Illustration of an editorial calendarThe to-do list is long, the day is short, and there’s an empty editorial calendar you need to fill.

A blog can be a powerful part of your content marketing strategy, but if the blog doesn’t have regular content, how powerful can it be? Building an editorial calendar can be challenging, especially if you have a small team, limited writing staff or a minimal budget (or all three).

We’ve been there and we understand — we’re a small team, too! But you can be small and mighty, especially when it comes to content planning. Whether you’re a team of one or one hundred, these tips can help you create and execute a robust editorial calendar.

Don’t be afraid to look at competitors

First, a disclaimer: No one is telling you to plagiarize someone else’s content. That’s a big no-no! But there’s a lot of inspiration to be found on your competitors’ blogs. Browse through their recent or most popular posts and think of how you can put a new spin on one of these topics.

Say one of your competitors publishes a post outlining a new breast cancer research. You could reach out to one of your breast oncologists or researchers to see what their reaction is on the study and how it may affect patient care. Try writing it as a Q&A or ghostwrite the article on behalf of the subject matter expert (SME).

If you have an SEO tool — like SEMRush, Moz or Ahrefs — you could also run a competitive analysis on your keyword rankings vs. your competitors’. What keywords are they ranking for that you’re not? There may be an article topic in there somewhere.

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Use a few free tools

When your editorial calendar has gaps and your idea reservoir is running dry, there are a few free search listening tools that can help you come up with topics in a matter of seconds. All you need is a keyword.

Answer the Public is probably the most well-known of these tools (even if the homepage is a bit creepy). After typing in your keyword(s), Answer the Public produces possible questions, statements and comparisons that include that keyword. These prompts could be the basis of a blog post or may spark other ideas when building an editorial calendar.

Screenshot of Answer the Public result

A result from Answer the Public for the keyword “editorial calendar.”


Here are a few other search listening tools that can help generate topics based on keywords:

If you have access to your website’s Google Search Console (also free!), you could take a peek in there to see the search queries that are bringing users to your website. Are there related questions or keywords that you could target with new content? You can also check what people are searching for once they get on your website — what are the keywords or queries they’re typing into your website’s search bar?

Get some brains together

When it comes to building an editorial calendar, there’s nothing better than a good old-fashioned brainstorm session. Gather a few minds from your organization — it doesn’t have to be a huge group — and spend an hour generating topics.

Try to keep the brainstorm group diverse and include representatives from various departments or teams. Different perspectives can generate a better variety of topics.

It can be beneficial to invite people who have frequent contact with your target audience. They’re going to understand your audience’s pain points and questions, which you can address with content. Depending on your organization, this might be a:

  • Customer success representative
  • Patient satisfaction liaison
  • Service line marketing manager
  • Clinicians
  • Sales staff

One last tip on brainstorming sessions: Don’t forget to send out a brief before the meeting that outlines your goals for the brainstorm. Make sure to send it out well in advance so participants have some time to prepare.

Read more: How often should I post to my blog?

Look at your existing content resources

We’re often so focused on creating new blog articles that we forget about the mountain of existing content surrounding us. Take a look around — you may have more content than you think!

Refreshing and optimizing old blog posts is a great way to fill up your editorial calendar. It can also give your SEO a boost.

Consider looking outside of the written medium, as well. Are there videos, infographics or podcast episodes you could use to create new content? Maybe you can chop up a 10-minute video into several smaller videos, each with a supporting blog or social media post.

Check your social feeds

Social media listening can be a valuable resource for your editorial calendar. Your audience’s conversations and questions can shed light on common pain points that you can address with your content.

Try scrolling your organization’s Twitter feed for a few minutes a day or checking on trending hashtags. You’ll also want to keep track of common questions and comments that appear on your organization’s public posts or direct message inbox. All of this is editorial calendar gold.

If you want a more organized approach to social listening, there are a ton of different free and paid social media tools available. These can help you track the topics and questions that are most relevant to your audience.

Reach out to guest bloggers

Guest bloggers are an excellent way to get more content on your blog, and most of the time, the bloggers will write for free, as long as you’re providing some links back to their personal blog or website.

In some cases, guest bloggers will reach out to you. But if you want to curate your guest blogging staff, social media can be a great resource. Find influencers in your industry who have a strong following and unique ideas and reach out to see if they would be interested in contributing a post.

Many social media tools available today provide influencer research, but Buzzsumo is one of our go-to resources. Simply type in a keyword into their influencer search and it will find Twitter users, YouTube channels and other authors on the web who use that keyword in their profiles. It ranks these users based on domain authority, number of followers, average retweets and more.

Buzzsumo screenshot with healthcare marketing influencers on Twitter

A Buzzsumo search for Twitter influencers related to healthcare marketing.

Partner with a content expert

Whether you’re looking to build up content for a new blog or plan out an editorial calendar for your existing site, an experienced and reliable content partner might be the best solution. A content partner allows you to offload some of the idea generation, planning and writing while you focus on your other marketing goals.

If you decide to outsource some of your writing, it’s critical that you find an individual or organization who can understand and adapt your brand voice. Reliability and meeting deadlines are essential, but it’s just as important for the outsourced articles to fit with the rest of your content. Ideally, the different pieces of content will fit together seamlessly, helping your message resonate loud and clear with readers.

Regardless of the tactics you use for building an editorial calendar, just remember that small teams don’t have to have small content strategies. By leaning on your colleagues, existing content, guest bloggers and a few free tools, you can have a robust content plan that keeps your readers coming back for more.

What are your editorial calendar strategies? We’d love to hear your ideas and tips! Connect with us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or YouTube. You can also sign up for our monthly newsletter, Content Counts, to get the latest healthcare marketing tips and tricks.

Editor’s note: The original version of this blog appeared on the MarTech Health Directory.