Every year at this time, Hammock editors work with our clients to compile annual editorial slates. Here are a few hints we’ve learned that make the process go more smoothly—and pump up magazine stakeholders about the coming year.

  1. Pick a few brains. When you’re looking for a new job, you ask everyone you know for ideas and references, right? The same goes when compiling an editorial calendar. Plan a brainstorming session with your writers, editors, designers and others to throw around ideas. It helps to plan this meeting away from the office so that people can be more relaxed and less distracted. Pick a favorite coffee house with couches or another comfortable location, provide plenty of snacks and offer prizes to encourage ingenuity. And make sure no one’s creativity is stifled: Even crazy, off-the-wall concepts might lead to workable stories.
  2. Listen to your audience. Has your magazine’s audience changed significantly in the last year? What trends are hot in this particular industry, and what topics need to be investigated in the coming year? Do you have any reader research on what types of departments or features might have been most popular? Have your clients asked you to profile a certain subject or take a particular focus? Use the research and feedback to tweak the editorial slate. (And if you haven’t asked for this kind of feedback, do so now!)
  3. Become a magazine fiend. Subscribe to your competitors. Hang out by the library’s magazine rack. Browse your favorite bookstore for the latest issues of related magazines. You don’t necessarily need to steal ideas, but you’ll find a lot of inspiration from reading magazines you admire.
  4. Cultivate relationships. If you’ve developed a dependable stable of freelancers, ask them to send you focused queries. If they’ve been writing for you for a good while, they should know your audience and your publication’s style. Plus, they have built-in incentive to submit perfect ideas for your magazine: If you like the idea, they have a new project.
  5. Spread your tentacles. Use Web tools to alert you to certain hot stories that you might want to cover. If you use delicious or Technorati tags or Google alerts, let them do the heavy sifting of finding articles. With Google alerts, enter your search terms, e-mail address and how often you want notification when a related story appears. You can discontinue them whenever you need to.