My Blog Editorial Process: From Planning to Publishing
Blogging is great for business.
But the benefits only show up if it’s done consistently and strategically. And with a full schedule, pressing deadlines, and dozens of business tasks to tackle every day, how can you find time to execute a strategic, effective blog?
I’ve learned the hard way that without a detailed editorial process in place, it’s almost impossible to implement a successful blog for your small business, while also running your small business.
When I first started blogging, my process went something like this (maybe you can relate):
- I’d realize it had been awhile since I published a blog post. I’d feel a little panicked about it, a little defeated that I always felt behind with publishing content, and a little annoyed that I “should” add this to-do to my list today
- I’d open up a blank document and try to think of a topic to write about on the spot
- A general idea would pop into my head, and I start writing
- I’d erase everything and start over a couple of times
- I’d eventually finish writing the post, and then either rush to publish it (always resulting in typos I didn’t catch) or I’d let it sit for a while and then dislike what I had written when I opened it back up
This process wasn’t effective, and it certainly wasn’t any fun. Having “blogging” on my to-do list always made me feel guilty (that I wasn’t blogging more) or overwhelmed (that I had such a big, time-consuming task to tackle every week).
It wasn’t working.
But I was still convinced that blogging – and content marketing in a more general sense – was a huge business opportunity. I knew I wanted to invest in creating content now so that I could enjoy the traffic and inbound leads I’d get from it later on. I knew it was the solution to building the engaged, quality audience I wanted for my business.
So I worked on improving my approach to blogging, and over the course of a few years and lots of trial and error, I’ve arrived at a blogging editorial process that takes the stress out of blogging for business and allows me to create quality content regularly without sacrificing my schedule (or happiness).
The most important steps in effective business blogging happen long before you put any words on the screen.
The planning phase is what allows you to create quality content in less time, with less headache.
When you plan ahead using these steps, sitting down to write and publish blog content becomes so much easier and quicker.
COMING UP WITH TOPIC IDEAS
Coming up with blog post topics spur of the moment, or whenever you sit down to write an actual post, is one of the quickest ways to derail your blogging efforts.
Planning your blog topic ideas out ahead of time allows you to:
- Be strategic about the content you publish
- Make sure each blog post is relevant and helpful for your specific audience
- Publish content that works together – building on each other and remaining relevant to your core topics
- Think through an idea to determine if it will make a detailed and helpful post, or if the idea will fall flat
I consider blog post topic planning to be a completely separate task from writing and publishing content.
I always keep a queue full of blog post ideas, and generally plan time to add ideas to my queue once a month.
Often, dedicating time specifically to brainstorming topic ideas is enough to get your creative juices flowing and come up with great things to write about. But if you’re having trouble coming up with blog post topic ideas, here are some ways to get started:
- Read a lot – I find that I always feel less creative and have a hard time coming up with topic ideas and writing blog posts when I’m not spending time reading. So I make sure to read whenever I can – other blogs, books (business books AND totally non-related books like memoirs and fiction), magazines, newsletters, etc. I find that reading in this way helps me strengthen my writing skills, expand my thinking, and approach my content more creatively.
- Think about your audience’s problems – when you’re blogging for business, it’s important to make sure that every blog post is relevant and helpful for your potential clients, advocates, and fans. One of the best ways to make sure you’re creating helpful content – and a great way to spark blog post ideas – is to make a list of the big problems your audience is facing.
How can you help them solve these problems with your skill set? How do these problem intersect with your business or your offerings? Once you identify these, you can plan out blog posts that address these problems and help your audience.
- Frequently Asked Questions – your blog is a great place to explain your approach to your industry/profession, and answer common questions or clear up common misconceptions around what you do. Think about the questions people ask you over and over and use those as ideas for blog topics.
Once I started getting organized in my approach to blogging, I began to notice that my content felt more intentional and organized, too.
Instead of publishing content on random topics at random times and ending up with a hodge-podge mess of a blog, I could identify the main topics I wrote about, and how each blog post built on or added to each other. As I wrote new blog posts, I saw many opportunities to link to other posts I had published that would expand on the topic I was covering.
This made my blog easy to maintain, but it also made it more successful. My audience – small business owners – weren’t interested in perusing random articles that may be hit or miss. They wanted to know what to expect when they came to my blog: articles on developing a profitable brand and website.
In order to help your blog come together in an organized way, you have to start by organizing your ideas (the ones you brainstormed in the first step).
First, Set Up a Free Account with Asana
There are other platforms you can use for this, but I personally prefer Asana because it’s easy to use and packed with helpful features. You can use Asana to manage projects (and teams), but here’s what it looks like when I use Asana to manage my blog post topic ideas:
I set up a new project titled Blog Post Ideas and choose the board layout. The board layout allows you to create columns and then add cards that you can drag and drop around your board.
Second, Choose Your Blog Categories
Decide on your primary topic categories for your blog. These will be the broad topics that you regularly write on. While you can have as many categories as you want, I highly recommend choosing just a handful (no more than 6). This will help you create blog content that is consistent, organized, and always on-topic for your prospects.
For example, I chose the categories: branding, websites, and business growth.
Create a column for each category, and then add your blog post ideas to their relevant category.
CHOOSING CONTENT STRUCTURE
As the final step before you begin writing content for your blog, you’ll want to choose a content structure for each post.
For each post, decide how you will deliver the content: will you record a video? Include an interview? Do a “roundup” post that highlights helpful articles that have already been published on the topic? Will you create an infographic? Will you follow a how-to structure or create a list post?
Most of your posts may follow the same structure, or you may mix it up with a few different structures. Either way, knowing how you are going to approach your topic will simplify the creation process tremendously.
Now that you have a solid blogging plan in place, have brainstormed and organized your ideas, and have chosen your post structure, it’s time to start writing.
You’ll likely find that actually writing blog posts becomes much easier, quicker, and more enjoyable now that you’ve mapped out your content plan.
Batching my blogging tasks has had a huge impact on my productivity, so I highly recommend you give it a try.
Instead of writing, editing, and publishing one blog post at a time, I now have “batch days” where I complete one task (either outlining, rough draft, edited draft, or publishing) for multiple blog posts at once. For example, on Monday I’ll outline 2 new blog posts, on Tuesday and Wednesday I’ll write the rough draft for each blog post, on Thursday I’ll edit each blog post, and on Friday I’ll schedule each post for publishing.
Batching in this way cuts down on the “warm-up time” it takes to get into a task. Once I get rolling with outlines, rough drafts, or editing, I find it so much easier to keep going and create additional outlines, rough drafts, or edited posts.
Batching can work at any speed: you don’t need to outline, write, edit, and publish multiple posts each week for it to be useful.
For example, If you plan to post once a week, you can work ahead of time and create outlines for the month on week one, write drafts on week two, edit on week three, and schedule to publish on the fourth week (then repeat each month to stay ahead of your content schedule).
OUTLINE YOUR POST
I always build out the “structure” of my blog post first by outlining the main points. I create the headline and then write a subheading (and a couple quick notes if I have them) for each section I want to cover.
This helps me think through the post as a whole and decide what information really needs to go into it.
It also helps me plan out how I’m going to help my reader understand my topic and walk away with the key idea.
Which leads me to the most important part of the outlining process: identifying the ONE key point I want to make. Most of the time it’s one specific action that I want readers to take (for example, implementing a structured editorial process for your blog after reading this post). But it might not always be an action – it could be a specific idea or feeling you want them to leave with.
WRITE YOUR ROUGH DRAFT
Now that your post is mapped out using the outlining step above, you begin filling it out (you might be surprised how much quicker it is to write a blog post once you know exactly what goes where).
During the rough draft phase, don’t self-edit. It’s tempting to go back and read that paragraph you just wrote, or swap out a word for something better, but in my experience stopping to edit breaks up your flow and can make it harder to write.
Editing should be a completely separate task from writing.
Instead, while writing your rough draft, make it your goal to simply brain dump the words onto the page. Don’t censor yourself. Once you have the raw materials out of your head (which can often be the hardest part) you can go back and smooth things over.
EDIT YOUR FINAL DRAFT
I like to let my rough drafts sit for a least a day or two before editing them. Once I’ve put a little bit of distance between my initial ideas and the review process, I can edit it with more critical eyes.
If I re-read a post and try to edit it immediately after writing, my brain usually reads the words the way I thought I wrote them – not necessarily the way they are.
When it’s time to edit, I work on the obvious things like fixing typos and correcting grammar, but I also cut out sections that just add fluff, add details where I didn’t have enough, and move things around to create a better flow.
(Editing rough drafts can also be an excellent task to outsource if you’re able.)
Just like outlining, writing, and editing, I like to schedule posts for publishing in batches, too.
My website/blog is built on WordPress, and depending on your blogging platform the publishing process might look a little different. But regardless of platform, there are a few key steps you should build into your publishing process.
SETTING UP A PUBLISHING SCHEDULE
First, set a publishing schedule. Will you post every week? Twice a month? What day will posts be published? (For example, I currently publish new posts every Monday morning).
CREATING BLOG GRAPHICS
Creating a blog graphic for every post not only gives your blog some visual interest, it’s also great for social media marketing.
I create all of my blog graphics in Illustrator (and I highly recommend it to business owners who plan to DIY their visual branding) , but if you’re not ready for a professional design program, PicMonkey and Canva are both free and easy tools that can help you create images for your blog posts.
PUBLISHING & PROMOTING
Once my blog image is ready, I upload it and my blog post text (that I originally created in a Google Doc) to WordPress. I format the subheadings and double check the links, then schedule the post to publish at the appropriate time. Done!
Your new blog editorial process
Putting this editorial process in place has made blogging so much more manageable and – more importantly – more likely to get done. Even though I always had the best intentions for blogging, having a system and schedule helps me take it seriously and stay accountable.
If you’re interested in using blogging to grow your business, it’s time to put an editorial process in place. Use my example in this post to get started and create a routine and system that works for you. To give yourself a nudge, put your publishing schedule goal in the comments below!
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