In this blog, I explain how you can create a blog production schedule for writing blog posts that will help your charity build an audience and become a trusted source of information. And make sure you can keep on top of the workload.
Why bother with a process?
Speaking to the people in charge of the blogs at three of the top medical research charities, they tell me that a crucial part of building an audience for your charity’s blog is consistency and flexibility.
Consistency is important for you and your audience:
- Consistency builds an audience, who’ll expect you to be a consistent and trusted source of information.
- Having a schedule helps with planning and working with internal and external people.
- Having a schedule ensures that the work actually gets done.
On the other hand, being flexible is important so you can react to external events. If a news story breaks tomorrow that is relevant to your charity, you want to be in a position to quickly turn around something that makes sense of it for your audience.
In my view, having a process helps with being both consistent and flexible. Knowing what you need to do helps you plan for regular blogging, and enables you to react quickly and efficiently when the situation calls for it.
A blog production schedule in five steps
The following steps are how I put together a process for this very blog, so I know that they work. They work for any piece of content you produce, not just blogs.
I learnt these tips from content marketing experts Andrew & Pete. They have an excellent YouTube channel that you should check out. Though they tailor their videos for small businesses, there’s a lot of stuff which would be useful for people working in marketing for charities too.
Anyway, here’s the process I use, and how you can implement it for your charity in five steps.
1. Publishing schedule
Come up with a preliminary schedule (sometimes known as an editorial calendar, or a content calendar) for what the charity is going to publish around the blog, and when. That not only includes the blog itself, but also any additional content to promote the blog post.
So, let’s say you plan to publish a weekly blog, on a Wednesday. You might send it in an email to your supporters on a Thursday, a Facebook post on a Friday, tweets throughout the following, a video at some point, and so on. That’s your publishing schedule.
For things aimed at promoting your blog (the newsletter, social media posts, and so on), it’s also important to know who is going to do this. Are you responsible for any part of that, or do you hand it over to another team to sort out? (hello, Digital teams! 👋)
Have this discussion with the relevant person(s) early on. Come to an agreement on what each of you will do, and what they need from you. You may find out you ended to compromise depending on their workload and their own schedules.
2. Task List
The second crucial part is to come up with a task list. What do you need to do to make everything happen? Again, this includes the blog, but also any tasks for the promotional content too.
Break it into individual tasks. For example, for a blog that could include…
- Coming up with an idea for the blog
- Identifying a potential interviewee
- Coming up with questions for the interview
- Interview (e.g. with a researcher)
- Transcribing interview
- Putting together an outline for the blog
- Writing a draft
- Gathering images or creating diagrams
- Editing draft
- etc. etc.
For the promotional content, it could be ‘writing a summary for the newsletter’, ‘drafting tweets’, ‘recording a short video’ and so on. Crucially, it has to be everything you’re responsible for.
The final part of this is to work out how long it’ll take to do each one. You may know this from experience. If not, a good rule of thumb in my experience is to take a guess, and then add 50 per cent (I always underestimate how much time something’s going to take). Alternatively, time yourself with a stopwatch or a tool like Toggl.
3. Production Schedule
The third part of this process is arguably the most important. You know when you’ll need to produce your content for (from part 1, the publishing schedule). You know what you need to do to make that happen, and how long it’ll take (from part 2, the task list). Now you can combine the two to set out when you’ll be doing these tasks – the production schedule.
The easiest way to think of this (and to plan it out) is to work backwards. If you publish your blog on a Wednesday, it means you’ll need to set aside time to sign it off ready to upload, on a Tuesday afternoon. Which means you’ll need it edited no later than Tuesday morning. And so on.
A few things to bear in mind:
- Sign-off? Remember to factor in any sign-off procedures. Will the blog need to be signed-off by any interviewees, or your line manager? Factor in that time and make sure that they’re aware of it. (This is where it pays off to keep sign-off to an absolute minimum.).
- Batch it up? You may want to consider ‘batching up’ specific tasks. For example, say you plan to publish a blog once a week. To come up with ideas, you could either schedule a weekly task to ‘come up with an idea for the next blog’. Alternatively, you could ‘batch’ it and spend some time every four weeks coming up with four topics for the following four blogs. Decide what will make your life easier and the task more efficient.
- Who’s doing it? Consider who will do the work too. If you’re on your own, then you’ll be doing everything – sorry. But if you’re the team manager of people writing blogs, they could do the research and writing, and you can do the editing. Or maybe they could pair off, and edit each other’s blogs? Perhaps someone could be responsible for all the interviews, and another person does the editing? Plan the work to each other’s strengths, and what will make everyone’s lives easiest.
4. Sense Check
Now look at the work you have to do for each blog, and the schedule you set yourself and/or your team – and not forgetting other colleagues you’re relying upon (hello, Digital teams! 👋) Does it seem reasonable? Does it leave enough time to do any other work? Have you left any wiggle room for when the inevitable last-minute request lands on your desk?
If it’s too much, then consider the following:
- Reduce the frequency of your blog. Have another look at the publishing schedule you created in part 1. It might be better to start off less frequent and build it up than to be too ambitious and work yourself into the ground to follow an unrealistic timetable.
- Reduce the tasks you do. Look at the task list from part 2. Maybe you could divide your tasks for the task list into absolute essentials and ‘desirables’ – things you’ll do if you have the time. Do you need to do that video to promote the blog every week? Or could it be saved for the most important ones?
- Spread the work more evenly. Have a look at the production schedule from part 3. You could spread the work out more evenly across the week or month. Or share it out better between different members of your team. Could you enlist a colleague’s help to do interviewing, proof-reading, or image-gathering, for example?
- Outsource it. You can outsource transcriptions of interview through services like Rev. There are lots of people who could do videos to promote your blogs if that’s something you’re interested in. And you can even outsource the writing or editing of blogs to someone like me! (ahem)
5. Put it in the calendar
I have learnt the hard way that if I want to make sure something happens, I have to put it in the calendar. For me, the key to getting stuff done is making it an appointment and treating it with the same respect as you would a meeting with your line manager or with a supporter (or in my case, a client).
Once you’ve got a production schedule that you’re happy with, it’s easy to put each task in as a recurring task into your calendar. This is particularly important when working as a team. Make sure that other colleagues whose time you’re relying upon are aware of it, and know when they’ll be getting stuff from you, and (if relevant) when you’ll need it back.
What about flexible blogging?
The process I outline above is useful for when you plan to keep a regular blogging schedule – it’s been a lifeline for me. But what if there’s a news story you want to respond to in a blog, which doesn’t fit into a schedule? Or what if you don’t want to stick to a schedule at all?
This process can still help. You’ll know what you need to do, how long it’ll take you to do it, and who needs to be involved. So when (for example) a relevant news story breaks, you can gather everyone together, decide whether you can turn a blog around today and if so, crack on.
Knowing what you need to do, you can strip your process down quite a bit when you need to. For example, for a quick turn-around reactive blog, you might not have time (or might not need) to interview someone, or you might decide you won’t put together a video about it, and so on.
I hope you find this process as useful as I have. If you want to discuss any part of it, or need help implementing it in your charity, feel free to get in touch via email.