2018 marks my third year of blogging, and boy have I learned a lot in those three years. In the first year I learned that a 3 times per week publishing schedule is unrealistic for anyone who isn’t a Mommy Blogger.
In my second year I worked to be more concise. Trained as a Historian in University, brevity was not encouraged as all academic writing was focused towards providing proof and persuasion for your conclusions. But now I’m in the business world, where brevity is an absolute requirement.
So what am I working on for the third year? I’m tackling several issues that have haunted me from the beginning: Writers Block and Unfocused/Disjointed Posts.
The purpose of this blog is, and has always been, to help me level up my professional life. It’s a platform which allows me to share my observations and ideas on business, technology, project management and how I fit into it all. Taking your career to the next level is hard enough without having to try to persuade Recruiters, HR and ATS systems that you have more to offer than the skills they associate with your current job title, especially when your job title only reflects about 20% of what you are actually doing.
2018 is also set to be a very busy year for me. At the office I already have:
- Five major projects scheduled which involve travel across the country in Q1.
- Ongoing maintenance to almost 300 hours of e-learning content.
At home, we are working on:
- Starting a side gig to help us diversify and supplement our income streams.
- That gig requires me to get at least one certification, in addition to
- All of the steps necessary to get the gig off the ground.
Professionally, I have also:
- Been elected the Vice President of Membership and Marketing for the Project Management Institute Wichita Chapter.
- This year marks PMI Wichita’s 20th Anniversary so we have lots of things going on to mark the occassion.
- Oh, and did I mention I’m also going to sit for and obtain the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification by the end of the year?
So I decided to put some of my Project Management skills into practice for this blog, as a way to solve issues with Writers Block, Unfocused/Disjointed Posts and to keep me sane in the coming year. After a project has been Initiated, the next step is to Plan. Failure to Plan is Planning to Fail after all. To that end, I created an Editorial Calendar for 2018.
What is an Editorial Calendar?
Borrowing from the world of Content Marketing, an Editorial Calendar is a way to keep your message consistent, on-brand and on time. You don’t need much; you need a calendar of some form, paper-based or digital, whichever works for you. If you choose a paper-based version like I did, you’ll also need pens. That’s the easy part. The harder part is answering the next five questions you need to know to create your calendar:
Who is your ideal audience?
You need to develop a clear and detailed picture of who your ideal blog reader is. The more detail the better, because when you write your posts they need to be directed to your ideal reader. What are you trying to convince them of? What kinds of questions or problems do they have? How can you help them through your blogging? This is the frame your entire blog will be written around.
What are your marketing goals?
Exactly what are you trying to accomplish? Are you trying to sell something to your ideal audience? Are you trying to level up your job? How often are going to re-evaluate your marketing goals? All of your posts need to support these goals.
What are your Categories and Content Mix?
To prevent your posts from becoming disjointed or a confusing mix of random thoughts, choose over-arching themes for your blog. Using the information above, choose a handful of major themes to revolve your posts around. Within those themes, you can create sub-themes as long as they support your over-arching themes.
What are your Blog topics?
Now that you have your themes and sub-themes, come up with some blog topics that fit into those categories. Remember, the posts should not only fit within those themes, they need to be framed and written for your ideal audience.
What is your Realistic Content Creation Schedule?
Be honest about how often you could publish. How much time do you have? How many posts could you get out without it becoming a source of stress? That schedule will guide the entire year.
Answering these questions before creating my Editorial Calendar forced me to confront several issues that had been running through this blog project for a while. In particular, it forced me to identify and shift focus towards my ideal audience, rather than serving as a platform for me to shout into the void and hope that someone would hear it. It also helped me clarify my goals for the blog, and in turn for my career.
Now that I have my calendar established, I keep a running list in my planner of topics, divided by the theme they fit under. Whenever ideas for posts come to the surface, I force myself to think about how to frame it for my ideal audience and which theme it would fit under. Then I list it under that theme. This spread in my planner becomes the pick list for blog posts when I sit down and schedule out my posts. I decided to work with Quarterly marketing goals and a quarterly time frame simply because working more than three months in advance gets too fuzzy as far as my work schedule goes since a good portion of my job revolves around sales activity.
Now I know my ideal audience, I have six major themes for my posts, and I have my blog topics scheduled out through the first quarter of 2018, along with another two quarters worth of ideas for each of my six theme areas. Most importantly, the pressure and stress I had associated with blogging is gone, because I have a plan and my blog can essentially run on auto-pilot. That frees me up to focus on all of the other things I need to do this year. Welcome to 2018!