The importance of planning ahead in digital marketing

Short cycle time. Instant gratification. Real time. All these characterize Digital Marketing as a channel. And because of this fact, organizations often fall into planning their Digital Marketing communications with the same characterizations. The result often means Digital Marketing communications are last-minute additions to the overall mix. There are certain upsides to last-minute, Digital Marketing communications planning. These include timeliness with current events and lower costs as a result of generally higher efficiency. However, we advocate for a quarterly or annual planning model, where the primary direction of communications is set months in advance, and that plan is generally worked out accordingly. Exceptions would include emergencies or other breaking news elements that need to be responded to, as well as a subset of social media that simply cannot be planned ahead. There are a number of advantages to planning on a quarterly or annual basis:

  • Better integration with other channels. It takes time to integrate across channels, particularly since some channels like direct mail require lead time for production. By planning ahead, integration can be baked-in rather than bolted-on.

  • Better discipline and strategy. Last minute communications planning can lead to diffused focus and inconsistent messaging. Often, in planning ahead, we find an increase in the ability to think through strategy before we execute.

  • Enables “pounce” opportunities. By planning ahead for regular communications, both the organization and agency are able to free up capacity to pounce on urgent opportunities the moment they arrive.

  • Better distribution of resources. Nonprofit communications staff is typically constant, while the communications themselves rise and fall with the seasons (for instance, communications in December tend to be much higher than those in January). By planning ahead, an organization can better accommodate spikes and lulls in communications.

Again, there are certain aspects that cannot be planned ahead, such as conversation taking place with constituents via social media, emergency response, etc. But the more that can be planned ahead, the greater the capacity to deal with the immediate and urgent. Are you planning ahead? What do you think?