How To Create a Media Calendar
Do you find it hard to be consistent with content creation?
You’re ‘good’ for a few weeks at time e.g. posting regularly on all your social media networks, blogging/vlogging, sending out your email newsletter….
Then things get busy.
Before you know it, it’s been days (or even weeks) since you’ve published any content. And it’s not always because you’re busy – sometimes you just feel like you’re all out of ideas.
If this sounds like you, please be reassured that you’re not alone. One of the biggest challenges of doing business online is being consistent with your content.
Creating a media calendar – that maps out your content across the entire year – is a great way to stay on top of your content. Not only will it help you stay consistent (what gets written down generally gets done), it will also ensure you never run out of timely content ideas that reflect what people are interested in or talking about at any given time (e.g. a new film, awareness day or a significant world event).
This is particularly important when it comes to pitching to the press, as when you send a pitch to a journalist, they’ll immediately ask themselves ‘why do people need to hear about this now?’
Mapping out your ideas well ahead of time will also help you be more creative with your content, re-purposing your blog posts into social media posts, short videos and infographics for example.
With that in mind, here’s a guide to creating your media calendar for 2019.
How to create a media calendar for 2019
1. Get a wall calendar that has a month-per-view, across the year
Ideally with enough space to write on each day. Or you can download my FREE 2019 media calendar here.
2. Block out half a day (or at least a couple of hours)
And take some time away from your usual place of work if you can, ideally somewhere where you feel relaxed e.g. a favourite cafe or hotel lobby. This is creative job and you need to get your ideas flowing. If you try to do it in fits and starts, not only will it take you longer, you’ll struggle to get into that creative zone where your ideas are flowing (which is exactly where you need to be).
3. Start adding key dates, awareness days and significant events to your calendar.
I suggest you do it in this order:
- The obvious stuff – like Christmas, New Year, Easter, summer, Halloween and so on…this may sound obvious, but when you’re busy with other things it’s easy to get sidetracked. Say you’re a fitness specialist and have some great story ideas around getting the perfect beach body you’d like to pitch to glossy magazines; most consumer magazines work 3-6 months ahead, so leave it until March to pitch it to a journalist and you could find you’ve left it too late. Knowing it was Baby Loss Awareness Week allowed me pitch this article on what to say to someone who has had a miscarriage to the Guardian. Although it’s an interesting idea, I’m not sure they’d have run the story without that timely ‘hook’.
- Important events. This can include political events like budget days, government spending reviews, elections, party conferences, parliamentary debates, select committee meetings and so on. Whether you’re a leadership coach or a hair salon owner you are affected by political issues – from taxation to business law to changes in government policy – and these can all spark ideas for content.
- Key sporting events can be great too. For example, knowing that the London Marathon was coming up inspired Jennifer Macdonald-Nethercott, marketing manager at Meatsnacks to create this blog post on marathon recovery – what do you need?
- Royal/celebrity weddings, lunar eclipses, anniversaries…if it’s something people will be talking about (and the press will be covering) it should be on your media calendar.
- Awareness days. From the ‘serious’ e.g. Babyloss Awareness Week, National Cancer Day to the more lighthearted e.g. National Chocolate Day or Eat Your Vegetables Day, awareness days and weeks can be a great ‘hook’ for content.
For example, knowing International Women’s Day was coming up inspired Laure Moyle to pitch this article to the Guardian on why she started her bespoke cake business. She has also used awareness days like National Chocolate Day to create fun content for her blog and social media channels. Beth Searle, founder of baby box business Be So Baby was inspired to create this stop motion video for Instagram for National Punctuation Day. And Scottish parenting blogger Jenni Fuchs was inspired World Porridge Day to review a porridge cafe in Edinburgh.
Do see my warning about awareness days though.
- New films, book and TV programmes: Desert Island Discs can be a great ‘hook’ for media content. For example when music teacher Sally Thomas heard that former footballer David Beckham was going to be on the on iconic BBC Radio 4 programme Desert Island Discs she knew everyone would be talking about it, so she made a note of the date. Around the time the show was due to air, she turned this into a piece of content for the Musical Bumps Facebook page where she invited people to vote for the songs they’d listen to if they were stranded on a desert island.
- Court cases. You might also want to add details of court cases that relate to your industry or sector. Let’s say you run a restaurant, for example. You spot a story about a restaurant owner who is fighting a court battle for the right to be allowed to serve burgers pink in the middle (this really happened, by the way). You make a note of the date the judge is likely to deliver a verdict and contact the media, offering to give your views on the matter.
- Other key dates in your area of expertise. For example dyslexia expert Debbie Abrahams has key dates in the education sector on her media calendar e.g. GCSE/A level results, school offer day, (when parents are offered school places for their children), the triennial PISA study – all of which she uses to write blog posts and create content for her Facebook page. Having the SATs exams on her radar inspired her to pitch this opinion article to the Independent on why Sats make dyslexic children feel worthless.
- Your own launches. It sounds obvious…but it’s so easy to forget to do this. Having launches of your own products and services on your calendar will encourage you to plan ahead and be more strategic with your content (for example, this post is part of the launch content for my Media Diary Owners’ Club).
How to find out about awareness days
There are various websites listing awareness days including Awareness Days UK and National Awareness Days. However if you’d like to save time – and get ideas on how to use them in your content – you can grab a copy of my 2019 media diary here.
For more ideas on creating your media calendar, listening to my latest podcast episode – how to create a media calendar for 2019 (and why you need to).
Once you’ve marked up your media calendar, not only can you develop content ideas to coincide with those dates (as in the examples I’ve shared above), you can also plan ahead for events you know are coming up but have an uncertain outcome e.g. budget days or court cases (planning along the lines of ‘If the outcome is x, I can create a piece of content that does ‘y’).
And remember your media calendar isn’t a static thing – you should be adding to it throughout the year…