Think Like a Journalist: Use the 5 Ws to Build Your Blog Editorial Calendar
This is a guest post by Lacy Boggs.
Before coming to blogging, I had a fairly successful career as a journalist—a food writer and assistant editor for a hyper-local magazine in Boulder, Colorado. No, it wasn’t exactly hard-hitting journalism, but I did get to play out my His Girl Friday fantasies (without Cary Grant or the fabulous hats, sadly), and I learned a lot about how to convey information concisely, how to write quickly, and how to plan and use an editorial calendar.
Turns out, those were all fantastic skills that I took with me when I left the magazine for building a successful blog that supports a small business.
But let’s step back for a second.
Why do I need an editorial calendar?
Every newspaper, magazine—and yes, major blog—that you read has an editorial calendar. It can be simple or very complex, but it’s basically just a tool to help you plan and keep track of your content.
Your blog is the nexus of your social media strategy, so you need to have a great plan for what you’re going to blog about so that you can translate that into a great plan for marketing your business and selling your stuff. If you want to use your blog to help turn your readers into raving fans and customers, you’ve got to have a PLAN for how you’re going to achieve that.
Use the 5 Ws to build your editorial calendar.
What you can steal from journalists here are the 5 Ws—who, what, when,where, why, and how. That’s like Journalism 101 for covering a story. (In fact, you probably learned that writing reports back in grade school.)
But it’s also Blog Editorial Calendar 101. You have to be able to answer the five Ws for your blog and all the posts you plan to write if you want your blog to be an effective marketing and selling tool for your business.
When I build an editorial calendar, I like to do it in a spreadsheet, with a column for each of these categories:
Who are you writing for?
Who is your ideal reader? (Here’s a hint: your ideal reader is the one who converts into a customer!) If you only have one ideal reader profile, you probably don’t need a column for this, but if you have more than one, be sure you know which reader each post will appeal to.
What are you going to write about?
This is where you answer that age-old question that plagues writers everywhere. But if you’ve got a bigger overall plan, it shouldn’t be too hard to answer.
When are you going to write each post?
In the most basic sense, this is the calendar part of the editorial calendar. But it also refers to that bigger plan that takes into account your sales cycles, your product launches, discounts and coupons, guest blogs, and the like. Start with the stuff that’s already written in your calendar (a product launch, for example, or a holiday you want to promote for) and work backwards.
Where are you going to promote it?
Derek Halpern over at Social Triggers says that writing the blog post is only 20 percent of the work, and promoting it is the other 80 percent. If you’re not thinking about where you’re going to promote your work, you’re wasting a lot of your effort.
Why are you writing this post?
You shouldn’t write anything unless you can answer this question, because the answer tells you where each post fits into your overall blog strategy.
Thinking about each of these components will help you plan to make your blog work as hard for your business as you do!
And if you’re thinking right now, “But what about creativity! What about inspiration! I can’t work with every little blog post planned out like that!”—don’t fret!
The editorial calendar is just a tool. You’re still the boss. If inspiration strikes and something new comes up that you want to write about it, go for it! Your editorial calendar is a living document, that changes as your business needs do.
When the inspiration is flowing, flow with it. When it’s not, your calendar is your backup plan.
Got questions about this? I’d love to answer them in the comments!
Lacy Boggs is a Featured Speaker in the Heart Centered Business Bootcamp. Hear Lacy’s interview, and 20 other experts, talk about how you can take YOUR business to the next level in 2014. CLICK HERE for more information.
Lacy Boggs has been telling stories since she first learned to talk, and knew from childhood that she would turn her lifelong love of writing into a career. In 2011, she gave up her 60-hour-per-week job as a food writer and magazine editor to become a full-time mom and part-time work at home freelancer, and knew she had to figure out how to tell her story. After growing her personal food blog more than 800 percent in a single year, Lacy realized she could help other small business owners do the same and launched Ghostblogger.co—a service to help small business owners build their business with a brilliant blog. Lacy lives like a foodie in gorgeous Colorado with her husband and daughter.