I’m teaching our editorial calendar webinars this week, and this question came up: What’s the difference between an editorial calendar and a content calendar and which do I need?
I see this question like I do the communications versus marketing question in the nonprofit sector. Yes, they are technically different, but the practical reality in our sector is that they are usually done together by the same person and therefore often used interchangeably.
Same with this question.
In the corporate world, the editorial calendar is often viewed as the long-term strategic document that lays out themes and big story arcs. The content calendar is the day-to-day content development and publishing calendar.
But I prefer to think of these two terms differently in the nonprofit sector.
I use “editorial calendar” to define the document that says what you are going to publish, and when, and in what communications channels, whether that is this week or six months from now.
I use “content calendar” most often with organizations that are heavy content producers, often with program staff generating lots of long-form content about a variety of different topics that are then turned over to the comms staff to repurpose and distribute through multiple channels. So in this case, the content calendar is really about the production schedule for those long-form documents (reports, white papers, guides, etc.). The content calendar covers what is being developed when and by whom on the program side and when that content will be ready for the comms team to distribute widely. So you might think of it as the “pre-editorial calendar work.”
Now, again, this often merged into one big function by nonprofit comms staff, because it has to be. They don’t have the resources or luxury of managing both separately.
So, my bottom line: Use an editorial calendar to manage your content production and distribution overall. If you have A LOT of content being developed in your organization, then look further upstream, and embed the “content calendar” about how that content gets developed into your larger editorial calendar.