Across our many clients we see a variety of organizational structures encompassing the relationship between marketing operations and creative operations. Undoubtedly, there is overlap. With some clients, the creative operations group is an owned subset of the larger marketing department, while others have their creative operations structured as an internal agency model fulfilling requests from marketing clients who sit outside their walls. Regardless of the structure, ensuring a seamless handoff between creatives and marketing (and vice-versa) plays a crucial role in delivering appropriately timed messaging to customers. And one of the best ways to unify marketing and creative operations teams is to establish a content marketing calendar. 

A content marketing calendar helps provide visibility and alignment between both groups (assuming the calendar is built and managed effectively). But first, let’s define exactly what a content marketing calendar is—and what it is not. 

A content marketing calendar is the comprehensive listing of all content-related marketing activities across all channels of engagement for an organization. The purpose of this key resource is to inform stakeholders of their individual marketing responsibilities while providing overall visibility on the voice of the organization at any given time so as to avoid redundant or overlapping communication.

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To be clear, the content marketing calendar is not your content marketing strategy. 

Your content marketing strategy (owned by marketing) is the approach to translating business objectives into a plan which will use content as the means to achieve those goals. Content strategy is often planned at distinct fiscal intervals when marketers are conceptualizing high-level messaging, major themes, big campaigns, and how those campaigns will be supported by various buckets of important content. 

The content calendar is the tactical cadence and timing plan application of that strategy; it tracks all assets which will be produced by creative operations in support of the overall content strategy. Because of the granularity of details, planning within the content calendar occurs more frequently than the planning of content strategy, but the strategy should always inform the tactical execution  of content.

What makes a good content marketing calendar?

A well-structured content calendar enables deadlines and expectations to be solidified, ownership clarified, messaging organized, marketing budgets to be tracked, and most importantly, visibility into how content aligns with both marketing strategy and overall business goals. 

A content calendar must be a closely managed living document supported by workflow accuracy. As such, it is essential that the calendar tracks relevant marketing categories such as content type, publish date, responsible owner, campaign association and current status. We’ve all heard the adage “the only constant in life is change” and that holds true for your content strategy. Plans and priorities evolve, emergencies arise and delays happen. So your content calendar must be managed flexibly to account for these swings. If it’s not, the credibility of the calendar suffers and users lose trust in the data. 

To ensure the integrity of the information, the calendar must reflect the accurate start date, targeted end date and the duration of the key tasks associated with content production. Make sure the calendar is integrated with whatever system you’re using to track work management so that if dates are moved, the calendar automatically updates. 

Your content calendar must be visible and accessible

For greatest alignment, everyone must have access to see not only what they or their team is working on, but what all teams within the organization are tackling. All content stakeholders should have access, including all contributors to a specific deliverable throughout its lifecycle. 

Shared visibility will protect content creators by reducing ad hoc requests because everyone can see what’s coming and how any last-minute requests will affect priorities and previous commitments. When you assign tasks and deadlines to specific people, there should be no room for surprises. It makes it much easier to drive your marketing plan forward and manage your resources efficiently. 

Your content calendar must be comprehensive

All content that is going out to the public should exist in the same calendar with the ability to filter as necessary. Visibility of all marketing activities, documenting what messages will be in the marketplace when and through what channels, will show where you may have overlap of messaging or incongruity. Your content marketing calendar will expose these conflicts early in the process and allow your team to make the appropriate adjustments. 

By making your calendar comprehensive, you will have a complete understanding of what your audience is experiencing. Your audience is not just seeing the output of one team’s work. In order to control the exposure of your brand fully, you need to see the holistic picture. This ensures your content is telling a clear, coherent and compelling story across all channels of engagement.  

Your content calendar should always reinforce the strategy

Through reporting across calendar data, the details of the tactical execution managed in the content calendar should summarize and confirm whether you are aligned with your marketing strategy. 

By defining a taxonomy of marketing categories relevant to your organization and tagging calendar events with values that define every strategic context imaginable, the calendar can be made reportable and analyzed against what really matters. In this way, the calendar enables strategic measurement by reporting on overall trends in categories applied to each piece of content and how those trends align to strategic goals. You can ensure you have sufficient content for each stage of the marketing funnel. You may discover, for instance, that you have lots of great content aimed at a particular audience segment at the beginning of the sales cycle but very little for that same group when they reach the decision-making phase. The ability to identify gaps ensures you’re always able to deliver the right content to the right person at the right time.

Meaningful metrics are the key to transitioning from gut assumptions to data-driven insights. The content calendar provides an ideal location to apply content scoring to allow marketers to identify how and where assets affected a buyer’s journey. 

And thus we come full circle. By reporting on the tactical execution which rolls up to strategic performance, the content marketing calendar completes its round trip benefit of unifying marketing and creative operations. 

Facilitating effective collaboration and synergy between Marketing & Creative Operations teams is the primary focus of Cella’s consulting practice. We have deep and broad experience analyzing, implementing, and optimizing technology platforms to achieve creative-marketing alignment. Need some help? Learn more about our consulting team’s customized solutions now!