It’s true, you don’t actually have to have an editorial calendar for your content; it’s not like it’s required by law. But, of course, it would be stupid to just stumble forward without any plan whatsoever. Assuming your content strategy has a goal and that you intend to weave a story over time – and if that assumption is wrong than we have to talk – you need to build an editorial calendar.

An editorial calendar is a plan – usually a least a quarter in advance – that details what stories you’re going to cover, who’s responsible for building the content, possible interviews and sources and other important data. By plotting out this key information, you can be sure that you’re covering the ground you intend to cover, as well as keep your content flowing in a rational, purposeful way.

Here are the steps to building your editorial calendar:

Identify topic areas.

They should be related to business. The days when the company blog was devoted to internal events like the company picnic are over. Remember – you’re writing for the eternal audience. The purpose of your content strategy should be stir the industry conversation, demonstrate your organization’s thinking, and build trust with the audience. So provide some information the audience can use – how to run their business, your company’s analysis of industry news and emerging concepts. Important note: people tell us all the time that they work in a “boring industry” and that there isn’t much to write about. Let me gentle here – you’re wrong, and if you’re bored by your industry, you should get out. There are plenty of in-depth conversations being conducted in your industry every day and your content strategy is your chance to influence those conversations.

Identify keywords.

Identify keywords that will help your SEO efforts and attract attention. But remember, you’re writing for human beings, not spiders and algorithms. Identifying the right keywords will help to form your strategy and keep you moving in the right direction. Monitor these and chart your performance.

Determine how often you’ll create content.

This is a balancing act between what the audience desires (typically, they want a lot of information) and what you can reasonably deliver. As they say in the newsroom, you need to feed the beast. But you need to do it with high quality content that educates or entertains the audience. The more quality content you create the more frequently the audience will return to your site. So, two posts a week? A post every day?

Brainstorm ideas for posts.

It’s wise to get people from outside the marketing team involved in this conversation – sales should know what’s being talked about on the frontlines; the C-suite should be able to inform you on general business direction and possible future storylines. Remember – it’s a brainstorm – so collect as many ideas as you can, then winnow the list down later. Identify possible sources as you go. Then, obviously, plot those ideas on the Master Calendar.

Create your master calendar.

Include external events such as trade shows, anticipated announcements, etc. This is the roadmap you’re going to follow for the months ahead. The easiest way is to make a repeatable template. Every Monday you cover Topic A, Tuesday is for Topic B, etc. Chart this out against external events – can you create a back to school post this week? Something around Halloween? The events don’t have to be industry specific – Giving Thanks For Unified Communications works in late November.

Make assignments.

Determine who will produce what content. Stick to this schedule – don’t let people off the hook. You need to have a realistic idea of who can do what, and what resources are available to you in order to create an efficient content production team. If the Head of Engineering is a lousy writer but you need him involved in content development, don’t rely on him to produce the content – instead, interview him and quote him extensively in order to position him as a thought leader.

Don’t be afraid to veer away from the calendar.

Remember, planning is essential, but planning is useless. As time goes by, some ideas will become less important, and new ideas and events will present themselves. If there’s a significant industry event that you need to address, do it. You can push an “evergreen” idea down the road, or just produce extra content.