Happy New Year! Are you ready to achieve PR success in 2020? While many companies engage in the year ahead planning process at the end of the previous year, don’t panic if you still need to finalize your 2020 plans. There is still time to organize your PR strategies and tactics for the year, and the best way to do that is with an editorial calendar.
As we discussed in Cannabis PR Success Starts with Strategy, in order to achieve your goals and objectives for the year you need a strategy. You need to determine the tactics you want to employ to convey key messages to your target audience. And of course, there are budgets to keep in mind as well. By organizing your tactics into a calendar, you can thoughtfully plan the length of time needed to initiate all tactics. This will allow you to see how one will impact the success of another and how together they support the overall goal. In the world of content, you will also hear references to a content calendar. An editorial calendar offers a big picture view of the year ahead and provides a framework to guide your team. Content calendars break those big picture themes into daily, detailed activities and a more defined publishing schedule.
The intent of these calendars is to streamline communication and keep all team members on the same page. The point is to have a go-to reference to support workflow and a document that can guide regular meetings to keep your team and your tactical efforts on track. Since many businesses in the cannabis industry are new to the PR mentality, we want to focus on the bigger picture editorial calendar as a starting point. Whether you are setting up the calendar via an Excel spreadsheet or investing in a software program to guide you, here are a few tips for developing an effective calendar.
Start with what you know
The easiest way to get started is to map out a calendar based on the things that are set in stone, such as holidays, industry conferences, and community events. Take into consideration important cannabis and consumer holidays, such as the obvious 420 and 710—as well as Weed Wednesday (the day before you subject yourself to those annoying distant family members at Thanksgiving!) and Valentine’s Day. Think about trade shows you regularly attend, and if you want to invest in attending a new conference this year. Also think about community activities that are important to maintaining visibility, supporting causes, and receiving local press coverage.
Your business may also have regular marketing activities that have proven successful and support your PR efforts and brand awareness. Make note of your quarterly eNews schedule, an ongoing commitment to monthly, weekly, or daily blog and social media posts. Other yearly dates may include deadlines for award programs and conference speaker submissions.
By making note of these recurring dates and the plans needed to prepare for holidays, events, ongoing posts, and submissions, you will begin to feel a sense of accomplishment and see where there are areas to fill in. This will also illustrate how each activity can support the other, like focusing blog and social media posts on topics related to an upcoming trade show, etc. In order to specifically plan topics and dates of each post leading up to that event, that is when you will want to dig into creating a content calendar.
Look at other calendars for more information
Trade organizations and publications have event and editorial calendars that highlight industry activities and topics they plan to cover. Sometimes these can be found online, or sometimes you need to email or call to request them. Once procured, you can make note of issue deadlines and other important dates. Keep in mind editorial teams are working on content at least three months in advance of the publication date, so you will want to note on the calendar to start reaching out to your contact early enough to gain interest.
Fill in the gaps
There are a number of items that you may be planning for the year ahead but haven’t established firm dates for yet. This could be things like new product or service launches, new hires, grand openings, etc. It is likely there are some anticipated dates, so include those in the calendar or put them in a visible notes section so they stay on your radar as you progress through the year. As dates become available, you can adjust accordingly.
Be flexible and opportunistic
Your willingness to adjust and adapt the calendar is key to the success of this planning tool. You want to be able to react to trending topics, hot news items, and anything that comes up unexpectedly. For example, when your company receives press coverage or your CEO is quoted, you want to be able to publish that on your blog and share via social media. If your company wins an award or a team member is selected to speak at a conference, you will want to highlight that, too. You will need to adjust the calendar to support these timely posts. This may require some deeper thinking about what gets bumped, moved, or saved for when space becomes available.
Remember the best way to evaluate PR success is by having a framework for that evaluation. An editorial calendar maps out the year and helps you and your team organize your tactics, as well as prepare for workflow and deadlines. This level of planning offers a big picture view that shows how all of your tactics work together to meet your goals. As the year progresses, be flexible and opportunistic; use the calendar to support effective discussions and brainstorming. When the year is wrapping up, you will be able to see what was accomplished and evaluate success…so you can start planning for the next year!
Judy Campbell is president for Campbell Consulting. She founded the agency in 1996 to provide companies with strategic communications counsel encompassing PR, digital communications, content creation, media training, and social media. The company is dedicated to shining a spotlight on the country’s best brands and thought leaders in cannabis, craft beer, hospitality, food and beverage, blockchain, and software. The agency was nominated for the 2019 BOB (Best of Breed) Awards.