Calendar.

In fact, in the last month I must have recommended this brilliant solution to no less than 9 people – proof enough, eh Watson?

Before I get to the machinations of this wonderful invention (hat tip to Stan Smith at pushingsocial.com for his version of this solution), let’s take a quick tour of the problem.

If you own a blog, well goodie for you. If you write meaningful, relevant, helpful content on a consistent basis (for the record: March 2013, August 2014 and then September 2015 is NOT consistent) even better.

Getting readers to your blog is no small feat. Once there, you have their attention – for at least twice a month they turn to you to learn and be inspired.

And if you think having an audience for your blog is no big deal, try getting that crowd to show up in a rented hotel room every week – good luck.

The problem is…eventually you will run out of ideas to write about.

Bummer.

Enter the Editorial Calendar.

How to build an Editorial Calendar

The Editorial Calendar is not so much a diarized list, as a shopping cart of possible topics to pick from every time you sit down to write.

The first step to creating your Editorial Calendar is to think small. Trying to talk about your main solution (like leadership) over and over will get old pretty quick. Instead, break your main solution into at least 6 sub-topics.

A friend of mine coaches people on fashion makeovers. As you might imagine, I know about as much about fashion as I do about nuclear fission, so let’s work with that example.

Thinking about questions your clients ask you, potential sub-topics for fashion make-over could be:

  • for your career
  • how to get started
  • mistakes to avoid
  • celebrities
  • for relationships
  • saving money

Try to choose sub-topics with lots of “meat”—the kind of you could write a whole speech about. Later in this process it might become clear that some of my examples are weak, but let’s run with them for now.

Next, we’ll dress these up with a variety of themes.

Adding themes

An easy way to kick-start your writing every week is to have themes matched with your sub-topics. Themes, like How-to, or Mistakes to Avoid, make your blog more interesting and feed the plot line.

Some successful themes include:

  • how-to (e.g. “7 ways to….”)
  • mistakes to avoid
  • trends (e.g. quote statistics)
  • failure/success stories
  • personal story
  • opinion
  • inspirational
  • controversy
  • book reviews
  • ask a question
  • predict the future
  • equipment review
  • blog review (e.g. review your favourite blogs)
  • video blog
  • product reviews
  • reader poll (insert a poll in your blog)

For my blog, I’ve been noticing that mistakes (see “15 mistakes you should never make on stage”) to avoid and how to make money (see “How to make money as an expert”) are always popular, but so are how-to themes (see “How to negotiate your speaking fees and get hired”.)

Build your matrix

Next, you need to create a spreadsheet to hold all the juicy topics for the future. I’ve become a big fan of Google Sheets for this – they’re easy to create and easy to share with our team.

Sample Editorial Calendar grid

Nothing fancy needed here – just list your sub-topics across the top and blog themes down the side.

Bingo! You have the start of an Editorial Calendar. Now it’s time to fill in the blanks.

Filling in the blanks

Before you do that, think about your ideal reader (some call them your “avatar”). What challenges do they want to get past? What have they enjoyed from you in the past? What part of your expertise do they seem to most value?

I like to set aside about 30 minutes at a time for this task – after that I start to run dry in the ideas funnel. My goal is to generate as many ideas as possible and jump around the matrix adding possible topics as the ideas come to me.

Just for fun I spent 20 minutes and partially filled in the sample Editorial Calendar (below). Forgive my ignorance about fashion – but I think you can see how this works (it’s actually sort of fun to brainstorm when you have the matrix to guide you, but I definitely ran out of things to say about fashion.)

Sample Editorial Calendar with blog topics

It’s a rare bird who can sit down and pull ideas out of thin air. I can’t.

My Editorial Calendar gives me the prompt to get started. I have a quick look, choose the topic I want to work on, and then start to outline my post. Check out some more tools for bloggers.

Sure, I still have to write the blog, but getting started just got a whole lot easier.