A successful PR campaign is a strategic one. That starts with planning earned and branded content around the schedules of target publications, as well as key dates, milestone events, and industry happenings. Planning is vital to successful pitching and one essential component is the humble editorial calendar. It’s the worst-kept secret in most PR firms.
An edcal is a content roadmap that ensures a steady flow of media coverage, even absent major news announcements. It’s like an unsung hero of the public relations world — not flashy or creative, but vital to a robust media placement schedule. Here’s how edcals can boost earned media outcomes, track goals, and keep all the moving parts of a PR plan aligned.
What is an editorial calendar?
Editorial calendars are created by publications to help editors plan out future issues. Though they’re typically created for advertising purposes, edcals give a PR team a topic guide for creation of press releases, blog posts and content marketing. By laying out what content to create, when to pitch and whom to pitch, editorial calendars make PR both easier and more effective. Any tool that helps you stay organized is one worth investing time to set up. Edcals help streamline content marketing efforts and reduces the stress of not always knowing what to publish when.
As part of a good PR plan, the edcal can contain special dates, events and occurrences as well as the publication’s schedule. There are four types of content to plan for:
Date-specific content: Begin with dates that are known and likely won’t change, such as holidays, specific launch days or company announcements.
Evergreen content: Not tied to a particular day, evergreen content can be used any time.
Breaking news: While this type of news can’t be planned, it’s still an important part of editorial calendars because it allows the opportunity for prominent placements and can help build credibility with reporters.
Repurposed content: Refresh previous content and select successful pitch ideas and posts. By updating a headline or freshening a statistic and repackaging the material as a new story angle, you can repurpose most content.
How are editorial calendars used?
Edcals outline the content that media outlets will focus on for the entire year. In a similar way, we keep a calendar that outlines key topics for promotion, including proactive media pitches and social media posts for the year. With a structured plan in place, PR pros can space out appropriate brand announcements on relevant days. Timing is everything when it comes to earned media, so we naturally want to avoid releasing announcements that might be overshadowed by other news during a holiday season or the runup to a major election. Of course, unforeseen media opportunities will come up throughout the year and we may have to stray a bit from the calendar, but that’s the beauty of a flexible media plan.
In order to see a return on investment, brands will ask about key performance indicators and metrics that have been met for each major time period. Having an editorial calendar can also help measure PR performance over the calendar year. Depending on how many pitch ideas there are mapped out on the edcal, PR teams can set goals for themselves, i.e. three or four published pieces per pitch angle or even set a quarterly goal like 30 stories per quarter based on four pitch ideas per month. You can track these goals right on the calendar, If you fall short, you’ll know to make them up in the next month.
Align the Team
An edcal can also align goals among PR, sales, marketing and higher-level executives so all messaging remains consistent from the top down. For example, a sales team can keep the team posted on important product updates, releases and announcements, and C-level group can share which industry events they’ll be attending that they want to be highlighted in content.
A social media strategy can also be aligned with the calendar to keep messaging and brand voice consistent across all channels. With an editorial calendar you can match your social media updates with the content you’re pitching. For every newly published piece of content, make sure you have several social shares to promote it over the following days and weeks. A long-term vision means you’re pushing a consistent brand voice and content that supports the company’s marketing goals. That’s where a solid PR plan works hardest.