Some of you may remember that I shared a depressing screen capture of my Facebook Insights visual right after taking a two-week break during the holidays. The comments in the thread were terrific and generated a blog post: http://www.bethkanter.org/getting-started. But more importantly, I wanted to close the loop and show you that after getting back to a consistent editorial calendar, the engagement and reach came back from vacation. Now, I think I just might be able to enjoy my next vacation without stressing myself out about having to post. I think that is an important insight for small organizations who don’t have a team of people doing the social media and trying to do it with limited hours in the day.
One of the posts that got a lot of engagement and contributed to the uphill trend in the metrics was about editorial calendars. This post generating a lot of thoughtful discussion about nonprofits approach the editorial planning process as well as sharing of different editorial calendar templates.
But it is important to understand that there is a process behind the template. I asked fans on Facebook, “Does your organization use an editorial calendar and “editorial meetings” to get ideas and manage content for a content strategy?” Here’s some insights generated through the discussion about that:
- Allocate Staff Meeting Time: Teresa Crawford reported that her organization devotes some time at staff meetings each week to see what content is catching the most interest, what messages seem to have the greatest reach. Her team members use both a Google spreadsheet, Google Cal and Jira to manage it all.
- Regular Content Editorial Meetings: At the Case Foundation, Jenna Sauber reported that they have editorial meetings every two weeks to plot out content in detail. The meeting runs over upcoming: events, seasonal tie-ins, program launches or milestones, etc. They talk through all the various components. Additionally, they start initial brainstorms and start generating idea – should it be a promotion, just a blog post, an email, etc. These meetings in addition to other check ins and end of year planning all comes together to plot out our themes and strategy.
- Set Next Steps at Meetings: Marnie Webb at TechSoup Global says they also use a weekly meeting to report on efforts and make the next set of decisions. Those decisions are implemented across the organization’s web properties and social channels. . The work is tracked in a shared spreadsheet and accompanying meeting notes.
- Have Your Metrics In Hand: Says Marnie, “We found the meeting format to work well so that we were better managing the main messages of the content, differentiating across properties but, most important, kept a team bought into the goals and able to make quick changes based on what we learned from metrics. For us, this has been linked not just to content like articles a blog posts but also forum threads, email outreach, and broad campaigns — like our recent Cloud Survey. So we want to make sure that we getting conversions from our content — which, depending on the content type, is a variety of next actions.”
What are the metrics for measuring your content? Of course, it depends on your objectives and audience, but here is a framework to help you think about it.
These suggestions also might work for smaller organizations where there is one person managing the social media or for consultants like me who are a one-person shop. My colleague, Debra Askansae, who is a blogger and consultant with nonprofits recently wrote a great post about taking her medicine and this follow up post about content calendars. She asked me in the Facebook thread whether or not I used an editorial calendar.
My answer: Yes! Ever since I’ve been recommending it and teaching it to nonprofits after being inspired by Holly Minch’s model in 2011. (I can’t facilitate peer learning groups, design/write curriculum, or coach unless I’ve had the experience myself). I’m basically a one person shop – so I do it all which gives me great empathy for those of you who are in that position. However, I adapt many of the ideas that work for larger organizations – and try to do them in a simpler way so it takes less time.
I have an editorial calendar where I map out themes for the year – topics that relate to being a networked nonprofit, measurement, capacity building/training, and social media. I blog because it helps me in the work I do as trainer — so many times my posts will help me generate a presentation or curriculum. Other ideas come from people that are in the peer groups I facilitate or engagement/discussion from blog comments or social channels. I balance content between my own writing and guest posts. I also look at particular holidays or events in the nonprofit tech field that I want to cover. These all go on a google calendar – the theme and title.
To develop my content pipeline, I maintain an idea dashboard. I monitor, track, and curate daily on the topics and sub-topics related to my themes and write out quick drafts with links in my idea dashboard (in Evernote) and I actually like to keep a written journal – because ideas come to me off line from my training work. Once a week I have a meeting with myself to finalize the week’s content and look at the whole month while reviewing my metrics. For the metrics, I don’t just look at numbers, I also do an analysis of engagement around content – as well as keep a running list of what topics/formats worked pretty well. Over the past 5 years since I’ve been analyzing metrics and my content, I have a good list of the topics that do well.
Since I use an idea dashboard to develop my content — it includes links, general structure for the blog post, format, etc .. I can quickly get a draft into my blogging platform. Then when I am ready to publish I refine the posts when they are ready to be published. Sometimes I ditch what I had planned because of some breaking news.
My blog content is the driver of what I post on social channels, I just optimize the content for that channel. I also use specific metrics on the channel to guide me. I also share curated links through social channels. The curation is part of my work flow to write the blog post and keep myself informed, so it isn’t extra work. I do have to time box it though because I only allocate 30 minutes a day to curation.
This might sound like a lot of work, but what I have done is cut the salami up into smaller pieces. I find it daunting to decide on a topic, research a topic, write and revise a blog draft, and share it on other social channels. So, if I can break up the process into smaller chunks over time, it is much more efficient for me and I am less proned to procrastinate.
What’s your content idea development process? What role do your metrics play in your editorial decision-making? How do you manage it all?