Merge Photo by Roland on Flickr

You can't plan everything, so prepare to merge!

You can’t plan out everything. As a communications director, you shouldn’t want to. Big picture communications timelines and editorial calendars are helpful in many ways, but you can’t pack them full and then expect all of it to play out exactly that way.

Instead, plan loosely, leaving plenty of play in the schedule so that you have room for the inevitable changes, the unexpected, and the unpredictable – of both the positive and negative varieties.

Here are several examples of the kinds of content you’ll often want (or need) to incorporate with only minimal planning or notice.

Crisis Communications.  While you can do a fair amount of planning around hypothetical crises, until you know what you are really dealing with, you can’t know exactly what to say, and you certainly won't know exactly when you need to say it until the crisis hits.

Newsjacking. A story breaks, and you have the perfect follow-up angle for the next day.  Scrap getting that newsletter out tomorrow and jump on that story instead! And then a day or two later, go back to where you were with that newsletter.

Social Media. Seems everyone’s talking about this thing or that, and wouldn’t it be perfect to chime in, or to add those perspectives you are hearing into work? Once again, do it! Be a part of the conversation right now. If you've built time in for Facebook and Twitter, the time spent there when it really matters won't throw you too far off course.

Little Bets. There are always bright ideas that come along (some brighter than others, naturally). You should build time in for experimenting, even if you don’t know today what those experiments will be.

I said you can’t predict these things, but that’s not really true. You know something from this list is likely to happen, so budget that time in your calendar to merge in what pops up. On the off chance nothing does, then you can fall back on some of your evergreen content to fill in the gaps.

This article first appeared in my free weekly e-newsletter, Nonprofit Marketing Tips, on July 25, 2012. Subscribe Now.