There are many tools out there that help you organise and schedule content – but understanding what works where and when needs a big picture overview if your content is going to touch your audience when and where it will be at its most efficient and effective.
There will always be a place for great content. Great context makes sure it is the right place.
This sustainability communications planner is designed to help.
Spending some time thinking strategically about the context of your communications provides the framework you need to identify when and where to build your content (or populate your scheduling tool of choice).
And there is nothing like a planner to help you visualise where your efforts and resources are going and where future opportunities may lie. A sustainability communications planner helps us adjust timings, content, channels etc as your operating environment changes. (And we really know that things DO change. Predictions for 2020 anyone…?)
So how do you do plan your sustainability communications so that they have the most impact? This example planner can help. It’s not the only way to do it of course, but variations of this have worked well for me in-house, in client work and in volunteer roles. It doesn’t use fancy tools – it has migrated from flip chart/whiteboard and post-its to a much more manageable, shareable and legible excel file; and it’s been refined particularly over the last few years working with a wider variety of organisations.
Ultimately, the planner is a grid (or matrix), with calendar dates horizontally across the top - I find that fortnights or months work well. Vertically there are four context sections (external, business, relationships and owned), each divided into at least two subgroups representing specific types of context. At the heart of the planner are your key messages. By adding elements according to their subgroups and schedule, you will see how your content represents your messages and is relevant to your context.
The ‘example’ elements on this ‘example’ planner are just that, ‘examples’. Some are real, and some are fictitious, all are there to provide a flavour of the type of things that myself and clients find helpful to include.
Context is crucial if you want your subject matter to shine and your messaging to resonate with your audience, this planner helps you organise relevant context, from the big picture to your deliverables.
First up, external context. Things that are going on that are relevant to the subject that you want to communicate. Include events where messages would add value to the conversation. Start with the biggest things, international themes - include internationally observed days, events that resonate globally; then themes that matter to your geographic region/country/state such as local sustainability events, public holidays, elections; then take a look at key themes for your industry such as standards updates, global research announcements etc.
>>>>that’s your external context done.
Next, consider the business context. What is going on in your organisation? What is being communicated externally and internally? The things that your organisation says and does when it interacts with the people that you want and need to connect with.
Depending on how your organisation and its communications functions are structured, you may already have access to a similar document. However, remember that this is about context and specifics matter – so make sure that you review the detail to ensure that it is relevant to your audience before you copy anything wholesale. For many people, a ready supply of information is unlikely to be the case, but it’s not too hard to work out.
You now have half of the planner populated. I strongly recommend that you include space for your key messages at this point. Review them to make sure that they are still current. Now is also an excellent opportunity to identify how your message can be shaped through time – demonstrating progress in line with your objectives. For example, the first iteration of your key message may be about raising awareness of an issue or activity, the second iteration may have the phrasing adjusted to encourage involvement.
The last two sections are about your communications channels - how you get your key messages out to the world, making sure that they are relevant to your external and business contexts. Think about your external communications relationships. Consider how you can present your messages to best fit the third-party channels (news and media, speaking opportunities, partnerships etc) that you have access to. Finally, note the channels where your organisation has direct control of creation and curation - your owned content - and identify how to show your messages here.
And that's it! Once completed, you will find your sustainability communications planner useful for planning and reviewing, alignment and content creation. It will help to make your communications endeavours meaningful and relevant to your audiences and objectives.
A note on formats: For my original versions I use excel, and use text boxes rather than cells as this gives more flexibility when dates etc change (and we all know that they do!) – if you’d like a copy of the original excel, let me know via LinkedIn, Twitter or email. (PSA: It is possible to develop this on Google sheets, using shapes as the text boxes, but it's a lot more labour intensive.)