We get questions like this a lot . . .
- How often should we send out ___________ ? (fill in the blank with emails, tweets, press releases, etc.)
- What’s a normal amount of content for my team to be asked to create?
- How much should I put in my editorial calendar?
Of course, the answer is “It depends.”
But here’s an exercise I recommend to our coaching clients to help answer the questions for yourself. This assumes you’ve been at your organization doing the comms work for at least a year.
I want you to think about three different months in the past year or so when
- You felt comfortable with the level of work. You felt like the pace was manageable and the quality of the work product was high.
- You felt pushed, but it was tolerable for a short period of time. If you do rapid response work that comes hard and fast, you know these months. For others, it might be a time when the organization didn’t plan well or pace out the work well, and you had to manage a lot all at once.
- You felt completely overworked. The quality of the work may have suffered. But even if it didn’t, you and/or your team suffered because you had to put in a lot of extra time.
You should have three different months in mind, one that exemplifies each of these situations above.
Now, I want you to count the work product created and published during each of those months. Count the number of emails you sent out to your mailing list, the number of Facebook posts, tweets, Instagram stories, press releases, white papers, blogs, website page updates, etc. Whatever it is that you or your team produce, count it for each of these months.
It can be helpful to put this in a chart or a spreadsheet so you can compare the pace or volume of each of the types of communications work products during each of these three time periods. Sometimes it’s not so much about the quantity of the work, but the dynamics or the culture in which the work happens, so feel free to make notes about how those months were different in those ways too.
The amount of content you created in your “comfortable” month can serve as your default editorial calendar. That’s the number of times you are going to plan to send emails, Facebook updates, and the like in a typical month going forward. Of course, you’ll adjust as needed for what the organization is doing in the future, but this is a good baseline.
A few times a year (by which I mean two or three, but no more) you can increase that default to what you did on the “pushed” or “rapid response” schedule. It’s essential that you make it clear within your organization that you can only do this a few times a year. They need to choose wisely about when to invoke this extra level of effort.
The overworked schedule? You can use this in a few ways, none of which actually involve putting that pace on your editorial calendar.
First, if you are seeing work on the horizon that will end up forcing you into the overworked schedule, you need to sound the alarm early and loud to bring the pace back down to something more reasonable.
Second, you can use this requested level of effort (especially compared to your comfortable pace) to advocate for more resources, such as a bigger team or more contractor/freelancer dollars to help fill in as needed.
Third, you can negotiate significant trade-offs if you do consent to that overworked level of effort, like additional paid time off afterward. I don’t recommend that you really consent to this, but the reality is that it sometimes happens to you. Insist that you are rewarded for that level of effort.
And fourth, if none of that works, you can start looking for another job that won’t abuse you, knowing what you are capable of and what is too much.
If you give this exercise a try, let me know how it goes!