Lee Odden

Mastering The Content Workflow

content marketing workflow[Note from Lee: While I fervently pursue the home stretch of writing my own book “Optimize“, I’ve asked a few friends to share their thoughts on topics such as Content Marketing, SEO and Social Media. This post comes from Rebecca Lieb, who I’ve known since her days at ClickZ, then Econsultancy and now she is digital advertising and media analyst at the Altimeter Group. Her new book, Content Marketing: How to Think Like a Publisher to Market Online and in Social Media comes out this week.]

Content workflow is the point at which content marketing gets tactical. It’s nuts-and-bolts process: content calendars, creation, approvals, style guides, templates, and tools.

Get this part right and you’ll be ready to run a newsroom.

At the core of a content workflow is creating an editorial calendar to establish what content will be created, when, in what format, and for which content channel. A digital editorial calendar also tracks connections for that content, including how content will be repurposed and amplified in social media channels.

The editorial calendar should list of all content approved for publication. It addresses how much content is created, how often, and when it will publish. It includes content requirements, responsibilities, and a schedule.

An editorial calendar should be governed by a master calendar that takes into account key dates and events. It not only provides an overview of what content publishes by day, week, or month, but ties that broader schedule together with specifics, like holidays, trade shows, company announcements, events, or product launches. Don’t forget to take international holidays into account if content is targeted to foreign countries. These key dates also help inform the editorial calendar with ideas for content themed for the Christmas season, perhaps, or a major industry conference at which you’re releasing a whitepaper.

The editorial calendar also serves as an invaluable map for repurposing content. Say you’re publishing a whitepaper or research report. How and when will that information be broken down and funneled into other channels, such as a blog, press release, or an update on a social network? It should also act as a reminder to collect appropriate graphic elements like photos, charts, graphs, or multimedia content to enhance the written word.

The editorial calendar funnels “real-world” content into digital channels. Perhaps an executive is speaking at a conference or has made a media appearance. Capture the presentation and share it on SlideShare or YouTube.
Holiday reminders should be taken seriously and leavened with common sense. Seasoned editors don’t publish their best material late on a summer Friday afternoon when their target audience is beach-bound, just as a financial services company shouldn’t publish on a bank holiday Monday. It’s common sense; content should have the maximum possible impact.

Editorial calendars track what kind of content is created, when, and how often. A calendar might show you post twice daily to Twitter, blog three times a week, and send newsletters twice monthly, on Wednesdays.

Editorial calendars are critical tools in tracking ideas for content. A company striving to post four times per week on its blog might shoot for one originally authored piece, one commentary on industry news, a guest post from an outside expert, and one round-up of curated links on topics related to the business. Having specific goals helps to alleviate that “blank page” syndrome when you know you have to create something, you just don’t have a clue what that something should be.

Many editorial calendars incorporate the production process into the mix to ensure content creation is on track. This can include who’s responsible for individual content elements, when a first draft is due, who conducts the copy edit, and when (often, with a specific time) the final draft will be received, proofed, entered into the CMS (or newsletter template, or blog platform), and be published.

A follow-up process can be designed to promote and disseminate content on social media: tweeting, linking to, and otherwise amplifying the content. Whose job is that, and when will they do it? The editorial calendar should address this aspect of connect-the-dots content.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. A great post, it shows that if you have good content, you need to make sure you release it at the best time for maximum results.

  2. An editorial calendar is really one of the best ways to stay organized and on top of things. True in journalism as in content marketing.

  3. Avatar Danny Blair says

    Pretty straightforward stuff really. Most experienced PR professionals will have the nounce to do this. Although the online side extends and fragments the process a great deal more. It’s all about being organised and professional

  4. Avatar Samantha_genevay says

    Awesome post!  An editorial calendar is an extremely useful tool in order to stay focused and organized.  An editorial calendar is able to track if and when posts are being made, but I believe that it is most useful in preventing, as you stated, “blank page syndrome.”  It’s pointless to write without knowing really at all what message you are attempting to deliver, and an editorial calendar puts an end to that.

  5. A great post. Having a topic and a deadline often helps blank-page syndrome. I routinely use a great tool http://www.writeordie.com where you can set your word limit and your time limit and it prods you to stay focused on the task at hand. It’s for drafting not editing and you’ll get the words you need down on your page for tidying later.

    The other thing you might try is write a list of 10 possible topics (I keep mine on evernote & add when the mood takes me) and then set aside a couple of hours and just write as many as you can. Make your pieces as long as you like. Then you can break them up into much smaller chunks for your posts. My piece of top 10 reasons for outsourcing your marketing turned into a bit of a novel – so it then became 3 reasons, 3 more reasons, another 3 reasons, etc – all from one 40 minute session at the keyboard.

    • “dead” line, write or “die”. Am I sensing a Halloween theme here? Of course not – just a sense of urgency to get the creative writing juices going. Thanks for the tips Kristin.

  6. This post is helpful. We have the calendar down, but haven’t added the production time in (e.g. we have finish dates, but not start dates). Adding that in could really help us to keep on schedule.  Thanks!