Don’t Get Caught Unawares: Planning a Marketing Calendar

Happy New Year! I promise I haven’t spent too much time in the sun. It really is the new year. The new fiscal year! Maybe not as exciting as the real new year, but it definitely provided me a time to reflect on the past year and see what I had accomplished, what I had not gotten done, and what was still in progress or needed more work. It also marks almost one whole year since I started as the Marketing and Programming Coordinator of my regional library system, so I finally feel like I have a good understanding of what we do all year long.

One of my resolutions for this upcoming year is to not be so last minute about things. I feel like there have been numerous library holidays, special events, or programs that I have thrown together flyers, marketing materials, and web pages for weeks or days before it was supposed to happen. Consistent services have fallen through the gap as we focus on newly adopted items. And libraries do so much, it can be hard to make sure every service has its moment in the sun. Overall, it seemed to me I was spending more time on the needs of the moment rather than thinking strategically about where I wanted our library to be going from a marketing and programming point of view. So, I have a plan.

And the plan is to plan.

Every week, we will have some sort of primary marketing focus for our library system. Sometimes these will go on for more than a week, and that’s okay. Each focus will highlight a program or service we provide so that we can really push it to the front. And I decided that our time frame for the moment would be three months out. From now on, our team will know three months away what sort of initiatives are coming up.

Why three months?

Three months gives me adequate time to do bigger things that can make a bigger splash. It helps me coordinate with staff and branch managers to make sure everyone is on the same page. It gives me time to plan programs, design collateral, and promote our activities. It allows us to plan bigger events that have more moving pieces. And perhaps most importantly, it allows us the chance to partner with external organizations more organically because we have specific suggestions and a long-range plan to fall back on when meeting about potential partnership opportunities.

Now, since I just started this, I don’t have three months out yet. But I will. Right now, I have until the middle of October, and we will start on November very soon.

What sort of things made your marketing calendar?

My marketing calendar in very broad strokes is:

  • July 5-18: Flipster e-magazines
  • July 19-August 1: Mango Languages
  • August 2-August 31: Children’s services reintroduction
  • September 1-30: National Library Card Signup Month
  • September 15-October 15: Hispanic Heritage Month
  • September 27-October 3: Banned Books Week

But the plan doesn’t stop with the title. Each category has both small and large, stretch initiatives to go with them. For instance, Flipster has a big push on our website, targeted Facebook ads, large displays going out to our branches, and a push for partnerships with local doctors, vets, and auto care places to add on to the magazines that they currently have. It has in-person, social media, owned media, and outreach opportunities, and we are trying to model each section based off of these ideas.

How do I make my own marketing calendar?

Here’s how I did it, but feel free to edit the idea to make it work better for you.

  • Don’t allow yourself to be last minute. Changes happen and that’s okay, but planning ahead means you can push yourself and your staff.
  • Leave gaps if you need to. We are lucky enough to have full-time staff focused on marketing. If you don’t, consider smaller pushes in between large pushes to give you and your staff a break. Or take a week off. You won’t go to marketing jail.
  • Decide what services you really want people to know about. To advertise everything is to advertise nothing, so choose what services will best help you achieve your strategic goals in the coming months. It can be introducing a new service or highlighting an existing service that people may not be familiar with. That’s one of the reasons my August focus is children’s services. Storytime is old-hat to us, but there are still a lot of our patrons who have no idea we offer this.
  • Sit down with someone else to make your calendar. My intern Liz was a godsend in making this calendar. We got to hash out ideas, and I got to get immediate input into what we should do, what wouldn’t work, and what she thought. After we got an outline set, we broadened the audience a little and refined the calendar some more. Working in pieces and keeping the pool of people small at first can help you dig deep without being torn in a million different directions.
  • Write it down where you can see it and stick to your guns. If you’re anything like me, you will have ambitious ideas. Crazy ideas. How in the world are we going to get this done ideas? But those are probably your coolest and most innovative thoughts. Don’t let them go just because they’re hard. With enough lead up time, you can do a lot more than you think you might be able to.

So that’s my plan. My planned plan. And it has gotten me so pumped for the next three months, I can barely wait. Forget the post summer reading slump; I’m ready for our fabulous fall, our ambitious autumn!

Tags: , , , , ,

Author:Mack Freeman

John Mack Freeman is the Marketing and Programming Coordinator for the West Georgia Regional Library system headquartered in Carrollton, GA. He is also the editor of GLBT News, a weekly news blog produced by the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association. Originally from Tifton, GA, Mack has a passion for library outreach, marketing, and service to underserved populations.

Comments are closed.