More than any other factor—yes, even more than money—the importance of plotting your marketing communications (aka marcom) projects on a master calendar is the most undervalued planning step we encounter working with schools around the country. Starting too late and guessing at how long it will take is rampant. What do you get when you do it right? On-time completion, fewer errors, economy, kudos from your boss, peace of mind.
Chicken Salad Summit
The best time to launch your marketing communications calendar is in June—after school is out but before the new fiscal year begins. I call this the chicken salad summit—a 2- to 3-hour work session that will result in a comprehensive program of print and digital publications, website update and social media schedules, ads, special events, publicity and general outreach.
This session should be facilitated by the director of communications and attended by the senior leadership team, auxiliary programs director, alumni and parents association representatives, buildings and grounds, food services, security, and others as appropriate. Get together at 9:30 and conclude with lunch.
The master calendar will serve as the cue for photo, video and publicity opportunities and allow you to see at a glance how often and when you are communicating with different audiences. A work session in January will provide time to review the calendar for the first part of the year and make any adjustments for January through June.
How long does it take?
- Agency selection and contract—2 to 3 months
- Rebranding—6 to 12 months for messaging platform, visual identity remake, marketing plan (planning, discovery, reports)
- Production of new admissions and development materials—9 to 12 months
- Website redesign—9 to 12 months
- Magazine—3 months for content development and layout plus 3 weeks for printing and mailing
- Photography—1 month for planning; 1 to 3 days of shooting; 2 weeks rough edit
- Annual Fund appeal package—2 months for concept, copy and layout and list preparation; 2 to 3 weeks for printing and mailing fulfillment
When should you do it?
- Planning meetings—June and January
- Interviewing and focus groups—fall, after school settles, through early spring (before spring break)
- Admission funnel research—May is best for inquirers non-applicants, accepted non-enrolled and enrolled
- Visibility telephone surveys—throughout year
- Parent satisfaction surveys—the best time is October
- Young alumni survey—fall
- Photography—fall and spring = best for showing off seasonality; any time of school year for classrooms and indoor programs
- Social media—post and track analytics throughout year
- Website—update and track analytics throughout year
What throws things off schedule?
- Difficulty scheduling meetings of your approval (marcom) committee
- Insufficient proofreading
- Indecision, failure to gain consensus on content and design, photos
- Pre-approval for expenditures needed from business office
- Accepting last-minute jobs from other departments not on the calendar
- Poor communication with vendors and vendor errors