Calendaring for your comms team is weirdly hard. “Let’s all get aligned with one big, beautiful, color-coded virtual calendar!” you say to your team, brimming with optimism. But then the issues creep in…Which platform do we use? The social and blog calendars are so jam-packed we can’t see the forest for the trees. We can’t have our entire comms org know about the super secret announcement happening next month. I have not found a perfect solution. I’ll share my method to address some of these concerns, but you’ll likely have to adjust the approach for your own team.
A tale of two calendars
I recommend having separate “big picture” and "day-to-day" calendars.
Big picture calendar
The big picture calendar is owned by the comms leader, lives in your annual comms planning doc, and is really about making sure you are taking care of each of your priorities over the course of the year. I’d recommend splitting the year into quarters, and then for each quarter identifying what you’re doing across your priority themes and verticals. Here is a sample big picture calendar:
Not every little thing is in this, and not every box is filled out, that’s fine. The purpose is to show that your team is creating or tapping into moments for each of your priorities throughout the year. So if you see, for example, that you’re not doing anything for one of your priority verticals for half of the year, you can get your team brainstorming on how you can do more. Is there a speaking engagement, award, or pitch you can try?
The big picture calendar helps you cross functionally too. It is useful to pull up when you’re talking to stakeholders and they ask, “What are you doing about [insert their pet project here]?” It also helps you hold other orgs accountable. If security is supposed to be a priority theme, but your product org is not pushing out much this year by way of security features, then this is your way to start a conversation with them: “DEFCON is in August. What can we talk about there?”
I have tried to have one day-to-day calendar for all comms, including PR, social, and content. And for me, it didn’t work. Where I landed was having a couple different calendars. The main day-to-day comms calendar is owned by the comms leader but accessed and updated by almost the whole comms org. Anything of significance that is going out internally or externally – press releases, reports, org changes, and so forth – is on this calendar.
Sub-teams – social, blog, etc – have their own detailed calendars. In team meetings we’d go over the main comms day-to-day calendar to make sure that every sub-team was aligned on their roles and timing for major calendar items. It was their job to make sure that the major announcements made their way into their sub-team calendars. I did not spend a lot of time in the sub-team calendars, but I had access to them if I needed them.
A day-to-day comms calendar can have all or some the following categories for each entry:
Date – The expected announcement date, noting if it's estimated / still TBD.
Announcement – in a couple words what we're announcing. Q4 Earnings, Brex Partnership, New COO, Customer Survey...
Announcement type – I've used a variety of tags here. Internal, product, vertical, earnings call, report, and so forth.
Comms owner – who on our team is the point person for this announcement?
Business partner – who is the point person outside of our team for this announcement? A product marketer for a product release, IR for earnings...
Good/Neutral/Challenge – is this announcement or event going to be generally good, neutral, or a problem for our company? This field doesn’t serve a ton of purpose other than give a sense of how the month is going to look. I'd use red/yellow/green color coding here.
Status – Any blockers, any delays, or is it all going according to plan? Another good place for a red/yellow/green color coding.
Links to materials – the messaging doc, press release, and so forth.
Business objective – Another place for tags. If you're tied to certain business objectives (international growth, upsell, etc), you can note when a comms activity supports that. This is useful for reporting when you need to show comms value to the business.
Audiences – Yet another tag opportunity. Who is the most important audience for this announcement? Internal, external, customer, investor, media, the list goes on.
Here’s what a snippet of what a day-to-day calendar might look like:
If an announcement is still confidential even from your own team, you can do one of a two things depending on the sensitivity:
Put a hold on the calendar with no details, just letting the team to keep that date or week clear
Put nothing on the calendar but subtly ensure that it is kept clear
For something market moving (acquisition, RIF, company officer leaving), I’d recommend the latter. If it's touchy, but not really market moving (partnership, other exec coming/going), do the former.
You need to pick a day-to-day calendaring / project management platform that works for your team. It’s great if you can use something that some of your team or key business partners are already happily using. I like Asana because you can get a list and calendar view, I can create a lot of tags, there's easy access to multiple calendars, and it has a shallow learning curve (aka it's super easy to use). Other options include Google calendar, Airtable, Monday.com, and other project management or calendaring tools.
As I've said, there is no one-size-fits-all comms calendar. A lot depends on your company stage, team size, priorities, speed-of-business, and culture. But you do need to find a strategy that gets your team on the same pages and allows you to be the best business partner you can be, and stay open to evolving your calendaring strategy as your company and team grow.