Part of a series on key takeaways from The Communications Plan session 

Our communications plans live in master calendars – both external (we looked at VMFA’s long-range exhibitions and programs schedules) and internal (we looked at a departmental planning calendars).To be effective, calendars must be integrated and dynamic (aka subject to change).

A giant white board in Cecilia's office keeps exhibition dates and deadlines for media, promotions, and events top of mind. Coffee helps too.

Suzanne agreed that the optimal internal calendar layers working schedules across channels, such as press announcements, story arcs for social media, drop dates for major elements of ad campaigns, and promotions roll-outs. It goes without saying that communications timelines are all always subject to change. Being (appropriately) responsive trumps sticking to the plan.

Electronic calendars (I use Google’s) are free and sharable. Each channel can be color-coded and easily hidden or expanded for a focused or comprehensive view. So far, my team mostly has used our shared Google calendar to coordinate and track meetings and programs, a more informal and dynamic counterpart to our institution-wide Outlook calendar. Since The Communications Plan session, I’ve started to experiment with additional layers. In my calendar at left below, orange indicates meetings/programs and blue is a revamped news release timeline. In the coming weeks, I’ll play with three additional layers: social media, advertising, and marketing promotions/events. 

(left) Cecilia's shared Google calendar has become overwhelmed with meeting planning so will evolve to include additional layers (right) Suzanne's calendar captures a month of exhibition, program, and release dates.

Potential challenges:

*Organizational structures can make integration tricky –> as a result calendars don’t tell the whole story and can reinforce institutional silos.

*We often need to respond to trends and issues faster than we can document a plan –> calendars fall out of date. Digital tools make staying on track easier than ever before, but coordinating and sharing updates requires finesse. I predict (based on previous personal experience and Suzanne’s evolving practices) that the social media layer will be the most challenging on this front.

What do(es) your communications calendar(s) look like? What kinds of procedures do you have in place to integrate and share updates? To stay on track?


3 thoughts on “Calendars

  1. This came via Linked In from Ford Kanzler, Managing Partner at Marketing/PR Savvy, who is in the San Francisco Bay Area:
    I use Mindjet for this. Its highly dynamic and easy to share, which really helps to keep various players tuned in to the overall effort…especially the vp marketing and CEO.
    In working with multi-divisional corporations or multi-business unit companies, often the varying groups are all over each other with different plans, announcements and events. Those groups may be siloed but the PR team can help make sense of it to the outside world by not having too many communications tactics occurring simultaneously…a high-level view with an outside-in approach. That’s where the calendar sure helps. Marry that to maintaining key message inclusion and there’s a much better chance of being successful.
    Here’s the link:

  2. A curator told me today that he almost always carries a hard copy of the long-range (internal) exhibition schedule on his person. It’s 2-3 printed pages, so he can just fold and pocket it. I liked this a lot, as the curator in question is wired to his iPad and very tech-savvy. I suspect the hard copy calendar serves as a concrete, reliable device for grounding plans and an easy reference to look at with colleagues.

  3. I’m learning more and more about shared Google documents (in addition to calendars) through the efforts of one of my colleagues – they’re highly customizable, easy to share and access.

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