Communications Plan Series, Part 3 of 3: Down to the Nitty Gritty on Your Calendar

Allow your staff to claim topics relevant to their professional interests and career development. Be sure to consider sourcing topics from support staff. Since they field questions from clients regularly, they are a great resource for common concerns and knowledge gaps.

For many professionals, the end of the year means nailing down the details of key business plans, like your marketing and communications plans. That is why we’ve scheduled this series on how to construct and format your communications calendar to right when you may need it. And that’s the beauty of having a communications calendar: you, the reader, may not know whether we’ve drafted this series in January, June or just this week, you just know it arrives right when you need it. This is the final installment in a three-part series of articles designed to help financial advisors streamline communications to capture interest, move leads to through a pipeline, and increase conversion.

It should be clear by now that having a communications plan allows you to deliver relevant content to your readers in a timely way that you can measure. Your plan should also help you develop a consistent voice across platforms. That means the tone and personality of your posts on social media should follow the one you use in newsletters and blog posts. We think one of the strongest ways to implement a communications plan is to use a communications calendar.

If you’ve done an audit of all of your communications channels, as we discussed in the second in this series of articles, you will have a good grasp on your strengths and where you need to grow. You may need separate communications calendars if you have distinct audiences. The best practice may be to nestle your calendars into a unified one so that you do not overlap workload.

Your marketing goals should drive how often and when you draft your communications calendar. If you have a handful of clear goals and identifiable metrics, you may be able to draft most of your communications calendar once a year, with some flexibility for unforeseen events. However, if you are growing your marketing and are testing new markets, you may find that you may need a feedback loop between your communications and the metrics you use to measure their impact. Planning by quarter may help you take in metrics of which communications were more successful, tweak your approach, and then adapt your plans to meet that new data. Most small businesses use a hybrid approach, with a yearly plan for structure of deadlines and deliverables, an integration of company events and holidays, and a quarter-by-quarter planning and assessment session.

Calendaring your communications helps prevent an overload of goals. A calendar helps you consider what a reasonable posting cadence is for your team and your campaigns. Before giving an item a deadline, consider the time needed to craft the specific communication. When planning each and every entry on the calendar, the amount of time to create the item has to be considered. This balances workload and also workflow. Additionally, using the communications calendar can act as a pre-mortem, a way of examining what might cause failure on a project before the project begins.

As to form, we mentioned in the first article in this series that assessing what project management products you already use is the best place to start. Many of those products have calendar templates. If they don’t, you may want to consider your team’s abilities to work with technology. While it may seem like creating a static calendar that is printed and distributed to stakeholders is the easiest option, paper format content calendars are actually the least flexible and the most time consuming to make. Easier forms may be to use software like CoSchedule, Hootsuite, Loomly, Trello and Brafton. But beware of the downsides: teams may need familiarity with the software; there may be limited licenses to the product making editing the calendar difficult, and the template may be more restrictive than necessary. A spreadsheet may be the easiest method to deploy, especially for small teams. Software and spreadsheets allow for ease of color coding, are often easier to update, and can be shared easily. When searching for a template, look for publication date, content channel, topic, content, and project owner.

To get started, create the basic outline of your communications calendar by starting with entries for creating, reviewing, and distributing content. Populate your calendar first with holidays and firm events, then move to dates of recurring events for your organization. Critical components of the calendar will also include who owns which stage of content creation (creation, review, and distribution). Include preplanned dates for your feedback loop of auditing and assessing. Choose themes for the campaigns before choosing deadlines and deliverables so that you can ensure content consistency ahead of time. It may also be helpful to identify key milestones in the marketing campaigns you are implementing. Make sure that you leave an appropriate amount of time for editing. Other basic entries should include:

·      Dates when your business will be closed;

·      Events, workshops, conferences, or industry-wide conferences;

·      Product launches;

·      Seasons, including thematic months, including Black History Month, Pride, Women’s History Month and other important remembrances;

·      Specific days relevant to you or your area (such as Founders Day, or National Love Your Accountant Day); and

·      Key times for your clients, such the strong hiring months of January and February, wedding season in June, back to school, and graduation.

Don’t forget to include your company’s budget benchmarks (if any) and other workflow dates. All of these dates should help drive content: the content should be relevant to the key dates on your calendar.

Moving on to filling out your content calendar, allow your staff to claim topics relevant to their professional interests and career development. Be sure to consider sourcing topics from support staff. Since they field questions from clients regularly, they are a great resource for common concerns and knowledge gaps. Use the information you gleaned in your audit and assess stages so that you can be sure to touch on those topic areas regularly. Make sure that as you populate your calendar you include these key details:

·      Project or Campaign name;

·      Content type (blog post, email blast, social media);

·      Publishing destination;

·      Deadlines;

·      Team responsibilities; and

·      Updates.

Finally, make sure you make the calendar sharable but not editable. Someone needs to own this document, and someone needs to back up that someone. Other than that, no one else can change the calendar. This prevents confusion and also prevents multiple versions of the calendar from circulating, making coordination of events difficult. Also ensure that you make it accessible. Everyone in your company needs to know what communications are reaching which clients and prospects when.

These articles are prepared for general purposes and are not intended to provide advice or encourage specific behavior. Before taking any action, Advisors and Plan Sponsors should consult with their compliance, finance and legal teams.

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