What is a content calendar?

Show menu

Working with a content calendar is one of the key steps to content marketing success. But what is it and why is it so important?

Sophie Knox

Way back in 1996, Microsoft founder Bill Gates penned an article titled “Content is King”. Bill prophesised about how valuable content would become and that content producers must think beyond the printed page:

“If people are to be expected to put up with turning on a computer to read a screen, they must be rewarded with deep and extremely up-to-date information that they can explore at will. They need to have audio, and possibly video. They need an opportunity for personal involvement that goes far beyond that offered through the letters-to-the-editor pages of print magazines.” 

It turns out Bill was right.

The last line in his article predicts that, “Those who succeed will propel the Internet forward as a marketplace of ideas, experiences, and products – a marketplace of content.” 

Fast-forward 24 years and that marketplace has exploded into a dynamic realm of content, often living on the internet in some foundational form but extending its reach into platforms that give life to this content through various mediums. 

That marketplace of content is a very busy place. So getting your content fundamentals right will help you cut through that noise and land your content in the lap of your targeted audience.

Another equally important challenge faced by content creators is how to organise your catalogue of content. Gone are the days of being reactive by writing blog posts about topics as they drop into your world. For creators of truly customised content, who align their work to a brand’s goals, content may be king, but marketing and backroom planning is most certainly queen.

One of the most helpful instruments in the queen’s toolbox is the content calendar. We live and breathe by this bible on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. It’s where our ideas bubble away, find form and position themselves in a publishing schedule that carries the brand’s message to the people who need it most.

Content marketing team working together to plan content calendar

So, what is a content calendar? 

A content calendar is a schedule of when and where you plan to publish content. In its simplest form, it’s a spreadsheet listing the content to be delivered across a predetermined calendar – day to day, week to week, or month to month. 

In its most comprehensive form, it’s a multidimensional masterpiece punctuated by content pieces aligned to content pillars, seasonality, promotional activity and partnerships, extending into its various channels with status updates, authorship details and accompanying assets.

The more detail you include, the greater your chance of success as a content marketer. Those details allow for efficiencies, contingency plans and a deeper view of the workflow that skims across your team.

Why are content calendars important? 

Let us count the ways. At the very least, content calendars afford organisation. And that should be enough motivation, if it weren’t for myriad other reasons. 
  • Transparency of workflow – content calendars bring transparency to an often-obscure work process. Once documented, the calendar can be shared across stakeholders to ensure responsibilities and deliverables are met, marketing or business activities are considered, and cross-department alignment is attained. 
  • Find the gaps – it’s much easier to see what’s missing by looking at what’s already there. A content calendar allows you to identify content gaps, especially when you’re working to pre-agreed content pillars, and ensure you’re hitting all the seasonal highpoints, like Christmas and Mother’s Day. 
  • Align goals – one of the most important questions we should ask ourselves as content creators is: what are we trying to achieve? Why are we creating this content? Is it working inside the brand’s guidelines and are we focusing on cultural diversity, for example? A content calendar gives us pause to ask these questions. 
  • Content marketing 101 – it’s not how long your content list it, but what you do with it! The foundation of the calendar is the content. But this list lives in an ecosystem of marketing tactics, from building content pillars and extending into multichannel variants like video, to determining evergreen content from trending content, and considering amplification and boosting posts to new audiences. 
So, we’ve outlined what a content calendar is and why it’s important; now it’s time to get your hands dirty and build your own from scratch. Head on over to part two in this series “How to build a content calendar” – and let your content planning creativity run wild.

Sophie Knox, editorial director

Don't miss our monthly content marketing insights. Subscribe to The Lead.