Break Free Of Your Editorial Calendar!

I just had a great idea. About four or five times a month, I find myself at some sort of business lunch. Whether with a client, prospective client, colleague, whatever, it’s the rare week that goes by where I’m not lunching with someone in the middle of the work day.

So here’s what I’m thinking. What if, at the beginning of each year, I mapped out what I was going to talk about at each of these lunches for the coming 12 months? I could make a list of all the possible topics, and lay them out in a nice, neat calendar, week by week.

This way, I’d only have to do my “topic development” work once, and I’d be able to take a big picture view of the year, making sure that I present a balanced and well thought out approach to my lunchtime conversations.

Raise your hand if you think this is the dumbest idea you’ve ever heard of. Me too.

It makes no sense for (at least) two reasons. First, because thinking of what to talk about at a business lunch isn’t all that hard. You know your business, you know what’s going on in your industry, you know what matters and what doesn’t. You just sit down and start talking, and don’t need a plan.

Second, because the world changes every day. Even if you went to the trouble to plan out the year in January, by the time September rolled around, half the stuff you chose would be irrelevant, and plenty of things that were on nobody’s radar back then would now be front and center.

So how about an editorial calendar for your E-Newsletters? Should you create one? My answer (as I’m sure you’ve guessed) is no. And the reason is, because I want your E-Newsletter to feel more like a business lunch than like the September issue of Fortune Magazine.

Big publications need lots of structure and lots of planning. Without this, they’d never be able to coordinate all the people and all the resources necessary to get anything out the door. But that structure is a necessary evil for a big publication, not an objective to strive for. The negative impact of a long range approach to topic planning is that it tends to result in content which feels inauthentic and manufactured.

The advice of an expert (like you) however, is here and now, and has a very short shelf life (seen any experts on CNN lately talking about last year’s news?)

This newsletter comes out every other Friday morning, and I frequently find myself sitting down to write it on Thursday nights. I admit I don’t do this deliberately, but sometimes that’s just the way things work out. The funny thing is that the closer to deadline I begin, the more all of you (based on your comments) seem to like it. It’s almost as if you can sense the sparkle of something hot off the presses.

One more thing. If what’s at the heart of your preplanning is a fear of running out of things to say, try this approach: Keep all your future newsletter ideas in a single place. On a file on your computer, a whiteboard in the lunchroom, wherever you won’t forget about it. Every time you have an idea for a future topic (even a half baked one), put it in there. Then, when it comes time to write the next newsletter, just check the list, pick the topic that grabs you and your colleagues that day, and write about that.

Bottom Line: The rationale behind publishing an E-Newsletter is very much the same as the rationale for taking a client to lunch: You get to eat for free and charge the whole thing back to the company. No, ha, ha, I am of course just kidding. The rationale is to give your readers an authentic piece of you and your company, so that when they have a need that you can satisfy, your name jumps to the top of the list. Keeping your newsletter fresh and topical is a key part of the mix in reaching that objective.

Do you agree? Click here to tell me.

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