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In Defense of Editorial Calendars

March 16, 2011

I like Gary Vaynerchuk. His message to the world–be human, be responsive, be fast–is the same as what we try to do for our clients through brand journalism. (If you’re a Gary Vee fan,you might like this interview I did with him a couple years ago.)

During his presentation at SXSW this year, Gary said a lot of things that appeal to the social media strategist in all of us. But he also said some baffling things–like this quote: “Content calendars suck; that’s like bringing a script to a cocktail party.”

That one cuts close to the bone for me, since a lot of my work involves making sure we have a central calendar to plan our campaign around. The calendar coordinates the teams, the messaging, the distribution channels, and the voices that go into a sophisticated content-centric campaign.

Here’s my three-part response to Gary’s statement:

  1. Content calendars are extraordinarily hard to build when you’re dealing with complex campaigns for global brands
  2. When done right, content calendars unify disparate silos within an organization, providing cohesiveness to a campaign with lots of stakeholders. Think PR, AR, C-suite, product teams, legal, global subs…all with their own timelines and messaging priorities. A good calendar imposes order on the chaos and helps everyone align their goals across all channels
  3. There’s no reason to sacrifice planning and quality on the altar of speed and responsiveness. Clients can and should expect both from a content-centric campaign

Pick up a magazine or read a newspaper, and you’ll see the output of a content calendar: Publishers carefully blending long-lead feature stories with quick-hit breaking news. Every magazine issue and every newspaper section is driven by a content calendar, because calendaring is essentially planning. And who’s against planning? Should all content be seat-of-the-pants? And what would that world look like?

The trick to succeeding with an editorial calendar is knowing how to blend it with real-time responsiveness–you have to know when to chuck the plan and crank something out now now now. And that is probably what Gary was railing against–companies that appear clueless because they’re mindlessly sticking to their talking points instead of participating in conversations.

That I get. What I don’t get is the idea that we shouldn’t be planning our content creation.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. sunni thompson permalink
    March 16, 2011 11:40 am

    Kyle – I actually had the exact same reaction to Gary’s comment, but with much less eloquence and clarity of thought. An additional point to yours above: Content calendars ensure that you are remembering to cover the big stuff. I’m all for seat-of-the-pants content, but you can easily get too focused on replying to Joe Shmoe’s comment on your Facebook profile and forget to publish the big feature about a new product release or website launch. Vaynerchuk is an amazing public speaker, but this was a blanket statement that I can’t agree with.

  2. Geraldine Seymour permalink
    March 16, 2011 12:45 pm

    Sometimes publishers see an editorial calendar as interfering with their attempts to stay on or ahead of the zeitgeist. But as a publisher moves towards setting the agenda, rather than just sharing it, calendars become far more important.

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  1. Content calendars are king « Prakkypedia

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