One task that every internal comms practitioner will perform early in their career is planning out their IC calendar. Depending on the size of your organisation, use the below tips and guidance either for your own planning purposes or across multiple comms teams.
Table of contents
Before you think about the format, style and look of your communication calendar, spend some time on each of the points below. You can download my Excel template and I’d encourage you to adapt it for your own use and hopefully it gets you on the right track.
Map out your channels
If you don’t have a channel matrix in place, then start capturing all your channels and think beyond the intranet and emails. Monthly meetings where all heads of departments attend are an ideal opportunity for internal comms practitioners not only to improve relationships with stakeholders and gain a better understanding of what’s happening in the business.
You can add channels in the left-hand column of my template and, if it’s easier, group them under headings.
If you haven’t already done so, now might be the time to think about the purpose of each channel. This blog by Rachel Miller is well worth a read to get you started on this.
Key dates to consider
There are often events outside of your control that will affect your communications, whether it’s a press embargo or perhaps a face-to-face briefing that needs to happen first before an intranet article goes live. Also consider anything happening outside of the organisation. It could be a Government report that’s due out, an awareness day/week that colleagues will want to acknowledge or religious festivals. Even knowing when the school holidays are could highlight periods when more colleagues are potentially on leave.
I’ve found looking ahead at awareness days is a superb way to generate content ideas and potential events. Add in any key dates into the top of the template.
Learn from your external colleagues
What we are trying to achieve isn’t something specific for internal comms and often we can be very guilty of not looking at what our external counterparts are doing and how we can adapt best practice for us. If you can, spend some time talking with press and marketing colleagues to see how they plan and map out their content and the tools they use. You might find that an initial discussion opens the door to greater collaboration and to have internal comms featured on a wider communications plan.
It’s useful to know what content is going out via external channels to avoid conflicts and to align the timing of key messages. Maybe arrange for a weekly/fortnightly content catch-up with the relevant teams and add into your calendar anything that’s key for you to know.
It’s a working document
Remember that your content and channels planner should be a tool to help and doesn’t become an admin burden. As much as you’ll want to format the style and colour scheme keep it basic to begin with. For the first two or three months, focus on the content of your planner rather than what it looks like. Put time in the diary to sit down and see what worked well, feedback from stakeholders that you might have shared it with, and did you miss anything such as events or content that you hadn’t initially planned?
Don’t restrict yourself in terms of the layout or been afraid of trying a new layout. Over time, your calendar should develop with your channels and content and needs to remain a useful tool.
Apps or a spreadsheet?
I’ve seen plenty of discussions about whether it’s best to use an app to help with planning or just stick with an excel document. I’m afraid to say it will be a bit of trial and error to see what works best for you and your team and my advice. Keep it simple. Avoid creating a system that contains lots of automation as this can come later if it’s needed. I’ve found most times that an Excel or Google sheet works well as you don’t have to worry about who has the software, the costs for licences or apps updating and forcing you to change your ways of working. This is part of the reason for providing a template example in Excel format.
However, I love an app and I’m a big fan of Trello. It can be a brilliant tool to use, not only for project work across the team but also for planning. One way to do this is to create an internal comms channels board that has a list for each of your channels. You can then add each content as its own card, handy as you can attach files and images that you need. Using cards means you’ll be able to set the publication date and view as a calendar, giving you a quick view of everything that’s scheduled.
It’s also worth checking out the following template examples to help give you some inspiration. You’ll notice some are for external channels, but you can adapt them to work for internal channels.
Bananatag – How to create an internal comms content calendar
C.L.A.P – Internal communications editorial calendar template
CoSchedule – 2020 content calendar templates
Horizon Comms – Content calendar template
It would be great to hear below in the comments what has worked well for you and other templates you’ve discovered that others might find useful.