Groundhog Day And The Communications calendar
5 REASONS WHY YOU NEED A COMMUNICATIONS CALENDAR
Education marketing can be a bit like that Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day, where the same sequence of events repeats time after time, but transformation only comes to those who learn and improve their approach.
For education marketers, crunch time usually comes at the key recruiting periods, when the pressure is on to hit the numbers and fill quotas.
An education marker can expect to face essentially the same calendar of key timings and events peculiar to their market, year-after-year.
Given this fact, it is remarkable how few education marketers seem to map out annual campaign planning calendars. Why would a specialist marketer, working to a repeating annual sales cycle, not map out a well-informed comprehensive annual marketing calendar? Perhaps it is the fear of making or committing to a plan?
But there is a real truth in the saying that failing to plan is planning to fail.
When working with education marketers, we’ve found that mapping out a 12 month communications calendar is often the fastest, most certain way to deliver improved ROI from their advertising and marketing spend.
There are a whole lot of reasons why mapping out a communications calendar is so powerful and transformative. Let me explain a few:
Marketers live in a world of finite budgets, and piecemeal planning leads to miss-allocations.
The process and discipline of mapping out your key objectives, priorities, events and timings ensures a holistic, disciplined, accountable approach to your annual budget allocation. In short, your budget is more likely to be correctly channelled to where it will deliver the best results.
The same principle applies to limited human resources. The sooner you identify needs and priorities, the sooner and better they can be planned for.
SELLING THE VISION
For education marketers it can be an uphill battle to get a seat at the big table. Except of course when the numbers are down (But that’s another matter.)
Most education institutions are not marketing-centric cultures. In these environments, it is important that marketers gain management understanding and early buy-in to what they are trying to achieve.
If management don’t see your plan, don’t expect them to know or believe you have one.
And a graphic marketing calendar makes a very visual presentation to management. You can customize a calendar to tell the story you need it to tell: Calendars can be very good at outlining and demonstrating to management where and why you’ll need the resources you seek to deliver on business objectives.
One of the most common management failings is under-communication.
While education marketing would be a whole lot easier without all of the politics and internal stakeholders, they remain a fact of life for most.
Developing your calendar as early as possible, and sharing it with other stakeholders and departments for buy in and integration is an incredibly powerful exercise.
A key objective of any marketing department, especially in a decentralised institution with many silos, is to try and get people working together with one overriding purpose and plan.
At the very least, when you share your marketing calendar, other stakeholder groups will be obliged to consider it when planning their own activities.
You know the same things are going to come around every year, right? Yet every year something, somehow, turns into a mad rush.
A mapped-out marketing calendar will include timelines and critical milestones for all-important campaigns – along with budgets and responsibilities.
Imagine a world where briefs happened on time. Where everybody had ample notice on his or her responsibilities. Where awful surprises became few and far between.
An annual campaign or planning calendar is also a great briefing tool for your various agency partners: Most of them will be happy to prepare the timelines for you, remind you when you are due to brief, and review your budget assumptions. In fact, they’ll love you for it and deliver better work.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to get your agency partners involved in the calendar planning sessions: This is where they can often provide their greatest value.
Your chief asset as a category specialist marketer is your experience and track record of being extraordinarily effective in your chosen field.
This requires your continuous improvement.
The good news is that once you have invested the time and effort into your first communications plan and calendar, it will become your template moving forward.
When the New Year comes around, it is your invaluable post analysis tool:
What worked? What didn’t? What did we learn?
From there, developing your new plan for increased ROI can be as simple as looking at the superseded plan and asking:
What do we keep? What do we drop? What do we add?