How to Create a PR Calendar With a Simple Template
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One of the most important components of successful PR is timeliness.
Timeliness gives media and their audiences a reason to care about your brand.
The struggle comes in aligning what’s timely for your brand, what’s timely for target media outlets, and what’s timely for everyone’s audiences — all at the same time.
Doing so requires not just keeping up with the trends in your industry, but to see them coming before almost anyone else.
A perfect example? Holiday gift guides.
Shoppers usually don’t start thinking about or reading them until November, but PR and marketing departments are working on them as early as spring or summer. You need time to put together your plan, pitch media outlets, and get them everything they need to put together their gift guide by the time holiday shopping starts.
Which is why successful PR pros, like you, deserve a high five for making it work.
How can you stay on top of trends, seasons, what media outlets are doing, what your company has going on, and make it all work together?
If you’re like any of the PR pros I know, a meticulous calendar sure helps — a master calendar that combines the seasonal calendar with your brand’s marketing calendar and the editorial calendars of media you want coverage from.
This kind of PR content calendar is more than a big list of dates. It’s a strategy and project in itself, mapping out everything that’s needed to PR coverage and working backwards from your target coverage, goals, and campaigns.
This guide will help you create one of your own.
What Is a PR Calendar?
A PR calendar is a project calendar or plan that maps out all the key components required to pitch and secure PR or media coverage. It can also map them in relation to your other important marketing campaigns and business events, so you can see how your PR schedule aligns with the rest of the business plan.
An important note about your PR calendar is that it's not just a calendar of publish dates or final deadlines. It actually breaks down the different steps of the process and all the tasks associated with them into a manageable timeline.
All the minor deadlines, campaign-related meetings and appointments, and requests for assets from the design team and quotes from the executives. All the to-dos you can think of in advance required to land great coverage.
Of course, which to-dos are required will vary based on your company's individual PR strategy. A sampling of what might go on a PR calendar includes:
- The dates articles or other media coverage go live.
- Publish dates for your brand's content around the campaign (i.e. an award announcement, press release, or sharing news on social media).
- Deadlines for quotes you, your team, or your executives are giving to journalists.
- Shipping dates for sending product samples to reviewers and influencers.
- Deadlines for pitches and award submissions.
Anything you need to do or remember in order to land coverage is fair game.
Why Do PR and Marketing Teams Need a PR Calendar?
There are already business calendars, marketing calendars, content calendars, and more. Why do PR calendars need to exist as well, and why should your team have one? Is it just for the sake of feeling organized?
Well, yes and no.
Don't discount the impact on performance and productivity that overwhelm can have on your marketing team. If anyone doesn't know what's going on or what needs to get done, it can create confusion that results in project delays and errors.
That's why having a PR calendar is about more than just the organization and color coding. It's about:
Aligning Public Relations With Other Business Activities
Think of the different calendars in your Google Calendar as different layers of your PR and marketing. They each show a separate view, but all together, you get the whole picture.
The overall business calendar is the core that everything else should be based on. The marketing calendar is the second layer — how you communicate your main calendar to your customers through things like launches and campaigns. The content calendar can be a third layer that shows what content you'll use to implement those campaigns.
Consider your PR calendar a final layer; showing how you'll use publicity and visibility to amplify your marketing messages. By looking at them all, you get a full understanding of how public relations ties in with other business and marketing activities.
Planning PR Around Holidays and Trends
Another way a PR calendar will make your whole team's work easier is through the ability to plan in advance for any seasonal holidays or trends your brand might want to join for publicity. For example, the gift guides we talked about earlier.
Those important, time-sensitive campaigns can sneak up on you quickly when you don't have them — and the prep work they require — mapped out in advance.
With a calendar, you can presently block off seasonal trends or events relevant to your industry and add them to your calendar as yearly recurring items — they'll never sneak up again.
Easier Internal and External Collaboration
Finally, when you're collaborating as much as public relations requires, you have a lot of different people of which you are accountable — external collaborators, like journalists and publishers, colleagues and co-workers, and freelancers working with your company.
A PR calendar can be shared with everyone involved in the projects, and it will help you in working together and communicate more easily without missing external deadlines that could sacrifice coverage.
How to Create and Manage a PR Calendar
So you're ready to get organized for your team, the contacts you work with, and yourself. Where do you get started?
1. Choose your format
First, you need to decide where your PR calendar will live. As much as I love paper calendars and markers, I don't recommend them for entire marketing and PR plans. That means your options are a good old spreadsheet, a basic digital calendar, or a dedicated editorial calendar tool.
There are some pros and cons for each option, so consider your own team's needs.
2. Decide On Your Content Types
Once you've decided where the PR calendar will live, it's time to start building out your campaigns and processes inside it. One of the first steps you'll need is to identify the types of content you'll need to implement and amplify your content and PR coverage.
That might include:
- PR campaigns
- Blog content
- Social media posts/campaigns
- Print collateral
If it’s PR, it can (and should be) be planned on a calendar.
A good way to structure things is to give each content format its own category in whatever tool you're using.
3. Plan Your Publishing Cadence
Next, you'll want to consider how "full" your calendar will get. In words words, how frequently you want content published as part of your strategy, whether that's "earned" or "owned" media. When doing this, you want to take into account a few different factors.
First of all, how much publishing owned content and gaining coverage does your team have the capacity for?
Especially if you're looping in designers to create assets, executives to give quotes, and more collaborative work, you need to make deadlines for the rest of your team attainable. You also want to leave enough blank space or free time to respond to timelier trends and events as they pop up.
Second, what seasonal trends or campaigns will have the most impact?
You want to stay top of mind for your target audience as much as possible, but it's also worth spacing out content during "quieter" times while your team is working behind the scenes on a big project where the company pulls out all the PR and marketing stops for a short period of time.
Once you know the constraints you're working with, you can set goals for your content cadence, like monthly videos, weekly blog posts and press coverage, and daily social posts.
Brainstorm and Add Content Ideas
Once you've laid out the structure and cadence of your calendar, you can start brainstorming content and PR ideas and adding them into the calendar's empty slots.
You'll want to brainstorm things like:
- Story angles to pitch media
- Guest content and thought leadership
- Content for your company blog
- Social media and email campaigns
- Content promoting events, awards, and other PR
You'll also want to try to organize things around relevant themes or seasonal trends as much as possible, too.
Keep Moving Parts Organized
Finally, you need to actually use and maintain your new calendar. It sounds obvious, but checking the editorial calendar when you start work each day is a new habit to build.
Here are a few ways you can make building that habit easier:
- Establish color coding guidelines to make the information easily digestible for "quick checks".
- Block off time to update the calendar every week.
- Bring up the calendar in team meetings (or directly after).
Additionally, if you're using a dedicated editorial calendar tool, like CoSchedule's marketing calendar, you can plan out content by connecting the calendar to your WordPress blog, social media profiles, and email marketing tool. That lets you draft and even schedule your outgoing content from the same calendar.
Dedicated tools also make it easier to break down projects into specific actions using project and task templates and other features that might not be available in a spreadsheet you build yourself.
Get Started Now
A PR calendar will remove the friction and overwhelming feelings of juggling multiple project in multiple stages. However, only when you use it.
If you don't have a calendar to wrangle it all yet, it's time to start introducing one to your strategy now.
For help building it out, try our free PR calendar template or take a look at our software today.
July 1, 2020