How to Plan a Content Calendar for Online Marketing


Many organizations have a fairly haphazard online marketing process without any particular strategy. Their blog and social media accounts sit mostly unused until a specific event or initiative comes up, and then suddenly directives are issued to create some posts to go out on the various channels. After a short burst of activity, their online marketing goes quiet again.

There are a number of reasons why it would benefit your organization to set some structure to your online marketing.

You’ll be less likely to miss out on a promotional opportunity.

Holidays, special events and historic milestones can be a great chance to promote your association, fundraise, do outreach and more. If you don’t plan in advance for these types of opportunities, they are more likely to pass by or creep up on you, leaving your team without enough time to plan and implement an effective marketing strategy.

Consistency breeds trust and traffic.

When someone new visits your website, blog, YouTube channel or social media accounts, if they don’t see that you have been consistently active on these accounts, it causes them to wonder what’s going on with your organization. Are you still in business? Are you struggling? Will you be responsive to questions and requests? You don’t have to post on social media five times a day, but if your accounts go weeks without any activity, it reflects poorly on your organization.

Websites that are refreshed with new content regularly also perform better in search engine results, so add some content to that blog on a regular basis, even if it’s only once a month. If you’re not able to keep up with it, you’re probably better off to not have it.

It helps coordinate staff, departments and teams.

When you have no content calendar or plan, different departments and staff members can be creating their own marketing plans that duplicate or contradict each other. Many issues can arise when the entire organization is not on the same page on marketing initiatives and if assignments aren’t made as to who will handle what, by what deadlines, and so on. Having a structured plan in place helps to ensure that your various staff members from different teams and departments are in the loop on what types of initiatives are being promoted and when.

Creating Your First Online Marketing Content Calendar

If you are a small organization, you may have one person handling all your marketing. In which case, your content calendar can be fairly simple, but even for a small organization with nothing but a couple of social media accounts, planning out a calendar for the year, or at least quarterly, can be very useful in focusing your online efforts towards the highest priorities.

Consider a content calendar tool.

Again, if you are a small organization, a simple document or spreadsheet may be all you need for creating and organizing a content calendar. But if you are a larger association or business that needs to coordinate multiple staff members, teams, contractors, etc., then it could be useful to employ a content calendar tool. There are plenty of content calendar programs out there that can help you get organized.

Mark out important dates.

The first thing to do when planning out your calendar is to include dates of important events, holidays, milestones like anniversaries and anything else around which you will want to create some type of online promotion or about which you will need to communicate to the public and your members.

Create monthly or weekly themes.

For creating a cohesive strategy and to make it easier to create relevant, timely content, it can be helpful to have a themed weekly feature like, “Fabulous Volunteer Thursdays” where you would share a volunteer profile each week. Or “Christmas in July” where you do some giveaways and holiday-themed fundraising throughout the month. The effectiveness of this approach is dependent on your organization, your goals and your audience.

Determine frequency and assign tasks.

A basic content schedule for a given month might look something like this:

June – Focus on promoting July 1 Summer Gala

  • YouTube compilation video using footage from last year’s gala (to be completed by May 15) – Joe S.
  • Three social media posts per week (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and spend $100 on promoting the event with a Facebook ad – Tina R.
  • One blog post highlighting auction items (by June 15) – Harry B.
  • Three mass marketing emails sent to donor mailing list (June 2, 12 and 28) – Tina R.
  • Press release sent to media list by June 1 – Sally T.

This is a pretty basic outline. Depending on your needs, you could also include more detailed deadlines for compiling/creating the content, submitting it for approval by a manager or staff review, getting content online and scheduled, etc.

Leave some room for timely posts.

Much of the time, your content calendar will probably be less specific than promoting a big upcoming event. In which case, the content you share can be a bit more varied. It’s a good idea to leave some of your social media spots open as TBD, so that you can respond to trending news stories and last-minute considerations as they arise.

Create a long-range calendar, but don’t schedule too far out.

It’s great to have an entire year of content planned out in January, but it’s not recommended to go into your scheduling tools like Hootsuite or Buffer and actually schedule all that content a year in advance. There is simply too much that can change in a year, and it’s a good idea to look at your content with a fresh eye every month and ensure that it is all still relevant.

Imagine for instance that in January, you create and schedule a Facebook post highlighting the great work of one of your board members, and then the board member is fired for some scandal in June, but the Facebook post still goes out in September because it was scheduled so long ago no one remembered it. That’s a worst-case scenario. But it illustrates why it’s a good idea to only schedule about a month out at a time, so the content is at top of mind.

For more social media tips, visit How to Use Social Media to Grow Customers. If you would like to discuss how J&M Business Solutions can assist you with the content marketing needs of your association, contact us.