Originally published on Theory of Change for Organizations.
If there’s one organizational tool that can take your communications strategy to the next level, it’s a content calendar. Taking the time to plan out your upcoming campaigns and messages might feel overwhelming, but will ultimately save you time, energy, and let’s be honest, some last minute Facebook posts that aren’t quite on strategy. Whether you’re an old pro at content calendars, or you know you need to get one going, here are four key questions to ask.
1. Does your calendar include all of your channels?
By now, it’s pretty much standard operating procedure to interact with your organization’s supporters on a number of different platforms. From email to text messages to social media, your message is getting out there in more ways than ever before. But that’s also more posts to keep track of than ever before. No matter where someone is hearing from you, the message should sound the same as it does on every other channel. Ensuring your content calendar goes beyond just email makes sure that your audience is hearing what you want them to hear and that your message can more easily cut through the noise.
2. Is your calendar flexible?
Given enough time and resources, you could probably plan 12 months’ worth of content and call it a day, but the odds of the rest of the world sticking to that calendar are slim to none. There are always going to be events and news stories which take that well-planned narrative and turn it on its head. Keeping your calendar flexible enough so that you can rearrange campaigns and stories around what’s happening elsewhere is a big key to success. So be sure to use pencil for long-term dates, and check in each week to make sure you’re still on track to post what’s planned. For example, at Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), much of the external messaging revolves around advocacy, and with Congress not exactly following a schedule, it was important to leave a few days of buffer room around potential important votes until they got nailed down.
3. Can everyone access your calendar?
If a calendar exists without anyone else being able to view it, well, that kind of defeats the purpose. Creating your calendar is an opportune moment to talk with teams across the organization, whether communications, digital, or fundraising, to make sure everyone’s priorities are noted in the calendar. That conversation goes both ways–it also gives everyone else an understanding of what other competing priorities might. For example, at IAVA, November is a busy month with Veterans Day on the 11th. With a big membership event and a big fundraising gala competing for calendar space, it’s better to find that out in July instead of a week before. The most effective calendars are a way to share information within your organization, not just a list of upcoming Instagram posts.
4. Does your calendar promote accountability?
OK, so you have the next two months’ worth of content planned, down to the tweet. But there’s another step beyond planning: the actual posting! In organizations where more than one person is managing external communications channels, make sure your calendar has a section that notes who is responsible for posting, editing, approving, and reviewing each piece of content. The last thing you want is a great Facebook post that goes unposted because no one was sure whose job it was. That’s a sad content story. And it can be easily avoided by including accountability in your calendar.
Want to know more about nonprofit content calendars? Check out these other great resources:
- Here’s a calendar template from the great Beth Kanter on Beth’s Blog
- Here’s another how-to from the DonorSnap blog
- And Salsa Labs breaks down a few useful tools for content curation in this post
What else does your content calendar include? We’d love to hear about your best practices, so share over at @ChangeOrgs!