This is an excerpt from the ninth edition of The Write Fit, a fortnightly newsletter about writing, editing and proofreading, content marketing and good editorial practices for business, from Sarah Mitchell and Dan Hatch at Typeset.
Here’s a riddle for you: why is an editorial calendar like a Christmas tree?
While you ponder the answer, let me tell you an only slightly psychologically damaging story from my childhood.
*Insert back-in-timey harp music here*
When I was five, the teacher asked everyone in the class to make a playdough decoration for our preschool’s Christmas tree.
I was, to put it mildly, ridiculously excited.
We got to sculpt whatever we wanted, paint it, bake it and varnish it. It would last, the teacher told us, for many years.
My tiny mind was swimming with possibilities.
I remember the other children making misshapen little Santas and dull little parcels wrapped in playdough ribbon. Could they not see the opportunity that was in front of them? Why were they being boring?
Bugger that, I thought. I’m making a strawberry.
It’s fair to say my preschool teacher and my mother did not see eye to eye on many things. I fear I was the one who paid the price for that.
My dad was away a lot when I was a kid. His job took him all over the country for weeks at a time. The teacher openly referred to him as “the phantom father” – to me, to my mother, and to all the other parents.
Dad didn’t have a grand job. He worked in abattoirs. The teacher delighted in telling everyone he was “a slaughterman” (which is what it says on my birth certificate – oh, happy days).
So, the big day comes. It’s preschool graduation and all the parents are there, including Dad – who was paraded around as evidence by my mother.
I was proud as punch. I couldn’t wait for them to see my strawberry.
The teacher called every child up to the front of the class, presented them with a little certificate, and took their playdough decoration off the tree and handed it to them. The parents all dutifully clapped.
Until it came to me.
“And lastly, Daniel Hatch.” Up I got. “Daniel has made… a strawberry!”
The parents all laughed uproariously. I didn’t understand why.
It was totally crushing.
Before I defend my strawberry, do you want to know why an editorial calendar is like a Christmas tree?
It’s something you need to pull out afresh each December and decorate. It’s the blank canvas you need to fill ahead of the new year – and a little planning leads to far better results.
If you haven’t already done so for 2020, draw up a new calendar and begin to fill it with possibilities. You don’t necessarily need specific content ideas yet (well, you should probably have January sorted), but just go in and make notes of all events you might be able to create content around (everything from religious holidays to Black Friday and Cyber Monday to International Brylcreem Appreciation Week).
If the tree is your editorial calendar, then your decorations are the content. And trust me, you want your content to be more like that strawberry than any common or garden bauble.
Be original: Don’t put out the same clichéd old content ideas your competitors are relying upon. Stand out. Be different.
Be memorable: Make an impression. Create content that will stick in the minds of your audience, so they think of you when it’s time to purchase.
Make it evergreen: You want to know why I made a strawberry? I didn’t want to make something we could only use at Christmas. If I was going to make something, if I had this wonderful opportunity to craft something special, then I wanted it to be a viable option for permanent display.
That’s what a lot of the very best content does. It keeps working for you, all year round, many years after it was created.
And that’s what that strawberry did. My mother put it up on our tree, in pride and defiance, every Christmas until it finally crumbled to dust.
17 December 2019
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