For better or for worse, our personal and professional lives generally revolve around a calendar. Whether it’s back-to-school or holiday time, I’m sure I’m not the only one who is
frequently obsessively checking my calendar to nail down plans and logistics, and make sure I’m well-prepared for upcoming events – be it a meeting, travel, party or all the above. But amid individual planning and scheduling, we shouldn’t neglect making plans for something equally important: firm content and pitching. This kind of planning is not found in an Outlook calendar, but rather in an editorial calendar.
For anyone unfamiliar with the concept, an editorial calendar (“ed cal” as we fondly call them around here) is essentially a publishing schedule. Whether you’re developing your own firm editorial calendar, referencing a third-party editorial calendar such as this one from the Business Journals or both, this kind of calendar is an anchor that can save you from getting lost in a sea of deadlines, topics, events and other demands. Most importantly, it can help you to prioritize and execute on your legal marketing goals more efficiently and effectively.
Media Editorial Calendars
Ed cals let you know when something your firm is working on or known for might be relevant to a given media outlet, whether for print or online publishing. Many media outlets develop ed cals that show the topics, themes, events and special features their editorial department has planned for the coming year. Depending on the outlet’s publishing schedule, the calendar might display this information weekly, monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly.
A third-party media editorial calendar can be leveraged and mined for opportunities such as:
- Pitching. This calendar provides a glimpse into the editor’s head. Give it a scan to identify future topics and features that are relevant to your attorneys and their clients, then develop a corresponding pitch plan. Schedule reminders for yourself to pitch the source or article topic about two months before that issue or feature will publish.
- Advertising. These calendars often also spell out opportunities for targeted advertising and included in a media kit as a resource for advertisers who are budgeting their ad dollars. If print or digital advertising is something your firm invests in, this is a great way to determine what ads and funds will be needed and when.
- Award opportunities. These calendars reveal awards and rankings opportunities for the year, so they’re a good way to track for relevant honors worth pursuing for your attorneys.
It should be noted that these calendars are subject to change, so make sure to revisit them throughout the year to ensure you remain on track.
Internal Law Firm Editorial Calendar
Many law firms organize their marketing content, including news posts, newsletters, blogs, podcasts and social media activity, using an internal editorial calendar. The calendar can be detailed and multi-layered, or very basic — whatever works best for your own marketing content planning and prioritizing.
Having an editorial calendar that’s specific to your firm is useful for numerous reasons:
- It provides a roadmap, lays out expectations and builds in accountability.
- It gives peace of mind, even if it’s fluid and ever-changing.
- It helps to see content laid out in this type of format, because it lets you view output from a bird’s-eye view while seeing any holes or opportunities for new content.
- It ensures continuity.
- It fosters efficiency, because you always know what’s slated for the days and weeks to come and can take the necessary steps to execute. Is a ghostwriter needed for that next client alert? Is the graphic ready for your social post? Was the podcast recording edited and approved?
Ed Cal In Action: Spotlight on Sunstein LLP
Sunstein Director of Marketing & Business Development Kati Ferrante is an enthusiastic proponent of editorial calendars, and we think her approach is worth spotlighting. We asked her to provide some insider tips and tricks, best practices and examples of her own.
Q: When and how did you create Sunstein’s editorial calendar?
A: My first internship during college was at Mullen Lowe, a Boston advertising and marketing communication agency. It was there that I learned the value and importance of an editorial calendar. The starting point to building out a campaign was very much based on what else was happening within that month that was relevant to our client. I think about Sunstein’s editorial calendar in the same way, with our attorneys as my clients. Attorneys are constantly speaking, writing and attending events. They are also often recipients of accolades and honors. Once you map out all these happenings, you can sprinkle in some other exciting news and be prepared to jump on something in real time (such as a case win) when it happens.
Q: How does the ed cal keep you on track and how do you adjust it as needed throughout the year?
A: Think of your ed cal as a roadmap. There are things that you cannot miss sharing that happen year after year. These can be scheduled at the beginning of the year and often are a “rinse and repeat” situation. From there, look at each quarter and plug in new events, notable days, etc., and you will be surprised at how much content you have already mapped out. Lastly, there is always an “on-the-fly” post that you haven’t anticipated, which you will be able to jump on in real time since you have all the other posts in queue.
Q: How far in advance do you plan content and social posts?
A: My team meets every January to plug in everything that we have budget for, along with annual events and accolades. From there, we try to focus on three months at a time, and ideally have approved content with graphics ready two weeks before the “go live” date.
Q: Any other thoughts about ed cals?
A: They are the best. I couldn’t function if we didn’t have one to plan all our marketing initiatives for the year. It keeps us organized and prepared to meet deadlines. Fun tip: Link your ed cal to other things that provide data points. For example, link to the actual posts, press release, event page or reports that tell you how much visibility you have generated from that post.
The next time you feel like you’re having a marketing content crisis or lacking PR fuel, remind yourself that there’s no need to hit the panic button — because you’ve planned for this. Just consult the ed cal!
I would love to hear about the editorial calendar best practices and successes at your firm. Feel free to reach out at email@example.com with your own stories and examples.