Guide your marketing efforts with an editorial calendar

Keep track of your audience, topics and schedule with a calendar that ensures you’re tying content to organizational goals.

There’s no question that most health care marketers today use content marketing as part of their marketing mix. According to one 2017 study , 94 percent of health care organizations claim they used content marketing or planned to use it during 2017. For most marketing teams already running lean, creating all this new content can be chaotic. This is where editorial calendars come in.

Editorial calendars keep busy health care marketing teams on track

Editorial calendars help you define and control the process of creating content, from idea generation through writing and publication and even into promotion. It keeps everyone on track and gives transparency to the content creation process.

But just as no two hospitals are exactly alike, neither are two editorial calendars. What works for your team won’t necessarily work for others—and that’s true of both the format of your calendar and the information you include.

Popular editorial calendar formats for health care marketing teams

There’s no shortage of options when it comes to editorial calendars, as a quick Google search will confirm. Many marketing teams rely on Excel. It’s free, already on your computer, and pretty customizable. Other popular formats include Trello, Google Docs and Google Calendar. There are certainly paid options available, but some teams find success by simply using a printed calendar and Post-it notes.

If you’re new to building an editorial calendar, start with something easy to use and free. Build it and start using it. Then you can see where the limitations are and find something else if it’s not working.

Structuring your calendar

Not sure how to organize your calendar? You can always organize it the way you currently work—which often is by month. This works well if you tend to develop content around events, such as monthly health observances, new doctor hires, offline campaigns or events your organization sponsors.

Consider organizing by topic clusters —especially if you are taking advantage of this strategy on your website. When you organize your site by topic cluster, such as service line, it can help you rank higher in search engine results pages and provide a more organized user experience.

Remember, the key is to see your calendar as a living document that needs to be updated regularly. You know things are going to change. Make sure you use your calendar like a map; you can see where you’re going but you’re able to change direction as new opportunities emerge.

Important elements of an editorial calendar

Regardless of what format your calendar takes, here are some fundamental areas to focus on:

  • Audience. Who is the primary audience for this topic? If you have personas developed, you could list the primary (and possibly secondary) persona this content asset speaks to.
  • Date. This could include date assigned and date due, or just the date that content will be published.
  • Topic. For health care marketers, the topic could tie back to which service line this asset is supporting, such as maternity, cancer, heart or primary care.
  • Content type . Is it a blog post, infographic, patient story, video, checklist, etc.?
  • Keywords. Before writing, be sure to gather keyword research from places like Moz’s Keyword Explorer so you can optimize your content for both search engines and people . Don’t forget to consider local keywords, too.
  • Headline. The famous David Ogilvy quote still holds true: “On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” Make sure to align the title with keywords for SEO.
  • Lead. Including a benefit-driven, engaging lead is a great way to ensure your message strategy for the content transfers to other channels, such as an email campaign. If you include a word or character count, the lead can easily be used in social media outlets, making promotion a snap.
  • Cross-linking. Do you mention specific providers, locations, service lines or health library information? If so, be thoughtful about cross-linking and keeping the reader engaged on your site.
  • Author. Capture who will have the byline, which is especially important if your team is ghostwriting for providers or other subject matter experts.
  • Owner. Include this field if someone other than the author is responsible for keeping the content moving through the process. This is common when doctors or service-line teams are authoring content but a marketing team member is responsible for ensuring it is finalized.
  • Status. This field would be updated as the content progresses from in-progress to review to completion.
  • Call to action. What do you want your reader to do? Sign up for a tour? Make an appointment? Share a personal story? Identifying the next step—and ensuring it’s trackable—will help your team determine the success of your content.

Sample editorial calendar and taking your calendar to the next level

Ready to use what you’ve learned so far? Here’s a sample of a healthcare editorial calendar using many of these fields to use as a starting place.

This is just the beginning of what you could cover in your calendar. For example, take the above foundation to next level by also including:

  • Stage of the patient journey. If you’re recording the content type, you can also map where that asset is likely to be used in the health care customer journey. For example, a patient story is most likely to be used by someone in the evaluation phase.
  • Opportunities to repurpose. Creating a content machine often means repurposing content. What other ways can that blog post be used? Can that interview with your cardiologist become a heart-healthy checklist or infographic? Can part of that patient testimonial video become a blog post?
  • Existing content. An editorial calendar doesn’t have to just include content that will be created in the future. Plug in existing content, especially content that performs well, and think about how you can repurpose or refresh it.

Prove your content’s value by tying it to organization goals and tracking success

As you already know, most organizations are investing in content marketing, but many of those same organizations reporting their efforts aren’t necessarily producing a return on investment. This study reported that 69 percent of health care organizations use content marketing, but only 28 percent feel their efforts are “very effective.”

How do you make those investments pay off? Be sure the content you’re investing in aligns with broader organizational goals. For example, if your organization prioritized increasing volume to a certain service line, you’ll want to focus content efforts on that service line.

As mentioned earlier, it’s also essential to ensure you have a call to action in your content, which can be an online form or a trackable phone number. This ties the visitor experience back to the end goal.

Another way to prove value is to record your rankings for valuable keywords before you publish content and then again a few months later. Rankings you achieve organically can save money, especially if that’s traffic you are currently buying through paid search advertising.

Happy content marketing

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when starting an editorial calendar for your health care marketing team. From format to elements to tracking success, a lot goes into a successful content marketing effort.

Don’t get overwhelmed by how big or complex your editorial calendar could become—especially if you’re a multihospital system or considering integrating other types of content, such as email campaigns, print magazines, media, health observances, etc. Start small and build on it as your team and processes become more sophisticated.

Heather Stanley is the marketing director at Geonetric . The original version of this post can be viewed here .

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