If you are in to publicity and media, you've probably heard the term "editorial calendar" most likely in reference to magazine publishing when they are looking for advertisers. But it's about time you knew the term isn't exclusive to the magazine industry. Small and mid-sized businesses use it to keep publishing material organized within the company.
Now you may be thinking that you would have no use for an editorial calendar. But if you have a blog, newsletter, white papers, direct mail campaign, or an ad circulation, it may be in your best interest to develop one. Editorial Calendars are a great way for you to stay organized and think ahead in terms of content. Typically, editorial calendars are broken down by weeks for each medium and list the publication date, tentative title, distribution, keywords, tags, author, theme, or focus for that period. Most people like to create one in Google Spreadsheets or Excel. My preference just happens to be Excel.
Of course, your editorial calendar doesn't need to be as complex or include so much information. It could simply be a spreadsheet detailing a focus topic for each month; especially since it will most likely only be viewed internally. Regardless of how you choose to organize it, the editorial calendar will certainly be an asset for content creation. For example, if you have a newsletter and white papers, using the editorial calendar can assist with repurposing and recycling information to help save time. Furthermore, once it's time to brainstorm a blog topic or newsletter column, the editorial calendar can help keep your thinking in the right direction - another timesaver. Lastly, it can be used to help manage social media initiatives, contests, and promotions.
I get a lot of blogging clients and as usual I ask them a lot of questions to get a feel for their style. In most cases, they have no problem answering my long list of prying questions. Yet, I always manage to stump them with one. "What is the purpose of this blog?" It's the one that seems to draw the most blank stares, awkward silences, and stuttered phrases. Or I get some variation of, "Everyone else has one so we should to." If this is your reasoning, you are heading for disaster.
Yes, it's good to keep up with competition. However, you need to have a better reason than "everyone else is doing it". It's necessary to know what you are trying to achieve with your blog, otherwise you will be working aimlessly and head straight for destruction. Trust me - a blog with no direction is easily detectable.
So how do you get a direction? You consider your target audience, your service/product and what you hope to accomplish. Once you decide what your end goal is, it will be much easier for you to understand your blog's purpose and write in a way to reflect that. The purpose directly relates to the way it's written. For example, if your purpose is to interact with more prospects, you may want to write your blog in a conversational tone and ask lots of questions. If your purpose is to establish yourself as an expert, you'll want to include how-to posts and lists. If you're still not sure, hold off on starting a blog until you can come up a plan of attack. After all, starting a blog without a plan (or a purpose) is like shooting a gun with a blindfold on. You'll only end up hurt and disappointed.
When dealing with new prospects the question I hear most frequently is, "How exactly do this work?" The truth is, many businesses are intrigued by the thought of working with a freelance copywriter but not exactly sure if it's the right choice for them. Even more so, they seem to be completely confused about the process and have warped expectations. Well, the worrying and confusion ends now. Here are a few things you can expect when working with a freelance copywriter.
1. Questions, questions and more questions
Copywriters want to make sure they get it right the first time. After all, we're not happy unless you're happy. The only way to guarantee your happiness is to ask you lots of questions so we understand exactly what you are looking for. Be prepared to answer questions about your style, marketing plan, deadline, target audience, voice, purpose, business operations, etc. The more information you can provide, the better. So try to have an idea of project details, word count and required research. And don't get taken aback by all the questions. It's all to make sure we are seeing eye to eye!
2. Homework and Responsibilities
You may be hiring us, but success is directly related to your cooperation. That means being available when we have questions, providing us with all necessary background information, and giving feedback in a timely matter. If you don't critique drafts, provide contact information for an interview, or keywords to include, the project comes to a stand still and does not get completed to your satisisfaction. In other words, do your homework and we won't have problems!
3. Rough drafts and outlines
No need to worry if you don't like something or want to take something out. Edits are a normal part of the writing process. Freelance copywriters are happy to make any corrections or changes to your satisfaction. So expect to see a few drafts and/or an outline before reaching perfection.
4. Customization and flexibility
There are no rules to follow but your own. That's the beauty of working with a freelance copywriter. The only person they need to listen to is you so it's much easier to make special payment packages, meet a certain deadline or just go the extra mile.
5. Customer service at it's finest
Freelance copywriters are not salaried workers in a corporate office. Therefore, our livelihood directly depends on the service we provide for clients. If you're not happy, we don't get paid or referrals. So expect exemplary customer service with perfect copy, quick turnaround times, and accessibility.
You may have set a resolution to trim the fat from your waistline this year, but your content may stand to shave off some excess weight as well. If you're confused I don't blame you; especially after hearing from several gurus that it's best to write in a conversational tone. In other words, write the way you talk. Yes, it's good advice. However, the problem is most people are naturally very wordy and don't get to the point. And that is why it is almost always necessary to trim the fat from your writing.
In case you were wondering, the fat is the verbiage that adds absolutely nothing to your work. Most likely they are those unnecessary words that take up space. Here's a few of them:
In almost all situations cutting the word "just" makes the sentence much stronger and less demanding or needy. Examples:
- I just wanted to say goodnight.
- If you would just pay me tonight I can buy the tickets.
The only thing "going to" does to a sentence is make it more wordy and harder to follow. Instead remove "going to" and replace it with "will". Examples:
- I am going to find that book before work.
- Michael is going to forget how to play the piano if he doesn't practice soon.
In most cases "that" is usually an unnecessary word and weakens the sentence. Examples:
- Did you know that elephants have amazing memories?
- I love the outfit that Beyonce wore at the Grammy's.
It's no secret the most difficult part of writing is the editing. After all the typing and brainstorming is complete, you somehow realize that what you wrote is way too long. Or you managed to miss the point you were trying to make completely. Of course, the next step is to break out the infamous red pen or work out that backspace button until you get it just right. The only problem is you feel that it is already just right and you can't bear to separate yourself from the lovely melody of words that danced its way into your heart. I think it's safe to say that we've all been there at one point or another. Luckily, the solution is simple. Ready?
STOP FALLING IN LOVE WITH YOUR WORDS!
I know the truth hurts, but it's a harsh reality that we all need to face at some point. The reason why editing your work is so difficult is because you've gotten too attached to it already and think you'll suffer from separation anxiety. Even worse, you're nervous once you hit delete your compelling words will disappear forever, never to see the light of day again.
Well, you're in luck. Thanks to advancements in technology you now have the power to create multiple documents and save multiple versions of your work. That way you'll never have to worry about the death of a short lived quote again, because it will live on forever in your hard drive. Now you have the ability to hit delete without remorse and continue editing your work until it reaches perfection.
Now, I'm not saying you can't put your heart into what you write or lust after the string of words you created. I'm just saying, don't get so attached to your work that it prohibits you from doing your job well. Falling head over heels with your content can turn a 20-minute editing job into a two hour job. Do yourself a favor and remove those shackles from your heart, master the art of saving several document versions, and get to editing.
Trust me, your readers will thank you. Besides, you can always revisit past loves in the doldrums of your hard drive when the feeling strikes.