Content planning is easy to get lost in. From repurposing across channels to targeting the right keywords; it's often far easier to simply 'wing it' than to setup a dedicated content plan for success.
Part of the difficulty comes from the tools we have at our disposal. Reduce the friction involved in content planning, increase the effectiveness of that planning. And when it comes to tools for creating a content calendar and schedule; I really can't go past Notion. Stitching together Google Sheets, docs, social media planner tools and who knows what else is a tedious nightmare. With Notion, you can keep all your research, ideation, goals, campaigns, content and planning in one place.
And in this post, we'll walk through a content calendar template in Notion for doing precisely that. Let's dive in.
What is a content calendar?
A content calendar is simply a plan with a clear schedule.
When planning your content calendar, there's plenty to consider. Here are a few factors that come to mind:
How often do you want to publish?
What is your bar for quality?
What is the goal or purpose of your content?
Which channels will you be most active on?
If you've already spent some time fleshing out a content strategy, many of these questions will answer themselves. More on that here.If not, no worries. Let's take a quick look at some guidance on each of the above.
Publishing frequency: There are two approaches you can take to determining your publishing frequency. 1) Work backwards from some clear target or business-related goals to discover how much content is needed; 2) Set yourself a clear process goal to hold yourself accountable. The first approach is typically best when your content has a clear business goal or monetization objective.
The second approach, on the other hand, can be more forgiving and suitable to side hustles, passion projects and personal blogs where the real objective is the creative and publishing process itself.
When it comes to working backwards, an example might look like this: Suppose you'd like to eventually drive 10K visitors/month to your site, and that you'd like to focus on organic SEO as your strategy. In your research, you're confident that each targeted keyword article can bring you 500 page visits per month; working backwards from our goal of 10,000/month, you can quickly see that 20 published articles are needed. The frequency of creating and publishing these posts will depend on some other factors though--time (or cost) needed and quality being primary among them.
Quality: It's one thing to set yourself a 20 article target--another to actually deliver on that content. Every business and project is different; and each should settle upon a clear bar or standard of quality that must be met before hitting publish.
That might be as simple as letting each article sit for 24 hours before publishing--giving yourself a chance to review the piece with a fresh pair of eyes, and avoiding any hurried or rushed publications. Whatever the bar; setting a quality standard for your content will help you plan your content calendar more realistically--so that you don't set yourself unachievable goals, then sacrifice on quality in order to meet them.
Content purpose: When you're in content planning mode, it can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. To set yourself a schedule 'simply because content schedules are good' is rarely a good approach; instead, it's always helpful to step back and ask what exactly it is you're hoping to achieve with your content. Are you trying to drive traffic in order to sell a product? Trying to grow an audience, mailing list or community? Trying to develop yourself as a writer or creator? Trying to spread awareness of a cause or subject you're passionate about?
Each of these purposes have their own needs, and simply taking a moment to consider what you're hoping to achieve can help make your content calendar more useful and tailored to your needs.
Channels: In 2022, there are more publishing channels available to us than ever before. On social media alone, there are countless platforms to distribute across; how exactly are we to be present on all of them?
The truth is: we shouldn't. The key is to choose a few channels that will be your focus point, and to invest energies into these, specifically. You can't be present everywhere; not successfully, at least. And so being selective from the early stages can be key. Look to successful examples in your niche and see how they've grown an audience. Which channels are they seeing success on? Then, consider your own strengths; and the interests of your target segments. What to include in a content calendar?
Every successful content calendar should be tailored to your specific needs. But for the purposes of this post, we'll be walking through a Notion Content Calendar Template that I've prepared; and this setup is broken down into 6 key areas.
These areas are:
Let's take a closer look at each.
If you plan on being active across many channels, for an extended period of time, what exactly is the best way to organize your ideas in a way that's easy to manage?
Content campaigns are a common way of managing many related ideas, posts and articles that fall under a similar 'theme'. Suppose you wanted to start creating some content around the 'New Year'. Odds are, you don't just have one post in mind. You might have several social media post ideas, a few articles, and a couple of videos that all relate to the same topic.
In such cases; setting up a 'campaign' can be a helpful way to keep track. In the template, you can create a new content campaign directly from the timeline view. By default, the timeline is blocked into different categories or types of campaigns; but you can rename or adjust these to suit your own needs more closely. To create a new campaign, click on an area of the timeline, under the appropriate category (e.g. SEO, Social Media) and then drag the ends of the block to meet the dates you'd like the campaign to be active for.
Give your content campaign a name, then you can use the space below to jot down any first thoughts or notes. There's also a 'Project template' included with every new campaign, just hit the hammer icon and it will generate some prompts to help you get started with the planning. You'll also notice that there's an 'Actions' property with every Campaign. Feel free to begin filling that out right away with any tasks that need to be completed for this campaign (such as 'keyword research' or 'write first draft of article #1'). More about actions and to-dos later though.
The next tab shows a view of all articles that are being written, or plan on being written for your project. By default, this board is organized from left to right by 'Status'. So that 'ideas' are listed in the leftmost column, and archived posts appear on the right.
The articles tab is filtered to only show pieces of content that match 'article' as the tag; this is linked to the systems 'Content Master Database'. Any content that you have planned for your business will be stored in the master database, and so it's worth covering the main properties of that system now.
Due date: The date that you expect to publish this piece. Only give a due date to pieces that you are sure you want to include in your content calendar--only by giving a content piece a 'date' property, it will show in the calendar views.
Published: A simple checkbox to keep track of (and celebrate!) those posts that have gone live and are published.
Status: The status property helps you keep track of how a specific content piece is progressing. By default, the status options are: Idea, Writing, On Hold, Prepare For Publish, Filming, and Archived.
You can give content a status from the dropdown menu in the main database, alternatively you can simply add a content piece to whichever status it belongs to on the articles board, directly.
Type: The type of content lets you specify which type of media it will be created in. Is it a video? An article? A tweet? There are a few preset options, but you can also add your own into the list of menu items from the Content Master Database.
Topic/Tag: You can also add regular topics and tags to this template to help you get a view on common themes. For example, if there are a few topics you write about often, you can create a 'topic' and sort your articles based on these topics. This can be helpful to see whether you've written about a topic or tag recently, and distribute your content more evenly.
Actions: The content database does not create actions or tasks; it simply lists ideas for content and the status of content underway. Every piece of content can have actions or tasks attached to it though. For example, if the content piece were a new video on Web3, you could set a couple of actions that need to be completed to see the content through.
Campaigns: Content can also be directly linked to campaigns. You can do this, as mentioned above, directly from the campaign timeline view. Or, when you create a new content piece, you can select the campaigns property and choose from the dropdown list the appropriate campaign.
Keywords: This template also includes a keywords database that can be tied to specific pieces of content. Add to your keyword database separately, including any keyword volume or CPC information you have, then when you create a new content piece you can select from the linked keywords database.
Total Views: If you want to keep track of the performance of your published content, there's also a property to keep track of total views which can be revisited and filled periodically.
Social Media Planner
The social media tab is very similar to the Articles tab, simply filtered to show content relevant to various social media platforms. Feel free to adjust the tags and rows accordingly, based on those platforms you plan to be most active on.
The to-do tab shows your full actions database. By default, it's organized from left to right by task status. Then, from top to bottom it is sorted by priority.This means that the highest priority tasks will always appear at the top of the board, while low priority tasks will be further down. The top left therefore shows high-priority, not started tasks. The bottom right showing low-priority archived tasks. When you create a new to-do, you can link it to all of the other relevant databases already mentioned in this post. Try to keep your actions board up to date and cleared of too many tasks: no more than 3 'High priority' tasks in each category is often a good limit.
The assets tab and database is a storing house for all your most frequently used content assets. This might include thumbnails that you use, repeatedly, or templated graphics that are appropriated for each new social media content post. You can also use the assets database to store scripts, blog outlines, or any other digital asset that may be useful for your when creating new content.
Finally, we have the full calendar-style view of your content database. This will show the current month, by default, and any upcoming or past content deadlines for publish. All content across platforms and media will show up in this calendar view; so long as you have given it a publish date. If you want to add a new piece of content directly to the calendar, you can do so from this view--just be sure to fill out it's other properties (such as status and campaign) if you'd like it to appear in other parts of your workspace.
Planning your content is one of the best ways to stay consistent across multiple channels. Using a content calendar and planner can be a simple way to not only keep track, but to make the planning process itself more efficient and open to iteration. Check-in with your calendar often, and be sure to keep it up to date with any relevant changes. Things will not always go to plan; so be sure to keep the schedule dynamic as things do change, and give yourself some buffer for the unexpected missed deadline from time to time. This free content calendar template is also integrated into our larger Content OS and Clarity OS systems. If you're looking for a more all-in-one solution for managing and running your business, you can learn more about each with the links above.