Your company is launching a new product, and you’re leading the charge in putting together an integrated marketing campaign to support the launch.
There are email announcements, supporting blog articles, paid advertising, social media posts, numerous teams, and tons of different milestones and deadlines.
Yep, there’s no shortage of moving parts — and you’re the one who needs to oversee all of it.
Is your heart racing? We get it. There’s no denying that an integrated campaign is a lot to keep track of. But here’s the good news: an integrated marketing campaign calendar can make your job a whole lot easier.
However, in order for your marketing plan calendar to be effective, it needs to be put together correctly. As you’ve likely guessed, it requires a lot more than just arbitrarily dropping dates on a marketing calendar template.
Where do you start? Here are a few secrets to making the most of your integrated marketing calendar, saving yourself headaches and hassle, and — most importantly — setting your team up for success.
Secret #1: Always start with a brief
You know that your marketing schedule is your roadmap. It’s what’ll keep your entire campaign from running off the rails, which means you feel a sense of urgency in getting it created — you want to be proactive.
Not so fast. Yes, your calendar is important, but it shouldn’t be the very first thing you create when planning your integrated campaign.
Before you roll up your sleeves and start assigning dates, it’s important that you have an understanding of the nuts and bolts — things like your campaign’s purpose and goals and how you’ll measure success.
It’s easy to forget that your marketing campaign itself is a creative project. So if you don’t already have a creative brief for this initiative, you should create one.
As part of this process, answer questions like:
- What’s the purpose of this marketing campaign? What are you looking to achieve?
- Who’s your target audience? What should all teams know about who you’re speaking to?
- What channels will you use?
- What do teams need to know about the voice or approach of your campaign?
- What is your budget? How will that be broken up between teams?
After jotting down all of these initial thoughts into a brief, you’ll also find it helpful to have a kickoff meeting where you and all of the key players can connect and align on these important details.
This is a can’t-miss step for any creative project, but especially one that’s integrated. Because you have so many different teams working on this campaign, it’s important to unite them around a shared goal and common messaging.
Putting it all in a formal brief gives you and your team members something to refer back to so that you can all keep the right perspective in mind as you’re outlining your campaign calendar — and actually executing it.
Need help? Grab our free template for an effective creative brief.
Secret #2: Avoid siloed calendars
We’ve all seen it happen before: The email marketing team knows they’ll need to send a series of emails to generate buzz and announce that new product, so they create their own email calendar in a spreadsheet.
The content team does the same. So does the design team. And the social team. There’s even a separate event marketing calendar for the webinars and Instagram Lives you’ll host to build buzz about the product.
All of that important information instantly becomes siloed, and teams now have no idea how their individual pieces fit together into the larger campaign. But if it’s truly integrated, then teams need visibility into the calendar for the entire thing and not just their own responsibilities.
Of course, individual teams usually want their own calendars, as looking at the mass schedule is enough to make everyone cross-eyed. That speaks to the importance of finding a calendar management tool that allows you to break down campaign-related work by things like:
- Team (e.g., email team or content team)
- Type of project (e.g., a blog post or a landing page)
- Status (e.g., active or completed)
- Channel (e.g., website or email)
This way, everything can appear on one calendar and serve as a single source of truth for the entire team. But individuals also have the option to filter their views and get the clarity they crave from a schedule that only applies to their team.
Wrike Calendars allows you to do just that. You can create individual calendars for these types of categories and then layer them on top of each other for visibility into the full campaign.
Secret #3: Make the necessary context easily accessible
There are so many details and different groups in an integrated campaign, which means it’s almost impossible for a single calendar to tell the whole story.
You can see that the content team will be publishing a supporting blog post next week. But what is it about? Is there a call to action? How is it being distributed? Or you know that the email team is sending a broadcast tomorrow. But who is it being sent to? What’s the content?
You can’t be expected to keep all of this information in your head, and you can’t expect reasonably anyone else to either. That’s why you and your team members need to be able to easily access the context you need — right when you need it.
Of course, it’s way too cumbersome to have all of this information listed directly on the calendar. That’s why using a calendar feature within a collaborative work platform is so beneficial.
For example, Wrike Calendars link to underlying tasks and projects within Wrike so that team members can click through from the calendar and get the details and updates they need without having to chase them down.
With so many frequent handoffs and concurrent tasks, having this context at everyone’s fingertips streamlines workflows, fosters cohesiveness, keeps everyone on the same page, and ensures nothing slips through the cracks.
Secret #4: Understand your dependencies
Planning a calendar is easy when everything is linear. But that’s hardly ever the case when you’re putting together an integrated campaign. Teams are working on tasks concurrently, which means you need to be aware of any task dependencies so that you can account for them in your calendar.
The easiest way to do so is by using the Critical Path Method (CPM). Start by creating a master list of all of the tasks involved with the project. Make sure that you’re listing these as actual, granular tasks (e.g., draft blog post copy) as opposed to the deliverables related to your campaign (e.g., blog post).
A very simplified example related to the integrated campaign for your product launch could be:
- Draft content for launch email
- Draft content for launch blog post
- Design launch email
- Upload blog post
- Schedule email send
- Schedule blog post to publish
Next, you need to determine the dependencies between these tasks — meaning that you need to identify which tasks can’t be completed without a different task being finished first.
Those are easy to spot in the above example. For instance, the launch email can’t be designed or scheduled until the email content is completed. That’s a dependency you want to be aware of when mapping out your calendar.
Finally, you should identify your project’s critical path. Your critical path is the longest sequence of tasks. Tasks on this path (or paths — projects can have more than one critical path) need to be carefully managed, as any delays could set your whole project back. A Gantt chart can be helpful for plotting out these activities and identifying your longest sequence from project start to finish.
Doing this gives you and your team a better understanding of the entirety of the campaign and where their own deadlines fit in, which increases accountability. At this point, it’s also wise to lay some ground rules for how you’ll communicate any dependency slips to the group so that you can get the campaign back on track.
Secret #5: Be prepared to re-evaluate and learn
We won’t sugarcoat it: Integrated marketing campaign calendars can be complex. Putting one together that works for you and your team is a constant learning process, and you should be prepared to treat it as such.
At the end of each campaign, sit down with all of the relevant team members to determine what went well and what could’ve gone better.
Would it have been helpful to organize or categorize the work in a different way? Should handoffs have been more carefully coordinated, or did some dependencies get missed? Do you need to be more explicit about communication best practices related to the calendar? Could you have benefitted from a template for a weekly schedule or a more granular calendar?
That’s all important information for you to know the next time you get to work on a calendar. So don’t skip taking the time for that reflection and conversation so that your integrated campaign calendars will continue to become more streamlined — not to mention more helpful.
And, of course, once you land on something that works, set yourself up for success in the future. Create a marketing calendar example or template that you can return to next time, rather than constantly starting from scratch.
Nail your marketing calendar and keep your integrated campaign on track
An integrated campaign often resembles a symphony. Yes, the individual instruments (or in this case, teams) can make music on their own, but they sound much better when they come together.
However, keeping them together can prove to be challenging, and if just one person loses the tempo or goes out of tune, it’s not long before you have a major mess on your hands.
Fortunately, a marketing calendar can help you keep making beautiful music. The above secrets will ensure that you put one together that helps you and your team — rather than hinders you.
Want to learn more about the benefits of project management calendars? Check out these posts for further reading:
- Leading Content Marketers Share the Best Way to Make a Publishing Calendar
- 3 Capabilities Your Team Calendar Needs