How to Become a Communications Scheduling Ninja

Today’s blog post is written by Erin Madden Ramirez, Senior Data Specialist, Patron Technology.

Before coming to work for PatronManager, I was the systems administrator for a performing arts organization where we sent out a lot of email and direct mail, especially during the height of our season. As I was the one responsible for pulling lists for said emails and mailings, and I was the primary contact with our mail house, I took it upon myself to keep the company’s communications calendar.

Keeping a calendar encompassing all communications for your organization, including those from marketing, development, and the box office, ensures you’re not inundating your patrons with too much (or redundant) information. It allows you to plan out each email communication or direct mail campaign in detail, thereby cutting down on, if not eliminating, mistakes.

Note: There are lots of free tools available to help you plan your email and direct mail campaigns. Search for “free project management software” and test-drive a few. I like having a calendar to get a visual sense of my workload.

I always planned my campaigns in reverse (so to speak). After determining the date the email or direct mail piece needed to arrive in inboxes or homes, I then worked backward to set deadlines for the various due dates required for the project. You may be surprised to hear that I planned on needing two weeks of prep time before the send date of an email. For a direct mail piece, I planned on needing four or more weeks of prep time before a piece arrived in homes. Why so much time? Because I knew that everyone involved in creating and sending an email, or creating and sending a direct mail piece, was likely working on multiple projects and wanted to be able to do crazy things like, eat, sleep, and leave the office at 5 PM instead of 9 PM.

Here’s a sample email timeline (working backward):

  • Send date:
    • Make final edits in the morning; send in the afternoon
  • One business day before the send date:
    • Build email list
    • Finish building/designing email
    • Circulate email for proofing via email so links, etc. can be checked
  • Two business days before the send date:
    • Start building/designing the email
    • Box office builds and tests any coupon codes to be used in the email
  • Three business days before the send date:
    • Final email copy due
    • Email graphics approved
  • Four business days before the send date:
    • Second draft of email copy circulated
  • Five business days before the send date:
    • Make first-draft edits
    • Start creation/research/selection of email graphics
  • Six business days before the send date:
    • First draft of email copy circulated for edits
  • Seven business days before the send date:
    • Complete the first draft of email copy
  • Eight business days before the send date:
    • Start first draft of email copy

Note: Plan on the following delivery times for direct mail pieces, and get your list(s) and collateral to your mail house at least three business days before the send date.

  • USPS First Class: approximately two days
  • USPS Presorted First Class*: one to two days from send date (minimum 500 pieces)
  • USPS Non-profit*: three to four days from send date (minimum 200 pieces)
  • USPS Flat Rate: three to four days from send date

* Permit & regular NCOA (National Change
of Address) updates required

You can see a sample email campaign (in red text) planned out on the calendar below. I’ve included a sample direct mail postcard plan as well (in black text).

Mailing Planning - Sample Calendar.xlsx - Calendar (1)
Click to Enlarge


What works best for you in terms of planning an email? A direct mail piece? We use, which is a project planning tool, but there are many more out there (and some that are free). Can you recommend yours?

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