Creating an editorial calendar is one of the best parts of the content development process. The perfect combination of brainstorming and organization, a good editorial plan will save you from the dreaded writer’s slump and allow you to build strategic content. There are a lot of different ways to organize your editorial calendar—many of which I’ve tried—and your method will depend on how you process and categorize content. One of the tools that I’ve been loving lately is Trello. Flexible and easy to use, Trello allows me to keep my ideas and projects organized and consistent so I can free some brain space for other things—like creative brainstorming. Follow this step by step guide for how I use Trello to set up my editorial calendar. Click through the gallery above for a step by step photo guide.
With so many project management options out there, why choose Trello? I was first introduced to Trello at work and I immediately loved its simplicity and user interface. Now I use it for all Elsie Road projects, and there are a few reasons why. First of all, there’s a free plan that actually works. There are a lot of programs out there that offer free trials or free versions, but often the features are so limited that the app is essentially useless unless you upgrade to a paid plan. Trello does have great options for upgrades, but the free plan is also really functional.
I also love the simplicity of Trello. Although its features won’t work perfectly for each scenario and there are a lot of more robust programs out there, the beauty of Trello is that it’s simple but customizable. It’s an easy way to organize and track your project workflow, without a lot of intensive setup or a huge learning curve.
Trello is great for collaborating—whether you’re working with regular team members or partnering on a one-time project. Board access can be shared individually or with teams so you can keep all your boards private and just have a project board that’s shared with other members.
With a ton of integrations—like Dropbox and Google Drive—Trello is flexible and customizable, so you can setup your editorial calendar, social media schedule and magazine pitches with the same software. I’m going to run through the basics of Trello and how I use it to create an organized editorial calendar.
First you’ll want to open a Trello account. Then start by creating a new board. On the right side you’ll see a menu with options. This is where you can change the colour of the board, add team members or enable Power-Ups. For now we’re just going to enable the calendar Power-Up. This allows you to see all your cards in calendar view, which we’ll want later once we’ve added dates to each card.
Trello’s structure is based on lists and cards; the lists are like drawers in a filing cabinet and each card is like a folder within those drawers. The lists remain in the same order and the cards can be moved from list to list as each task or project advances through the system.
For an editorial calendar setup, I usually create around seven lists. This number may vary depending on workflow and how many people are involved in the process, but the basic structure is:
- Graphics + Social
The first list is for post ideas and articles that need to be written but haven’t been assigned or started yet. The posts or articles then move through the creation process: researching, writing, editing, graphics and social, until they’re posted. I like to have the last list for resources as a place to keep any documents that I regularly reference—style guides, post checklists etc. This is also where I keep cards with running lists of topic ideas that aren’t formulated enough to be added to the first list.
These lists are a great way to quickly visualize where each post is at in the creation process. If you’re working with team members (like writers, designers or social media managers) they can easily see whether a post is ready for them to work on by looking at which list the project is under.
Cards are the base of Trello and where all the details are stored. For an editorial calendar, I set up each post as a card. First you’ll want to create a new card in the Ideas list and give it a working title.
The back of the card has a lot of options for adding in relevant information. You can include a description with a few more details on the post like a rough outline or a few points you want to write about. On the right side you can select members—if you’re working with a team this is where you would select all the people who will be working on that post. You can also tag members who are part of the board with an @ sign in the description, comments or on a checklist item.
The card features I use to set up my editorial calendar are:
- Due Dates
You can add labels that will show up on the front of the card so you can easily differentiate between types of posts. For my editorial calendar I set up labels for each blog category, but you could also use it for the different platforms you’re publishing on or publications that you’re writing for.
Checklists are useful for outlining tasks that need to be accomplished within a post. You can check things off as you go and tag members on specific items.
The due date option is self-explanatory, but the date you set also determines where the item will show up in calendar view. For an editorial calendar I set the due dates as the date I want the post to go live so in calendar view I can have a good overview of when content will be published.
You can also attach links or files to each card. If you’re using Dropbox or Google Drive, you can link directly to those files. You can also attach any URL to the card–this is helpful if there’s a specific site or article you want to reference or a resource you need for completing that card.
The aspect of Trello that’s the most helpful for creating an editorial schedule is the calendar view. Once you’ve set up a few cards and enabled the Calendar View Power Up, you should see the option to view the cards in Calendar mode. When you select this, every card that has a due date will show up on the calendar on that date. If you have cards without assigned due dates they won’t show up. In this mode you can also drag cards to a different date. If you prefer to develop your calendar visually, you can set up all the cards and assign due dates then go into calendar mode and drag them around until the schedule makes sense.
If you’re using Trello to manage a calendar with others, you’ll want to set up a team. To create a new team click on the plus icon in the top right corner. There are options to create a personal team or a business team. The business team has more capabilities, but is available for paid plans only. Once you set up a team (if you’re on the free plan, just use a personal team), you can add boards and members from the team dashboard. This way each member of your team can set up their own Trello account and have private boards they use for their personal tasks, but all team boards can be accessed by every member. If you want to tag members or add them to cards, they do need to be members of that specific board.
Trello has even more options for customization and integrations (especially with paid plans), but these basics are more than enough to create a functional editorial calendar. The framework I’ve explained works well for editorial calendars, but with a few minor adjustments it would also be perfect for articles you’re pitching to magazines or chapters in your book. How do you organize your editorial calendar? Would you try Trello?