Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Maximizing Your Communications with a Content Calendar

Communications includes everything from social media, to e-mail campaign management, and annual reports. Technology supports these efforts, but it can only work well with an integrated strategy. Nonprofits need a content calendar, the right staffing support (paid or volunteer), and the right tools to make it all sing.

A well-executed communications plan will look to annual cycles. Some things, like the annual report, are obvious and easily lend themselves to planning far enough in advance to leverage content, public relations, media relations and supporters to maximum effect for the message. Other nonprofit cycles can also benefit from a confluence of urgency and effort, but those cycles are often treated as if they are brand new every year. Does your nonprofit do advocacy work? There's probably a pretty well known date for your legislature convening and your lobby day. Does your group do an annual gala?

Plan the rest of your communications work cycle around supporting the themes of the event leading up to key deadlines, like tickets going on sale. Are you attending national conferences this year? Plan a new white paper to be timed with that event.

Not every nonprofit will nail the content calendar the first time out of the gate. Inevitably, there are things that should have been publicized and shared weeks in advance that just didn't get on the radar until too late. That is why your support tools have to be living, adapting documents - so the moment someone in a staff meeting says, "We should have started this two weeks ago," the content calendar for your next year gets an update. The master content calendar can be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet, as long as each of the objectives gets tied to any other workflow management tool the organization may be using to manage staff time and effort.

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