We recently talked about how building a business blog can help you to increase brand recognition, forge stronger customer relationships, and ultimately boost sales. However, running an effective blog isn’t just about installing a blogging platform and making a few token posts. If you want your business blog to be successful, you need to set up a publishing calendar.
A publishing calendar dictates what you’ll post and when, as well as how you’ll manage the other ongoing tasks associated with running a blog, such as promoting its content and engaging with followers.
An effective publishing calendar addresses the following issues:
- When posts on your blog will go live
- Who is responsible for each scheduled post
- How and when you will respond to comments on your blog
- How you will promote your blog posts
Let’s look at each of these tasks in more detail.
Step 1: Schedule content ahead of time.
The first — and most important — task in creating a publishing calendar is to determine your desired content and schedule. Effective bloggers don’t just throw together a new article whenever the mood strikes. If you want to maintain a thriving, growing audience, you need to have a plan for what types of content and how often you’ll post.
In our previous post on business blogging, we talked about three major types of content to consider sharing:
- “Fresh” or newsworthy content (articles that offer a timely reaction to an industry news story or current event)
- Evergreen content (how-to and advice-filled articles that will be useful to readers no matter when they’re posted)
- Personal content (posts that reveal more about your personal life and opinions)
First, choose a rough ratio for your post types. Your ideal balance may vary depending on what industry you’re in, but a good place to start is 50 percent newsworthy content, 35 percent evergreen content, and 15 percent personal content. You don’t have to adhere to your target ratio religiously, but having a rough idea of how many articles you’ll need from each content category will help you to ensure that your posts are always valuable and interesting to your readers.
Next, determine how frequently you’ll post to your business blog. In order to build an audience, you’ll need to post regularly. If your last post is weeks out of date, readers will quickly grow bored and stop paying attention to your site — exactly the opposite effect of what you’re trying to achieve.
You don’t have to post daily in order to build an engaged audience, but you should aim to post new content at least once a week. If you can manage it, posting 2 to 3 times a week is even better in terms of creating the perception that your blog is active, interesting, and worthy of repeat visits. Posting daily enhances this effect even further, but be wary of investing too much time in your business blog at the expense of other aspects of your company.
Next, brainstorm at least 2 to 3 months’ worth of topics — and make a list. If you have the time, consider preparing some of these posts in advance, so you can easily launch them when you’re pressed for time. Even if you are unable to stockpile future articles, simply having a list of pre-approved topics will help get you motivated on days when you’d rather do anything but write for your blog.
Step 2: Manage authors and publishing rights.
When building your publishing calendar, consider is who will be responsible for launching each of the blog posts you scheduled in Step 1. Obviously, if you’re the only one writing, you can skip this section altogether, because you won’t need to worry about approving drafts or scheduling posts from multiple writers. However, if multiple employees share the responsibility of writing posts and publishing to your business blog, you’ll want to establish a procedure for managing multiple authors and publishing rights.
In general, if several people write for your blog, it’s easiest to have one person retain final authority for reviewing all article submissions and setting them up to go live. Depending on the blog platform you’re using, you should be able to give multiple authors the rights to load posts to the site, but not to publish them for public viewing.
Once the posts are loaded, the one person with editing rights can review and approve posts to publish to the site. By setting this approval system up in advance as part of your blog publishing calendar, you’ll minimize confusion and ensure that posts are published according to the schedule you established in Step 1.
Step 3: Review and respond to blog comments.
When you set up your business blog, you’ll need to decide whether or not to enable readers to leave comments on your posts. Although enabling comments ultimately creates a little more work, turning on this feature makes your blog seem more interactive and engaging to readers.
If you turn comments on, be sure to assign the following responsibilities as part of your publishing calendar:
- Manually approving comments
- Weeding out spam messages
- Replying to comments left by readers on your posts
Approving comments and deleting spam messages can be done quickly and shouldn’t require more than 10 to 15 minutes per day. Replying to comments left on your site, on the other hand, can take quite a bit of time. To minimize your total time investment, consider replying to only those comments that are left within a day or two of the post going live.
Step 4: Promote each new post.
The final element that your publishing calendar should cover is how and when you’ll promote each new post that goes live on your site. When you launch your blog, your initial readership may be quite small, making it vitally important that you get out there and spread the word.
New blog posts can be promoted in numerous places. Choose the ones that are right for your industry and schedule time to do them into your publishing calendar:
- Social media sites (including Facebook, Twitter, and Google+)
- Industry forums and message boards
- Social bookmarking sites (including Reddit, Digg, StumbleUpon, and others)
- Blog carousels
- Press release directories
By taking the time to assign each of these responsibilities and create a system for tracking task completion, you’ll ensure that your business blog becomes the thriving community portal it should be.