Why and how to use an editorial calendar for pitch planning

Tying a campaign to holidays or seasonal goings-on can afford you significant traction, but it can’t be done willy-nilly. Ask news outlets about their deadlines, and schedule accordingly.

Editorial calendar guidelines

Planning is vital to successful pitching—and an editorial calendar is an essential scheduling component.

Editorial calendars give a PR department or agency a roadmap for creation of PR materials, including 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. They also help you update your pitches and track their success.

Some PR pros download one of the hundreds of free editorial calendar templates available online. Just use Google to search “editorial calendar template 2019.” In the results, you’ll see useful ads at the top and then relevant or popular options. You’ll probably find what you need on the first page.

Some PR departments and agencies devise a spreadsheet to accommodate specific needs or idiosyncrasies. Others, especially solo communications consultants, opt for a simpler approach and tack a large desk calendar to the wall.

Select the right editorial calendar format

To select an appropriate format, Susan Young, CEO of Get in Front Communications, suggests considering these questions:

  • Will you be using an editorial calendar for both traditional PR activities (press releases, events, TV interviews) and for the online content you create?
  • Will you need separate content calendars for calls to action, keywords and generating leads?
  • Do you prefer a weekly, monthly or quarterly calendar?
  • Is the calendar visually appealing and easy to organize and revise?
  • Will your team communicate electronically, or are you a solopreneur who prefers a paper calendar?
  • Do you need a dashboard-style content calendar that has separate fields for deadlines, reviews, sales-campaign collaboration, departmental/client approvals and publishing dates? Agencies, corporate communicators and larger teams typically use these.
  • Is the calendar simple, realistic and structured for maximum efficiency?

Gather dates and deadlines

After selecting a format, list date-specific events such as a client’s annual golf outing, evergreen content associated with a month or season, and topics you plan to pitch to news outlets.

Magazine editorial calendars, typically found in the media kit or advertising section on the publisher’s website, list topics that will be covered in each issue for the year. If it’s not posted online, request one. The lists of planned topics help craft targeted pitches. Note their deadlines, and set an earlier deadline when transferring dates onto your own calendar.

“This helps tremendously, so you aren’t pitching holiday styles in November, when the issue already closed end of September,” Danika Daly, founder of Danika Daly PR, writes in PR Couture.

Backtrack a few days or weeks from publication deadlines, and note when you should start drafting press releases, inviting reporters or recording videos.

Prioritize media opportunities

“Sort the top priorities by date, and start to think about what information you may need to craft the perfect pitch,” says Julie Miller of Axia Public Relations.

You might have to ask publications for additional details about topics listed on their calendars, Miller adds. Simply contact the editorial assistant with a quick question. That will help you send the kind of pitch they want, saving both their time and yours.

Editorial calendars can help you plan social media marketing, blog posting and other owned-media activities. “You never know what opportunities might come about from connecting a client product or service to a particular story idea, event or piece of news,” Daly says.

A version of this post first appeared on the Glean.info blog.

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