From Editorial Calendar to Approval: Running the Content Development Process Like a Newsroom

Read time: 11 minutes

Marketing isn’t journalism, but we could still learn a thing or two about the editorial process from the industry that has perfected it.


Lubricating the content development process

Organise your plan with an editorial calendar

Creating a content calendar

Content calendar example

Content approval workflow: the editing and approval stage

If you work with or around content marketers and you haven’t been living under a rock, you’ve probably noticed that we spring up from all kinds of places.

There are the data-driven marketers who find themselves turning their hand to written creative. Some of us are creative writers first and marketers second. Very occasionally you’ll cross paths with a content unicorn, that mythical creature embodying the perfect combination of marketing know-how, data analysis, and writing ability. (When this happens, set a trap, throw a net, then shackle them with cold iron to a desk.)

There are also content marketers with backgrounds in journalism. The subject of brand journalism has been a hot topic recently as Google (and the good old-fashioned humans using it; let’s not forget about them) put increasing pressure on us to ramp up the quality of the content we’re producing.

While the discussion around brand journalism and its place in content marketing is one for another day, there is one lesson we can stand to learn from the newsroom, and that is how to tackle the content development process.

Not quite here yet? Discover how to build a content marketing strategy in 40 steps.

content development process

Lubricating the content development process

The biggest challenge many businesses face when implementing or scaling content marketing activities often isn’t the creation itself but the content development process. By this, I mean the editorial process steps of getting it reviewed, edited, uploaded and either scheduled or published in a timely and efficient way.

‘Timely’ and ‘efficient’ are not two words that come to this process naturally, especially during the early stages. Marketing heads are realising that they can take cues from the newsroom when looking to improve their editorial content but overlooking the fact that they can also learn about the setup and refinement of the content development process to make it more productive, cost-effective, and scalable.

When implemented correctly, an editorial process is the lubrication in the content marketing machine, ensuring the stories and videos you need to attract and close those leads are produced efficiently and consistently.


Organise your plan with an editorial calendar

In order to keep up with their fast-paced publishing cycles, newspapers and magazines keep an editorial calendar or a schedule of who is writing what—and when.

Using this editorial calendar, editors can keep track of what’s coming up well in advance, ensuring a smoother and more organised publishing process. Imagine how chaotic everything would be without it: a scramble for subject matter, editorial approval, missed deadlines, and late or poorly written articles. It's an editor's—and a content manager’s—nightmare.

A clear, easy-to-use content marketing calendar works in the same way. Here's how to create one.


content marketing calendar

Creating a content calendar

  1. Start with your end goal in mind

Whether this is driving blog subscriptions, capturing personal details, or something else besides, this should be the point you are working towards.

  1. Align the goal with your buyer personas and where they are on the buyer's journey

This will provide strong indicators of the form you should be writing in—articles, case studies, how-to guides, listicles, and so on—or whether or not you should be writing anything at all (do they respond better to video and infographics, for example?).

If your goal is lead capture, it will also reveal the kinds of resources you could test as hooks. Work these into the content marketing calendar to give a comprehensive overview of the content that needs to be created, by whom, and when.

  1. What topics are your buyer personas interested in (content they will value)

And how can you align these with your value propositions and company stories to create more engaging, personalised narrative content? This is an effective way of writing about the subjects your audience is interested in, in a distinctive way that will help to elevate your content above that of your competitors.

Note: At this stage, it is important to be self-critical. It is easy to create a calendar that 'sounds right' or that you can imagine being effective. Cross-reference this against the personas. Better yet, put yourself in your personas' shoes. Would that article benefit you? Does the story resonate? Why would you read it over the millions of similar articles already published?

  1. Don't forget to research suitable keywords to support your content

While your priority should be to create content that will engage your readers, offer them value, or encourage deeper thinking, keywords are still relevant and should be used where natural and appropriate to provide greater organic visibility and search relevancy to the content in your calendar.

  1. Input all of this information into a calendar format

The editorial calendar should be clearly set out and easy to access so that the team has no excuse to disregard it. Depending on the calendar software you use, tasks can often be synced between calendars and your project management platform of choice.


Consider when the articles will need to be published, as well as the dates by which first drafts should be completed. Who will be responsible for creating the content? When will they need to be briefed? What form will the content take? Have you linked to any important resources, and does the calendar state the aim (how the content should help the reader) and objective (what you want the content to achieve) of each entry?

  1. Implement activity

Once the content marketing calendar is up and running, your team will find itself in a much stronger position to start researching and writing those stories.


At your end, the management process is simplified. And if you're a one-man band or you're the kind of content manager who still likes to get their hands dirty (and so you should), the calendar will become your lifeboat.


Developing the content calendar in the future


Adjust or reschedule proposed titles based on resources, feedback and, hopefully, growth. Our ongoing content development process looks a little like this:

  1. Brainstorm new story ideas (internally and with the client)
  2. Write (or assign a story to a writer)
  3. The approval stage: edit and edit some more
  4. Publish the article and share socially
  5. Analyse performance results
  6. Repeat

Need help brainstorming new story ideas? Assume the journalist position.

Content calendar example

editorial calendar


Content approval workflow: the editing and approval stage

This is an important stage in any content marketing process. Content should always be reviewed before going live. Even the most stringent copywriters will make mistakes from time to time, and while editors are often described as being eagle-eyed, this is, in fact, just a metaphor. (Eagles don’t have much of an eye for typos anyway.) As a result, establishing an approval stage between content production and publication helps to maximise accuracy and maintain a healthy working relationship between all parties involved.

To make this stage as efficient and painless as possible, we recommend the following.

  1. Define the content approval workflow

Establish who will be writing or creating content and who will be reviewing it. The more complex this gets, with multiple editors or multiple levels of approval, the more challenging the approval process becomes. When multiple parties begin editing a piece of work, feedback can get complicated and publication can be unduly delayed, with repercussions as far up as engagement. Too many chefs, as they say. In extreme cases, content production can grind to a halt, limiting the company’s ability to engage with the leads it needs to grow.

  1. Work to a common goal

A small but important point. Make sure the person editing the content is familiar with the campaign and its goals. These factors will often influence the way a piece of content grows out, so the more familiar that the editor is with these elements, the fewer questions they should have with the content.

Is content marketing journalism? No, I don’t think it is, at least insomuch that as marketers, we must always keep in mind that our ability to demonstrate ROI ultimately comes back to how many sales of the company’s product or service we can influence through our content. In journalism, the product is the stories themselves.

Does this mean we can’t learn from aspects of journalism to better the quality of the content we are producing? No, of course not. Taking steps to document and define our editorial process is just one example of how we can learn from the newsroom to improve the smooth implementation of our content strategies and wider inbound marketing strategies.


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Tom Brown

About the Author
Tom Brown
I'm a content marketer who loves language, storytelling, and lizards.

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