Begin at the Beginning: The Art of the Editorial Calendar

Begin at the beginning. You are probably wondering why I am quoting the author of “Alice in Wonderland” in a blog post about public relations. Good question. Well, it’s because every good PR and marketing plan starts just there: at the beginning. Whether it’s one of the nation’s top PR firms, an independent practitioner, or an entrepreneur looking to launch his or her own campaign, the foundation of good publicity begins with a plan. Public relations firms in particular offer myriad services to support and amplify campaign-related work. But the roots of glossy editorial coverage or national TV segments begin with a plan, and that plan often starts with an editorial calendar.

Yes, I know, the phrase editorial calendar may not get you excited the way talking about an article in The New York Times or coverage on CNN does, but it is an essential tool to securing the print, digital and broadcast coverage so many PR clients covet. The industry as whole has used editorial calendars for decades. Publicists have spent many an afternoon studying what magazines and newspapers are covering weeks and months in advance in order to fine-tune their media-relations strategy. Today, social media marketing and contributed content are equally important to an effective communications plan. As such, an editorial calendar is more important than ever. Integrating your media targets’ publishing schedules with social media calendars and owned-content opportunities create a strategic platform for consistent promotion. It also supports a PR team’s goal in publicizing their clients and creates a platform to measure the effectiveness of a PR campaign.

If you enjoy research and planning, then the process of creating an editorial calendar is for you. If not, then best leave it to a public relations professional. Nevertheless, here are some quick tips to get you started:

Get Your Hands on Some Ed Cals

Want to work with your target publications? Get interviewed by media? Be in that summer guide or September issue? Then get your hands on outlets’ editorial calendars. Often created by the advertising and marketing departments, and included as part of publications’ media kit, editorial calendars outline the closing date, issue theme and publication date for each issue.

Research Important Dates, Holidays and Happenings in Your Industry

Are you a restaurant that celebrates Cinco de Mayo? How about a woman-owned business that wants to promote your leadership team? It all starts with your knowledge of key dates and holidays that you can tie into social media content and public relations initiatives. While some of us love working under pressure, executing your PR and marketing under tight deadlines never yields the desired results. By including external dates, holidays and industry happenings into your communications plan, you can create new opportunities to position yourself as an expert with your audience, promote an event, and much more.

Make a List of Where You Want to be Seen and Heard

Do you want to be a go-to expert in your field? Is there a blog that is the preeminent source for information in your industry? Begin at the beginning and make a list of the sources and sites where you want to join the conversation. Contributed content on industry-centric, high-profile blogs and media outlets enhance credibility and can help bring qualified end-users back to your website to further engage with your brand.

Build out a 12-Month Calendar

Now, it’s time to take all the research and data you collected and organize it all in an editorial calendar. Take the leads from the magazines and newspapers you researched, the dates, trends and industry events you documented, and the influential sites and online hubs where you want your voice to be heard, and build out a 12-month calendar. It is best to keep it all in one place. In order to maximize effectiveness, include the lead time of each publication (this is why many monthly publications are referred to as long leads; they often work three to six months in advance). The exercise of building out your editorial calendar also helps with your own internal deadlines and planning. This is important because you can have one person or entire communications teams execute the strategy, dependent on tactics and scope, and be aligned under one message while working to meet internal and external deadlines.

Now, it’s time to begin at the beginning. Get started with the research and development of your own editorial calendar and enhance the effectiveness of your PR and communications plan. Trust us, it will be worth the extra time and effort when you see your name in print or on the big screen.

Shannon Furey

Public Relations Director, M studio

Looking to talk more about PR and marketing? Contact the M studio team here.