Whatever content you create, you need a plan in place and a good system to manage it. While many platforms offer robust tools for keeping track of the numerous details of a content pipeline, they also define many aspects of your workflow for you. The comfort of these predetermined paradigms can simplify your work in some ways, but they can also impose restrictions that don’t allow you to work the way you want.
Airtable offers a more customizable solution so you can create the custom content planning system that works for you, but sometimes analysis paralysis can set in when you have so many potential ways to accomplish the task. To help you find the best way to organize your content calendar, let’s take a look at how others have successfully managed theirs in various ways.
Covering the basics
All content planning solutions will share some core characteristics due to the nature of the task. When creating content, typically you have to generate ideas, draft them, finalize those drafts, and schedule a date and time to publish the finished product. As a result, any content planning workflow will require the following components:
- Content status, to track the phase of the content creation process from idea generation to completion
- Due dates for each step of the process (or a subset of those steps)
- Assignments so teams can see who’s working on specific ideas
Most content planning systems involve many other aspects but everyone must manage some variation of these core organizational challenges. To put that in a visual context, let’s take a look at the Content Calendar template.
This template serves as a great starting point when figuring out your specific content planning because it covers all the core necessities while providing the ability to expand. For a basic starting point, it actually plans and tracks quite a lot of information. Every aspect of the article planning can be managed through the primary table and assigned to individual writers using the collaborator field. Editors can set due dates, make updates, and add comments that will notify each writer assigned through this field. It even tracks social media messages for every article, provides a schedule for posting those messages, and manages time sheets for freelancers as well. Using the additional views, you can also look at everything in an actual calendar format. For a starting template, this is a pretty thorough example of how to create an editorial content calendar in Airtable.
Two simple yet thorough approaches
Everyone has a different set of requirements for the way their content calendar ought to work, and those needs may be more simple or more complex than this starting point. Take Klipfolio, for example, who created a simplified, compact version:
They pack a lot of information into a single view so you can see it all from a bird's-eye view. Rather than using a collaborator field, Klipfolio opted to assign content-related tasks using a single select field. When someone just needs to see current statuses of assignments as efficiently as possible, Klipfolio sends out a view share link for quick and easy sharing.
They also use the kanban view for a nice, visual assignment board for each author so it’s easy for them to keep track of their work. Klipfolio explains how their setup helps them keep their editorial team on track, using a different method of collaborative communication:
First, Airtable helps rally the team. The kanban view lets our authors easily see the contributions of their teammates, providing some extra motivation, as well as transparency. Second, Airtable has streamlined our workflow. Rather than bouncing back and forth between Google Drive and other tools, we keep editorial conversations in Airtable by using a long text column and encouraging contributors to @ their editor if they have questions or if a draft is ready for polishing.
Freelance writer and editor Laura Blackwell takes a similar approach to managing her own workload, as the general format applies to a team of one just as well as a team of many. In fact, as Laura explains, good organization may even be more vital for freelancers:
Even for a seasoned journalist, managing editorial schedules is a major undertaking. Tracking stories in different stages of production can be tricky, and traditional spreadsheets just aren't adaptable enough to handle each story's unique needs. I was delighted to find that Airtable allows editors to control content creation in structured (yet flexible) ways.
While Laura takes a similar approach to Klipfolio’s, she's also created numerous grid and calendar views to sort her work into different categories. Have a look:
Making full use of views is a great way to focus on only the information you need at the moment and filter out the rest. If you want to learn more about leveraging the power of these features, check out our guides on filtering and grouping records.
A custom organization strategy
Some types of content work better when organized into different groups, and that’s certainly the case with Britannica’s editorial calendar because they cover such a diversity of topics:
Britannica's content site publishes daily stories that help us understand who we are and how things work. Content is inspired by creators, scientific phenomena, history, and oftentimes, simple questions, such as, 'Can lightning strike in the same place twice?' To answer these questions, the team digs into the origins of the question itself, and presents rigorously vetted facts to get to the truth.
Because Britannica’s articles can vary in many ways, it helps to group them by type/section, as you can see in their base:
Britannica not only tracks the creation of the articles but also plenty of meta and statistical data. Key performance metrics are tracked for each post which creates a sortable and searchable data set to help identify popular topics to focus on more in the future—among other possible insights, of course. Britannica’s content calendar demonstrates how such a tool can be used to accomplish more than just planning the basics. If you want to plan for a successful future, all within Airtable, you simply need to design your base to accommodate that information.
A management plan for massive content streams
Any organizational tool can work just fine when you’re getting started, but once you create a mountain of content you'll want a system that won’t buckle under the pressure. Airtable was designed to work the way you work and not impose specific paradigms to force you to get things done in a specific way. As a result, if you need your content calendar to work in a way it doesn’t currently, you only need to change it. Furthermore, Airtable bases are designed to group, sort, filter, and search through huge amounts of information.
So far, each workflow demonstrates its method using a limited amount of content but, ultimately, you will have to manage a lot more. Megan Seekings, creator of the independent blog Cool Music and Things, put together a content calendar and tracker filled with hundreds of articles that tracks her entire operation. Check it out:
On Airtable Universe, Megan breaks down each aspect of her base and how it helps her work. She plans her posts, tracks the writing process, and manages PR all in the same place. She also makes great use of custom views to organize her base’s information in different ways. While that would be enough, her base also tracks musicians and their performances along with each time they’ve been featured in a blog post. With this, she can always find contextual links to include in future content by simply searching looking at the content associated with the subject (or subjects) of the blog’s articles.
Naturally, Megan’s workflow—along with every workflow—only shows a few variations of how you can manage your content with Airtable. While you may find a perfect example among these effective workflows, you’ll find the flexibility to make these ideas—or any others—your own with the exact same toolset. You can copy these examples into your account as a starting point or simply use them for inspiration when creating the perfect content calendar for you.