Editorial Calendars: The Secret Weapon of Communications Effectiveness

You have too much content to create, too many communications channels to manage and too little time for any of it, right?

The urgent overtakes the important. Priorities get lost in the chaos. You can’t get everyone on the same page.

You are not alone.

This is very common in nonprofits. But that doesn’t mean it’s hopeless!

In fact, the nonprofits that say their communications are “very or extremely effective” have something in common over those who aren’t as effective.

They manage their communications with an editorial calendar. They also use other editorial best practices like having regular editorial meetings with staff and strategically planning out how they will repurpose content.

The 2018 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report found that generally speaking, only about half of nonprofits are using editorial calendars and editorial meetings. About two-thirds are using content repurposing.

But when we look at the most effective nonprofits, those numbers change quite a bit.

About two-thirds of the most effective nonprofits are using these editorial best practices, while only one-third of less effective nonprofits are.

Effective communicators are also twice as likely to invest significant time into editorial planning as ineffective ones.

Planning really is the key to success.

Why are editorial calendars so powerful?

Here’s a visual metaphor for you: Editorial calendars are like magical cat herding lassos!

Communications directors are herding cats all day long. Your co-workers are cats. Your management team are cats. Politicians are cats. The Facebook algorithm is a cat. Everything and everyone you work with in communications is changing all the time. The tools of your trade and the people around you are cats that have minds of their own and want you to work on their terms.

If you give into that, you’ll be chasing cats all day, and that’s no fun. Nor is it very effective. Lasso those kitties! You can’t expect them to take orders from you, but you can corral them and provide some limits and structure.

An editorial calendar helps others understand the pace and volume of your nonprofit’s communications. As a communications team, you only have the capacity to produce so much good content.

There’s also a “Goldilocks” zone on the frequency of your communications – too little doesn’t get your messages across and too much overwhelms your supporters. Your editorial calendar is where you document that “just right” pace and volume of content. It’s that structure that allows all the cats to settle down and cooperate.

Even if you alone use an editorial calendar, that’s a great step forward. Show it to your co-workers during meetings and as they come to understand its value to you, they’ll understand the value to your nonprofit too.

Kivi Leroux Miller is the founder and CEO of Nonprofit Marketing Guide, which helps nonprofit communications directors learn their jobs and love their jobs. Learn more about nonprofit editorial calendars here.

John Haydon