How to build a marketing department from scratch: Editorial calendars

Why would my company need an editorial calendar?

They are obviously useful for large companies, the ones that churn out tons of content. Someone with an editorial calendar can keep track of daily posts, delegate tasks to several employees, and manage overlapping deadlines.

Then, there’s me. I work for a small business. Our specialty is very niche. We only use one social media channel – Facebook. The marketing department consists of me, myself, and I.

Two reasons I decided to wade into the ocean of available-online editorial calendar templates:

  1. To keep myself and my baby marketing department accountable
  2. To practice big-girl marketing skills that may help me land another job

Here’s a rundown, for the complete beginner, of five editorial calendar templates and services, rated by cost, ease of use, usefulness, and — of course — prettiness.

My goals going in were simple: schedule one Facebook post per week, two blog posts per month, and keep track of my deadlines and topics on a graphical calendar. Leggo.

1. Brandpoint and Hubspot Excel spreadsheets

These were out of contention for my day-to-day use right out of the gate, simply because they’re Excel sheets. On my running list of Useful Things I Should Know But Don’t Right Now and Don’t Have Time to Learn if I Also Want to Sleep, Excel is number one.

To give you an idea of my total lack of skills in this department: I recently learned how to wrap text within cells, and it represents the pinnacle of my Excel knowledge.

As for the sheets themselves, I only had to sell my soul — I mean give my name and email address — to Brandpoint and HubSpot to get these sheets. Free is always nice, especially when your marketing budget is tight.

They look almost identical:

brandpoint ed cal
Editorial calendar by Brandpoint.
hubspot ed cal
Editorial calendar by HubSpot.

(Pro-tip: CTA = Call to Action; CPC = Cost per Click. At least that’s my best guess).

If I were to use one of these, I’d scale them way back. Remove target persona, word count, cost of creation, and traffic. I’m the only one writing Facebook and blog posts, so author could go as well.

The main thing I’m concerned with is publish date — the idea is to keep myself accountable after all. And for that, I find myself wanting less of a spreadsheet and more of a calendar. With that in mind:

Cost: 5/5

Ease of use: 3/5

Usefulness: 2/5

Prettiness: 2/5

2. Airtable

I knew, looking at Airtable’s home page, that this website was going to require some tutorial watching, my reaction to which was:

giphy

Like how, for example, there are two content calendar templates to choose from. Why:

airtable two cal.png

Which should I choose? Honestly, when I opened the Digital Content Calendar and saw the color-coded fantasia that awaited me, I didn’t even care anymore because I knew I had larger issues:

airtable.JPG
This is just a prettier (yay) Excel spreadsheet with even more functions I don’t know how to manage. Joy.

Because the information in this spreadsheet can be displayed in a calendar view, I felt it was worth learning how to use. I started with their Overview video (find it in the Help Center) and then watched their more in-depth Getting Started tour.

If you’re looking to build a calendar specifically, I recommend skipping both those and going straight to this video: Airtable Demo: Creating An Editorial Calendar. It’s 23 minutes long and still won’t tell you how to do basic things like rename section titles, but it will show you how to track your staff writers! (Sigh.)

I would not call Airtable intuitive. It took me longer than it should have to figure out really basic formatting things, and as a one-woman marketing department, I just don’t need the robust functionality of this system.

Cost: 3/5 – You get a basic version for free, but it’ll constantly prompt you to upgrade to the Pro plan, which costs $20/month.

Ease of use: 2/5

Usefulness: 5/5 – Especially if you need to track a lot of content and/or a lot of writers

Prettiness: 5/5

3. Monday

Like Airtable, I was able to get access to Monday for free by making an account.

Initial impressions: this system is so user-friendly. As you can see, everything is clearly labeled, easy to edit, change, and move. Bonus: there are no confusing extra features I don’t need.

Monday.JPG

Double clicking on an entry lets you add notes and files — exactly what I need without fluff functions. And, most excellent of all, it has a rocking calendar view:

Monday calendar.JPG

This system required no tutorials or help centers, and it was easily tailored to my (very basic) needs.

Cost: 4/5 – You won’t get bugged to upgrade like with Airtable. But, if you need more people on your account, more storage, or want the search function, you’ll need to pay at least $25/month.

Ease of use: 5/5

Usefulness: 5/5

Prettiness: 5/5

UPDATE: I have made a horrible mistake. As it turns out, you can only access Monday for free for a month before they require a subscription, the cheapest of which costs $25/month. New cost rating: 2/5

4. Smartsheet

After exploring Monday, I didn’t think I needed to look further. But maybe you, dear reader, will need Smartsheet, so I poked around anyway.

Conclusion: Smartsheet is the Blackberry to Monday’s iPhone. It is bare-bones and business-oriented, and probably won’t be used much in ten years.

Smartsheet.JPG

It’s Airtable without the prettiness, an Excel spreadsheet online and attached to a database. It is easily editable, so it’s got the edge on Airtable. You can put your info in a calendar view, but entries can’t be dragged and dropped from that view into different dates.

Cost: 4/5 – Free for one user with the option to upgrade for $25/month

Ease of use: 3/5

Usefulness: 5/5

Prettiness: 2/5

Conclusion

If you’re an Excel neophyte, a beginner marketer, or a one-woman content creator, Monday is the site you should use to build an editorial calendar.