We all know that the best PR professionals are proactive planners, working from an umbrella strategy that makes every project and task on their calendar deliberate and goal-focused. With the year wrapping up, it’s time to strategize your PR game plan for 2023!
One of the most powerful building blocks of a proactive strategy is an annual PR calendar. It outlines the year’s media outreach work and breaks it into manageable monthly plans that guarantee your team is alerted early of upcoming, relevant PR opportunities that shouldn’t be missed. Best of all, once an annual PR calendar is created for the team, it can be used year after year as a PR calendar template.
With this in mind, let’s talk about why they’re absolutely essential to your business, how to create a PR calendar with the help of your team, and how to ensure you and your team use it for maximum results.
- Why a PR calendar is essential for your business
- How to create a PR calendar with your team
- How to use your PR calendar template effectively
Why a PR calendar is essential for your team
The bottom line is this: a PR calendar will make it significantly more likely that your clients are mentioned in relevant print, online, and social media discussions that their customers are seeing throughout the year.
A PR calendar supports your PR strategy with time-phased, monthly tasks that keep you and your team one step ahead of the editorial calendar, versus reacting to every holiday, national day, or seasonal theme that sneaks up without careful consideration.
It puts laser-focus on the opportunities you’ll pursue for each client, guiding your team past what can be an overwhelming amount of story ideas, news angles, and media call-outs during the year. And during quieter times in the year, it shines a spotlight on upcoming opportunities that your account managers should begin planning for.
Two other important reasons:
1. It can be used year in and year out. Once you and your team have invested the time to build one, you’ll have a PR calendar template ready to go each year. In fact, consider it a living document and make a copy accessible and editable by your entire team. If new opportunities pop up during the year, or if someone learns of an opportunity the team missed, just add it to the PR calendar template so you won’t miss it again the following year.
2. It can “automate” your team’s monthly work. A PR calendar is especially powerful when used in conjunction with PR software like Prowly. With PR tools in place, the PR calendar becomes a launching pad that alerts your team to kick off the next steps, like creating custom media contact lists, drafting email pitches, and building online newsrooms.
In fact, pairing a PR calendar with PR automation software will create a structured monthly project regimen that will guide your team through easy, repeatable steps and save you valuable project management time. It allows you to step back and focus on bigger agency priorities like client prospecting, hiring, and revenue planning.
How to create a PR calendar with your team
As with the development of most agency tools, it’s best to bring in your team early so they feel ownership in this document. Start with a team brainstorming session, where your team’s cumulative PR experience will allow the group to list off the most recognized, recurring annual PR themes from the top of mind.
Advise everyone to then get creative and jot down all holidays, national days, and familiar annual themes they can think of, like back to school, spring break, New Year’s resolutions, and Black Friday.
Think specifically about your clients’ industries too, and include relevant industry gatherings like conferences and speaking engagements. Think big and don’t overlook more general themes around seasonal business insights like CEO advice for the New Year or heading into Q4.
There are plenty of great holiday calendars shared online for you to use as a starting point. A quick Google search will get one quickly into your hands.
Next, delegate someone to research more specific opportunities, or share an online draft document with your team that everyone can add to. The setup for this can be very simple: many agencies rely on the flexibility of Excel or Google Sheets for building these, so they can be accessed by the entire team and easily copied and customized afterward to create client-specific PR calendars.
At this stage, don’t forget to research where your clients’ competitors were mentioned the following year, and which annual events and themes they covered on their social media platforms. Leverage their research and past successes to learn of new opportunities, and make note of the editors and influencers who wrote about them. They should be interested in your client too!
Finally, some agencies like to include industry awards opportunities on their PR calendar to keep those application and deadline dates close at hand. In general, you can see this project as an opportunity to integrate multiple agency planning goals. In fact, a sidebar with a list of evergreen content is useful here too!
To recap, consider the following topics for your PR calendar template:
General topics for your PR calendar
- Holidays like New Year’s Day and Thanksgiving
- National holidays like National Cuddle Up Day and National Pet Day
- Seasonal themes like New Year’s resolutions, spring break, and summer vacation
- CEO business expert themes, like annual strategy planning, motivational quarterly kick-off practices, seasonal hiring tips and ideas for team-favorite summer and holiday gatherings
Client-specific topics for your PR calendar
- Client product launch dates
- Industry-specific editorial themes like Fashion Weeks, winter beauty products, and major tech events
- Industry conferences
- Planned speaking engagements
- Industry award announcements
- Themes and holidays where the competition has been covered in the past
Once your PR calendar has all news themes marked on the calendar, you’re halfway done! The next step is to calculate how many weeks prior to each event you should reach out to relevant editors.
Add in these dates, remembering that print publications will have longer lead times of 4-6 months versus the 1-2 months needed for online media outlets. This is where color-coding your calendar comes in extra handy.
PR calendar template
CLIENT: Bloomatic (Clothing brand / Fashion, lifestyle topics)
ACCOUNT MANAGER: Lindsay Turner
|MONTH / WEEK||IMPORTANT DATES||KEY TOPICS / WHAT TO PITCH||MEDIA LISTS|
|January / I||1.01 New Year’s Day||Resolutions / Start the new year in style – fashion fundamentals||✓ Fashion journalists – US|
|January / II||9.01 Golden Globe Awards||Valentine’s Day / Gift ideas for her||✓ Gift guides|
✓ Lifestyle editors – US
|January / III||19.01 Museum Selfie Day||Vacation & Travel / Travel clothing essentials||To do|
|January / IV||24.01 New website launch||Mardi Gras / New collection inspired by a boho chic look||To do|
COLOR CODE: Online outlets, Print publications
If you really want to go the extra mile (and we know you do!), include not only the pitch start dates but the media contact list creation dates. Again, here is where having in-house PR automation software is indispensable.
When your team member is prompted by the PR calendar to create the appropriate media contact list, they can build one quickly around industries and topics and even build an online newsroom that reflects the current press campaign. They can then share access to these with the rest of the team, creating an opportunity for group pitching and sharing insights about how contacted editors and influencers are reacting to the pitches.
How to use your PR calendar template effectively
Once you have a master PR calendar template ready for the year, you may choose to have each account manager customize one for each of their clients. In this case, they should plot the client’s specific release dates and highlight relevant news cycles, New Year’s resolutions for their lifestyle clients, and Fashion Week trends for their clothing clients.
Here’s a tip for really maximizing your PR calendar: share it with your client’s in-house marketing team and discuss the opportunities to collaborate. Their social media team should be talking about the topics on your PR calendar too, mentioning national days, and using appropriate hashtags to increase visibility across all social media platforms.
They can include your relevant PR mentions so the editors and media outlets involved can see your valuable cross-promotion. The client’s content writers should be involved too, referring to your PR calendar and its timely themes for blog and email newsletter content ideas. Imagine how powerful it will be to see a unified marketing message across all customer communications!
Or, if your agency also manages the client’s social media accounts, you’ve created a powerful multi-functional tool for your team to use.
Year over year returns
You’ll find that the one-time investment in creating an annual PR calendar will yield your agency results for years to come. You’ll have a template to start each year’s planning, and if you train your team to update it during the year as new ideas and themes pop up, it will always be current.
You’ll also find that after one year, you’ll have content that can be creatively repurposed in the following years, like press releases, email pitches, blog posts, and social media content. This means that you’ll see significant time savings for your team by year 2 alone.
And finally, every team welcomes starting a new year with a strategic plan in place. It kicks off the year in an organized fashion and sets the tone for nothing but success in the months ahead. Make 2023 the year you start your agency’s annual PR calendar!
Cover photo by Karolina Grabowska