How to Construct a Big Picture Annual Calendar and Editorial Calendar for Your School Marketing

“In general, the further ahead you plan your digital content publishing the better placed you are to produce a consistent flow of content that builds your brand’s perceived expertise in your chosen subject areas.” ~ Jamie Griffiths, Writer at Convince and Convert

This is article #2 in a 4-part series. Click here to read #1 How to Prioritize Your School Marketing Projects Using a Project Backlog.

It’s a common scenario. The person responsible for blogging, email marketing, online advertising or other content development goes to work on Monday, does research, writes the content and/or designs an ad and sends it to their team member to make revisions and approve. If they’re lucky, the content will be published that same week.

And they do this over and over each week.

Sometimes, they might think that they should write down a few topic ideas for the coming weeks. But most of the time they are so busy sitting in meetings, updating the website and working on other projects that there just doesn’t seem to be time to get ahead of the game.

Staying on top of marketing projects is a common challenge for marketing teams. In fact, according to a study conducted by Gleanster Research and Kapost, the biggest challenge for businesses is managing the overall content process, and 36 percent of the respondents said the lack of a centralized calendar is their top reason for missing deadlines.

Sound familiar?

Having an annual marketing and editorial calendar in place can make a tremendous difference in the marketing process. As many as 85 percent of top performing marketers manage an editorial calendar for content production.

There are three ways having an annual marketing calendar, and editorial calendar can improve your marketing.

  1. Gives you a birds-eye view of your marketing plans so you can fill in any gaps

Marketing planning calendars give you a new perspective both in how your think about your marketing and the way you see your content. It’s so easy to get lost in the details when you’re in the focused process of creating, so having a larger visioning session to create a calendar plus regular reviews at the calendar can help you better achieve your goals.

  1. Plan and organize around key events, dates and seasonal campaigns

Have you ever had an event sneak up on you? I’ve been there before, and the mad rush to produce the marketing assets can be very stressful. When you plan your campaigns well in advance, it gives you plenty of time to prep and organized around your key dates. And, it’s easier to plan for recurring events and important dates that come up at the same time every year.

  1. Gives you plenty of time to plan ahead to get your marketing assets ready

Working ahead on projects is very satisfying, in my opinion. Calendars help me see what’s coming so I can carve out time in my schedule to get ahead. Planning ahead can have a significant effect in terms of consistency and expertise.

So how do you go about developing an Annual Marketing Calendar and Editorial Calendar that will increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your marketing department?

The “Big Picture” Annual Marketing Calendar

An editorial calendar can really help you increase your productivity as a marketer and plan your content months in advance (we’ll get to this in just a minute). But, once you start using an editorial calendar, you might realize that there are some gaps in a traditional editorial calendar.

This is because you really need to see the “big picture.” You need a way to see a yearly overview of your planned campaigns and effort. You need a place to write down all of the major and minor holidays (think Day of… Week of… Month of… International Month of…) that you want to recognize in your marketing campaigns. You can also get fancy here and color code your entries (maybe by the person who is taking the lead on the campaign or by type of campaign, etc.)

The SchneiderB Media Annual Marketing Calendar Template

In order to make it easier for you to get started with your Annual Marketing Calendar, I’ve created a template that you can use.

Inside of the Annual Marketing Calendar Template, you will find:

  • A separate tab for each month at the bottom of the spreadsheet.
  • A reusable monthly calendar that you can fill dates into
  • A project checklist that you can use to track your planned projects for each moth
  • For each project, you can track the deadline, who’s responsible (lead) and make any project notes
  • A place to write down relevant holidays
  • A place to list events and any other general notes

Here are some ideas of important days you may want to track in your Annual Marketing Calendar:

  • Holidays
  • Seasonal trends
  • Planned orientation or other outreach activities
  • Planned school events
  • Conferences or other professional development activities you are going to attend

I find this is a great way to come up with more ideas for new campaigns and content.

The Schneider B Media Editorial Calendar Template

In addition to the Annual Marketing Calendar, an Editorial Calendar is an invaluable tool for marketers. I’ve created a very basic example that you can expand on, based on your needs.

The types of content you may want to consider including in your editorial calendar are:

  • Blog posts
  • School announcements and news
  • Email newsletters and campaigns
  • Ebooks and guides
  • White papers
  • Infographics
  • Content templates
  • Videos
  • Podcasts or other audio content
  • Online ads
  • Any other type of content you or your team will be creating in the next year

You can really get creative with how you customize your editorial calendar. In addition to the types of marketing assets you decide to include, you can also customize the types of information you track on each asset. For example, the types of categories you might want include:

  • Blog post topic or title
  • Social media update copy
  • Target audience
  • Author or lead
  • Editor
  • Lead funnel cycle (awareness, consideration, preference, inquiry, enrollment, loyalty)
  • Draft due date
  • Keyword(s)
  • Categories or content pillars
  • Support image(s)
  • Other supporting media (image, video, podcast)
  • Embed in other resource kids or publications
  • Syndication
  • White paper
  • Parent or student testimonial/graphics

There isn’t a right or wrong way to design your editorial calendar.

Formalize Your Process

Start by formalizing your publishing process. For example, make sure someone is assigned to keeping the calendar up-to-date and where to keep the calendar, so everyone that uses it has access (consider using Trello or another project management tool.) This is a good time to talk with your staff about their current processes and look for redundancies and inefficiencies. This can help you refine your marketing processes while getting your team to buy into the new processes you’re putting in place.

Keep It Simple

Keep the process simple at first. The more you use the calendars, the more you will see ways to improve it for your purposes. Most teams add on more categories (i.e., topics, formats, platforms, etc.) so it’s a good idea to start with the basics and build from there.

Assign a Calendar Overseer

Another useful tip is to assign someone to oversee the calendars. Having a single point person makes it easier to keep everything organized and up-to-date. Trying to have too many “fingers in the pie” can lead to miscommunication, mistakes, and oversights.

Re-Evaluate Your Process and Tools

It’s also a good idea to re-evaluate your process and tools once every six months or so. Often there are changes in demand, software, and new tools. Updating the functionality of your calendar system can continue to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the calendars and processes.

Your team, your school, and your audience will all benefit from a dynamic annual “big picture” calendar and an editorial calendar. I encourage you to consider downloading the templates and get started with your planning and organization efforts!

Do you use annual and editorial calendars for your marketing projects? What has worked well for you? What have I missed here? Please share your comments below.

About the author 

Brendan Schneider

Hey, I’m Brendan, and this is my blog. After 28 years working in private, independent schools in mostly admissions, enrollment, marketing, communications, and fundraising roles, I decided to make SchneiderB Media my full-time job, where I help schools get more inquiries through my Fractional Digital Marketer program. I also started the MarCom Society, a membership created expressly to help, support, and train marketing and communications professionals at schools.

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