How To Build an Effective Communications Calendar for Your School
Keeping your communications and marketing efforts organized is incredibly important for your institution’s success. A cluttered and sloppy campaign will disrupt your ability to reach prospective students. Maintaining a schedule for your content creation, social media posts, and email marketing campaigns will greatly enhance your inbound marketing efforts.
In this article, we cover:
- What is a communications calendar?
- Steps to build a communications calendar
- How your calendar can serve your higher education goals
What is a Communications Calendar?
A communications calendar can represent a variety of different things to different people. However, an effective communications calendar should allow you to plan and coordinate your social media, blogging, and email marketing activities. Other channels such as print mail and radio messaging can also be incorporated if your institution or program engages in them.
For the purposes of this post, we will focus on the three pillars of an effective communications calendar. A communications calendar should include:
- A social media calendar
- A content or editorial calendar
- An email marketing calendar.
Social media is an important channel for colleges and universities. Approximately 63% of students research schools that capture their attention on social media, and 60% of students like or follow schools that they are considering. Social media is a channel that your school cannot afford to ignore. Therefore, creating a comprehensive social media calendar to organize and schedule your social media posts is crucial to your marketing endeavors.
The social component of the communications calendar will help you plan your school’s social media posts.
Key pieces of data to capture in this portion of your social calendar include:
- The specific social media channels you will use to communicate
- Whether or not any custom assets (such as graphics or video) must be created
- The campaign you are supporting
- How you will attempt to capture leads from the post (Your call to action)
- The date that you will publish your posts
A content calendar helps you keep track of your content marketing efforts in one centralized location. While content marketing can mean a lot of different things to different people, here we are referring to any blogging activities that you are performing in support of your program or institution. It is also commonly known as an editorial calendar.
This component of your communications calendar will help you track important dates to post on your school’s blog to ensure relevant and timely content.
Key pieces of data to capture in this portion of your content calendar include:
- The title of your article
- The program it is supporting
- The campaign you are supporting
- How you will attempt to capture leads from the content (Your call to action)
- The date you will publish your blog post
Email Marketing Calendar
A communications calendar will help your email marketing team organize, plan, and review your email marketing campaigns. It can act as a centralized hub to track engagement, segment your target audience, and schedule emails.
Key pieces of data to capture in this portion of your email calendar include:
- The subject line/key message for your email
- The specific segment of your database you will be targeting
- The campaign you are supporting
- How you will attempt to capture leads from the email (Your call to action)
- The date that you will send your email
Steps To Build a Communications Calendar
Communications calendars may differ in format and design. However, the following steps can get you started in creating your own calendar.
Step 1: Establish communication goals.
The first step to building a communications calendar is to determine your communication objectives. Ask yourself questions such as:
- What is your marketing strategy?
- What audience are you trying to reach?
- What are your higher education goals?
- Do you have an editorial mission statement for your blog?
Step 2: Determine communication channels.
Once you have established your goals, it is time to determine which channels you want to focus on. Now is the time to begin planning which communication channels you want to use for your campaigns.
For example, the number one social media channel that teens use for higher education is Instagram, followed by YouTube, Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter, respectively. Make sure to plan for each of these channels when constructing your calendar.
Alternatively, if you know that your ideal student audience frequents a different social network, you’ll want to weave that into the mix as well.
Step 3: Conduct an audit of existing channels.
Review your existing social media content, published content, and previous email campaigns. This will help you to identify content that is out of date, see which channels are currently receiving the most engagement, and see what is not working as well as you had hoped. This can inform your strategy moving forward.
Step 4: Format your calendar.
There are several tools you can use to format your calendar. Generally communications calendars are formatted as spreadsheets. Google Sheets is an excellent tool that can help you design your communications calendar and share it with other members of your team.
Some sections to consider incorporating into your spreadsheet include:
- Topic: The first section of your communications calendar should pertain to the topic of your campaign. For example, what is the targeted keyword of your blog? What are your social media posts or emails about?
- Title/Subject Line: Include a brief description of your content in the form of a title or subject line.
- Campaign Name: It is important to connect your campaign to your communications calendar. This helps you to stay organized and ensures that you don’t jumble up your various marketing campaigns.
- Student Journey Stage: What stage of the student journey is your target audience in? Are they in the awareness stage, the consideration stage, or the decision stage? This will help inform your content and keep your blog posts, social media posts, and emails relevant.
- Targeted Student Persona: Creating a comprehensive student persona for your target audience is important and can guide your content across channels.
- Call-To-Action: What are you offering your target audience if they engage with your content? Are you trying to inform them about a program or get them to download a guide?
- Publish Date: When are you publishing your blog or social media post? When are you sending your email?
The design of the calendar is entirely up to you. Just make sure that it is easy to read and easy to understand. Downloading a communications calendar template can also be useful.
Step 5: Collaborate with your team.
One of the fundamental purposes of a communications calendar is to ensure that you and your team stay connected and organized. Share your calendar with your team to see if they have any advice or suggestions for improvement. Ensuring that you build a calendar that works for your specific team will go a long way in your marketing efforts.
How Your Calendar Can Serve Your Higher Education Goals
Your communications calendar can serve your higher education goals in many ways, including:
- Keeping your team on the same page
- Helping you stay organized
- Ensuring that you don’t neglect any channels
- Helping you frequently post/send relevant and timely content
- Maintaining a record of what you have already posted/sent
Ultimately, remember that the most important component of a communications calendar is organization. The nuances of what sections to include and where to place the various sections can vary, but the end goal is to stay on top of your marketing campaigns and engage with each channel in a timely manner.
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