What is an Editorial Calendar?
An editorial calendar, often referred to as an “Ed Cal” amongst PR professionals, is a calendar that publications use to organize and plan their content. At first, it was simply just a tool that publications used to map their content plan for the year. Then it evolved and turned into a tool to entice advertisers with relevant content. Finally, it became a tool to inform PR professionals of the content an outlet plans to write about for a given month or period of time. Ed cals can include information ranging from a headline for the cover story, possible feature ideas, overall themes, as well as publication dates. Typically, ed cals require planning ahead as lead times can range anywhere from 60-90 days.
How can PR Professionals utilize EdCals?
Here at LPP, we like to call ed cals part of the bread and butter aspect of PR. Much like the phrase the eyes are the windows to one’s soul, ed cals are like the window to a publication’s interests. They give us a sneak peek, or head-start, to what a publication will be covering for that year. This not only allows us to curate content with our clients that we know the publication will be interested in, but we can also generate pitches that are relevant to the reporters.
Every year after Thanksgiving, we launch our “Ed-calathon” where the agency embarks on a 6-week hunt to find publications’ editorial calendars for the following year, ranging from trade publications focused on our specialties (technology and trade), to business press. All-in-all we look for more than 200 ed cals, and compile our database for the year. Searching for ed cals is no easy feat! Some publications have a designated editorial calendar location, some include it as part of their media kit, others you have to subscribe to or email the publication to be given a copy. Once everyone has found all their ed cals and “our bag of tricks” is complete, we celebrate by hosting a pizza party and happy hour for the agency.
Are they on their way out?
As mentioned, finding ed cals is not the easiest thing. In fact, more and more publications are doing away with ed cals each year. According to PRNewser, an audit of over 50 outlets discovered that nearly half of the outlets surveyed have stopped publishing editorial calendars. And not only have they stopped publishing them, but many reporters don’t even follow the content calendar anymore. The same study reported:
- Of the outlets that continue to publish editorial calendars, only a quarter of them use the pitched material for editorial purposes where a reporter writes the content, and;
- Only 10 percent of the audited media use the editorial calendars for contributed content
All of this coupled with the fact that the ratio of reporter to PR professional has been shrinking significantly since 2000 is not helping. An article from Muckrack recently covered a study from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stating that 15 years ago there were two PR people for every reporter in the country. Now there are 4.8 PR people – almost double! This is making it harder and harder for your pitches to stand out in a reporter’s overflowing inbox.
So what’s the verdict? While many argue it is a dying media tool, most PR professionals still find value even if they use the ed cals for background. It would be a sad day in the PR industry to lose insight into what a publication plans to cover. Hopefully, we will see publications find a solution for the use of ed cals and create a new, opportunistic role for them in the always-changing media landscape that satisfies reporters and PR people.