I’ve received many half-baked writing assignments. No keywords. No mention of content goals. No brief.
Some writers see this lack of direction as an open road to creative freedom. Others get stifled and don’t know where to start. And almost all of them end up receiving editing requests that could have been avoided if through assignment details had been shared up front.
When it comes to content marketing, there’s an agenda. The brand is creating awareness or making a sale in a specific way with each piece of content created. Whether you’re promoting your business, or working on a project for a brand client, the writer for your blog posts, static web pages, e-books and social media copy needs direction.
Hello, editorial calendar.
A few people I work with assign projects by sharing their editorial calendar with me so I can see the workflow, content requirements and which projects I’ve been assigned a month at a time. This process makes it easier for me as a writer to plan my writing tasks and project my income for the month.
What does a writer want from an editorial calendar?
Here’s my opinion of what information to share based on receiving thousands of content marketing writing assignments over the past nine years.
- Working Title: This helps define direction and tone. I can tell if the article should be playful and conversational or authoritative and direct just by the suggested title. It’s also helpful to know if this is the final approved title, or if you’d like a few suggested headlines from the writer.
- SEO Keywords: If a strategist researched which keywords are performing well on search engines, I want to know. Seeing a few long-tail keywords helps me understand the topics to emphasize in the introduction and throughout the article.
- Assignment Brief: Sometimes called a summary, the brief is the heart of the assignment. Tell me what you want. Highlight what you don’t want. At a minimum, explain the topic of the article and the angle (if defined) that you expect to receive. Some clients include a few bullet point points they’d like discussed in the text. Others have provided detailed outlines including subheadings and sources to reference. Briefs can be succinct or elaborate.
- Audience: Some publishers have multiple campaigns or readers they’re trying to reach. If you’ve outlined buyer personas or target audiences in your writer’s guidelines, mention which one each piece of content should address.
- Sources: Brand partnerships are the norm in content marketing. If there’s a source that needs to be cited, list it. If the content strategist was inspired by a similar article online and think it would make a great resource for readers, include it.
- Links: Does a specific backlink to another page on the brand’s website or social media need to be included? Let the writer know so they can seamlessly weave it into the content, rather than having a copy editor or strategist add it later.
- Goals: A quick note about the purpose of the content helps guide writers in tone and composition. Is the content’s purpose to instigate social conversation, a click on an in-depth downloadable report or inspire the person to try something new that might include a specific brand product?
- Deadlines: In addition to the assignment due date, it’s helpful to know when edits can be expected (so I can budget that into my workflow) and the potential publish date (so I can read and share the final content).
Finally, every editorial calendar should have contact information for the managing editor or person the writer is working with directly for quick, direct follow-up questions. Also include links to the publication’s writer’s guidelines or style guide that outlines tone, voice, writing style, word count requirements, buyer personas and other parameters.
What do you think should be included in an editorial calendar for writers? Comment below or on this post on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.
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