Wednesday, September 19, 2012

5 Reasons to Make Your In-house Editorial Calendar

How does your communication department function? Is it stuck in an old mindset of spray and pray (as in spray the press releases out to the media and then pray for coverage) or do you treat the department like your organization's own newsroom where content creation and direct communication with your community are the objectives? I'm an advocate of the latter as part of the department's function for public relations in school districts and nonprofits. An internal editorial calendar is a smart way to help in-house PR departments meet leadership goals and strategic communication objectives all year long.

Keeping an editorial calendar for your communication department allows you to:

  1. Effectively plan around the monthly and yearly occurrences in the organization
  2. Position yourself and department as the go-to source for information
  3. Drop-in plans for special events and target dates
  4. Establish timing for press releases, newsletters, blog posts, video production, etc.
  5. Allows you to get back on track with messaging when things go wrong
That's great but how do you do it? 

Here's how to get started. I'm sure there are other possibly better or more creative ways to make an editorial calendar but here's what I did. I found a simple template in Google Docs (now Google Drive) for a blog Editorial Dashboard. Then I made the appropriate adjustments for a week-by-week calendar for the department to use all year long. 

First, drop in everything for which you have set dates on the calendar. You're looking for those things that happen every year. For a school district, we have many items to quickly drop in such as holidays, board meetings, first and last days of school, high school homecoming dates, graduations, etc. 

Next, add the target or scheduled dates for any special events like any facility ground-breaking events, building dedications, board elections, bond elections (referendums), etc. (Don't forget to include important weekend event dates.)

Once these items are in, it's time to work to include your planned schedule for your recurring communication channels: electronic and/or print newsletters (external and internal if applicable), regular video updates from leadership, blog post schedule, and planned Facebook page posts. This part is an ongoing exercise and and you never really feel finished because things inevitably get shifted and you'll have to make adjustments. The calendar just gives you a guide to bring things back in order. 

We've all had those days (weeks) when things are going wrong or we're in full-blown crisis communication mode and we know in the backs of our minds some things are getting lost in the shuffle. An editorial calendar can serve as your reference tool to get back on track. I've found ours to be a solid source for making sure our timing for important announcements doesn't interfere with something already planned. We've used the calendar to remind leadership of important issues and how they play among established plans, dates, and events.

What do you think? Have you created an editorial calendar for your communication department? Are there any other benefits or tips you can add? As always, the comments are yours.