As another year wraps up, it’s a good opportunity to take stock of your internal communications initiatives and look ahead to next year. Now is a fantastic time to get a head-start and start planning for the content you know you can deliver to your employees in 2021.
Producing regular internal communications content will not only help to keep your employees informed about your corporate priorities, news and initiatives, it will help to keep them engaged and to strengthen your workplace culture and build your brand from the inside out.
Unfortunately, many organizations only develop occasional content - often on the spur of the moment - making it ad-hoc and disjointed. Even worse, there can be a lack of information sent to employees at all, which can lead to rumors and misinformation circulating or employees becoming disengaged or disenfranchised.
Creating an internal communications content calendar is a great way to overcome this, and other issues, in the internal communications space. You can use one to begin mapping out content for the year ahead and plan how much information you’ll send, and when.
An internal communications content calendar you create now of course won’t capture absolutely everything you might need to tell your employees about. As we all know, the world at the moment is highly unpredictable and subject to change. In addition to COVID-19 issues that could crop up in 2021, your organization may end up being involved in new projects and initiatives next year that you don’t know about yet.
But what it will do is help you to plan out a great deal of your content in advance, helping you to get organized and save time and stress throughout the year.
Advantages of using an internal communications editorial calendar
The news, publishing and marketing industries rely on content calendars in order to plan ahead and map out messages, themes, stories and other content in advance. Adopting this strategic approach via an internal communications editorial calendar means that you can achieve better results.
According to a survey of internal communications professionals by DeskAlerts, around 13% said they do not use an internal communications calendar.
By creating an internal communications editorial calendar you can:
- Ensure that all important dates, deadlines and milestones are captured so that you never forget about one.
- Keep people accountable: project team members, for example, will know when they need to provide information to you in advance for updates on projects.
- Plan all your content better: if you know there’s a busy content week coming up from looking at your internal communications content calendar , you can hold off less time-critical pieces of information until it is quieter so you don’t overwhelm your employees with too much information.
- Reduce stress and panic, and feeling as though you are rushed, having left everything to the last minute. You can write a lot of content in advance when you have quieter periods to take the pressure off later, making you more efficient.
- Get ahead of the approvals process. In some organizations, the process for approval before information can be sent can be long and complicated and can mean information is no longer timely when it is finally sent.
- Track your content performance to guide future planning. Your calendar will let you look back at what content worked well in the past (and what didn’t) so you can make adjustments to your future content strategies.
- Plan for content on different channels. If you have multiple internal communications channels you can plan different content for different delivery mechanisms. This can help to ensure you don’t overburden one particular channel (which can make employees feel “spammed”).
How to create an internal communications editorial calendar
Of the 87% of respondents to our survey that do use an internal communications calendar, 61% said they create one in a tool such as Excel, eight per cent had a special planning tool while 18% used another option.
Even if you’re already using an internal communications planning tool, you might not be getting all the possible benefits from one.
Before you develop your internal communications content calendar, you should take into account the different resources you have available as well as overall organizational goals and objectives. As with all content it should not only be timely, but it should be relevant to the employees you send it to.
1. Identify different communication opportunities
There will be a plethora of these already within your organization. Some of them you may already know off the top of your head, others you can gather by going through previous internal communications campaigns or by asking other teams within the organization.
This includes things like:
- Company anniversaries
- Project milestones
- Annual closures
- Annual conferences
- Major meetings
- Company social events
- Product releases
- Marketing campaigns
- Training opportunities
- Fundraising and volunteering initiatives
- Regular communications dates: e.g. monthly newsletter or CEO address to staff.
Other things to include are major dates that are important within your industry. For example, when I worked in the healthcare sector, my organization was heavily focused on preventative measures for chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, COPD, cancer and mental health.
When developing in an internal communications calendar, I ensured it aligned with external events such as World Diabetes Day or Mental Health Month. This was important to ensure that we were telling stories internally to reinforce our values so that our employees could be ambassadors and stewards of our messages.
2. Gather information from within the organization
Collaboration with colleagues from other departments will help to round out your internal communications content calendar. Think of the different areas in your organization who regularly communicate with employees and get them to come up with a list of topics and dates they know in advance they would be sending out so you can include these in your communications calendar template.
As well as your corporate leadership team, other teams to reach out to so they can contribute to the communications calendar template include payroll, Human Resources, IT, finance, marketing, external communications and various project teams and departments who will have good news to share.
You can gather all the information in one handy place, such as via Google forms.
3. Build your internal communications content calendar
The next step is to take those content ideas and make them something tangible and measurable. When you begin to populate your calendar you should factor in the following:
- Who is the audience for the content? Some things are appropriate for the entire organization, but others may be for a niche audience only.
- How will you deliver the content? What format will it be in and what delivery channels will you use?
- Who will be responsible for creating the content? You may rely heavily on information being provided by other teams in the organization so you can create the content. If so, what are the deadlines? What is the approval process?
- When should the content be received by employees? Some content will have a firm date.
- Set KPIs so that you can measure the usefulness and effectiveness of your content.
Popular internal communications content planning tools
Having the right tool for the job will help you to stay on top of your content. Whether you are planning only internal communications material, or you want to plan your external communications content in conjunction with your internal communications content, these tools will help you keep track of what’s coming up.
1. Microsoft Excel
A content calendar template in Microsoft Excel is a great way to easily plan out different types of content. There are lots of different templates available - including one we’ve made here. You can customize templates to suit your specific organizations needs.
Microsoft Excel was a very popular choice among the respondents to our survey - 61 per cent said they use it, or Google Drive (below).
2. Google Drive
There are different ways you can use Google Drive to make it easier to plan and schedule content. This includes:
- Google Calendar - mark your content and time of publication and which channel you’ll be using as calendar entries.
- Google Sheets - a spreadsheet like Excel, it can be used to schedule your content and track the status of different content items, as well as assigning work to different team members.
Trello is a good way to organize all sorts of information and collaborate with others, and it can be useful for content planning. You can create different cards, boards and lists and assign tasks to different team members with due dates.
While you might know Evernote as a note-taking app, you can also use it to keep track of when you’re planning on publishing content across different channels. It has yearly, monthly and weekly logs which help you to keep track of dates for content creation and publishing.
Smartsheet is a collaboration and work management platform that is used by work teams to track projects, assign tasks, manage calendars, share documents and more. There are content calendar templates you can use that help you to manage and keep track of the entire content planning process - including approvals and publication.
6. Microsoft Teams planner app
You can get more out of Microsoft Teams by adding on the planner app which will help your team to collaborate better on projects, including creating content calendars and timelines, assign tasks and due dates and manage tasks and to-do lists all from within the one app. It can be used on desktop or on the go.
How to use your internal communications calendar template
If you’re ready to start building an internal communications calendar, download our free communications calendar template as a starting point. We’ve designed it to capture some of the most common topics and themes, and you can further customize it to suit your industry.
We also have a monthly plan for content that will help you to capture your KPIs as well - which is useful for reporting internally to management.
Once you have your plan you can start creating content to deliver via different channels. With DeskAlerts, you can schedule content well in advance to deliver at the appropriate time, helping you get ahead on your work.