As a content marketing professional, the first thing you are introduced to in the job is the marketing calendar. Typically an excel sheet of tactical plans pertaining to brand building and promotions, a marketing calendar is the heart and soul of all marketing activities — digital and offline. And if you don’t have a solid one to guide you (or your team’s) efforts it might as well all be a wild goose chase.
My experiences with marketing calendars have been varied. Apart from those etched over Excel or Google sheets, I have worked with the most basic calendars, those that were scribbled on whiteboards, and also some of the most refined ones, which typically tend to be those built using a smart project management tool for marketing professionals. And I figured that as long as it worked for the team and the brand (and got the job done), the calendar, irrespective of its structure and complexity, can be called a successful one.
But this is typically not the view of my peers in the marketing space. Almost everyone believes that the structure of the calendar trumps the actual content in it. In fact, most hold that the structure helps spell out the content plans better. These are folks who like their calendars to be as detailed as possible, with clear mentions of daily activities, deadlines, the guy responsible for executing a task, by when he must do it, and what are the follow up actions after the content has been published.
This is a disciple way to put together a calendar and that’s always a good sensibility to bring into the team. But it’s also an approach that fails to consider qualitative factors. My main concern with a structure-oriented approach to calendar planning is 2-fold and these 2 factors are the ones responsible for a calendar’s success or failure to a large extent.
It’s easy to assume that all tasks, despite their make, importance, and difficulty, are created equal. That they will all be attended to with the same amount of energy and focus. And with this assumption, one is sort of establishing that everyone’s capabilities are the same when they are not. After all, not everyone works with the same kind of efficiency and speed.
A marketing environment is the most dynamic one in the organization, always abuzz with energies of all kinds. While some resources can tackle tasks faster than others, some could do it the slow and steady way. Some may work better at the last minute. Some could do best with some help. And unless you have factored in these varied capabilities and styles of work while allotting task deliverables, you are in for a chaotic month, that will, most probably, be spent trying to just get things done. The quality of work, is then, as good as lost.
Always map your team’s capabilities and availability before designing the calendar for any month.
In a creation environment, there are a lot of variables and moving parts which one cannot control. Situations change quickly and because of this task realities change. Pulling the words from one of Moz’s blog posts, ‘remember that an [editorial] calendar is a living document, and it will need to change as a hot topic comes up or an author drops out.’
No matter how complex your calendar, no matter how many marketing matters are enlisted there, there must always be room to move things around. Complex calendars tend to flow across a lot of teams and can take a lot of collaboration, coordination, and time to complete. And even if one line item in that sheet changes, a domino effect sets in motion, disrupting the timelines for every other task therein.
The best kinds of calendars are the ones which always give more room for a task completion, no matter the size and scale of it. Because it’s when you least know it and anticipate that things change. And this is when it helps to have that little buffer time in hand to make necessary adjustments to the list of things.
Always make room for more. It’s better to deliver outcomes sooner than anticipated than later.
In addition to these, I have realized that all marketing calendars need one key driver — that one person who can help coordinate or keep track of the progress of all tasks and projects. However, given it’s not possible to hire dedicated resources for project management when working in a small setup, it’s best to invest in a project management and coordination tool that will do the job for you. It’s simply a matter of having a good marketing governance system in place, one that can ensure the organization of it all is seamless and as hassle-free as possible.
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