Media Planning: The Ultimate Guide
For any business to be successful today — no matter the type, size, or industry — it must create and share media content (images, videos, infographics, social media posts, podcasts, etc.) with its target audience members.
This is a large part of how you boost brand awareness, engagements, conversions, and revenue (among other things) for your business. Not to mention, media content helps you stand out from competitors and other businesses.
Here’s the issue: The sheer amount of media content most businesses produce and share on a regular basis to stay relevant among audience members can become confusing to keep track of, plan, organize, distribute, and analyze for them.
The best way to combat these issues is through media planning.
Based on this definition, it’s clear media planning has many moving parts — this is why the process can be difficult to get right.
But first, in case you need further convincing media planning is a worthwhile investment, let’s cover some of the specific benefits of the process.
Benefits of Media Planning
Media planning helps you with different parts of content creation and distribution including (but not limited to):
- Getting to know your target audience on a deeper level so you can effectively reach them through your media content
- Deciding which media channels and platforms you’ll share your content on
- Determining the timing and frequency of the media and content you publish and share
- Keeping up with the latest media trends and technology
- Sticking to your budget as you work to create, publish, and share high-quality and engaging media content
- Conducting analyses to measure the success of your media planning process
In addition to the benefits of media planning, it’s important to note how this process differs from that of media buying — although the processes are related, they have different purposes and are often confused with one another.
Media Planning and Buying
Media planning and media buying are closely related and work in tandem with one another. Depending on the size of your business and your budget, your team members who plan your media may also handle the media buying process.
So, what makes these processes unique?
Well, we already covered the definition of media planning — it’s a process focused on the strategy behind the media content that’s created, published, and shared among your customers and target audience. The media referred to here is all-encompassing, meaning it doesn’t have to include paid ads and paid content.
This is where media planning and media buying differ.
What is media buying?
Media buying is related to paid media — whether that means your business is buying campaign or ad space on various channels, paying to share targeted campaigns and ads, or negotiating with media vendors.
In a world where your business can create and share media on different platforms and successfully reach your audience for free, it’s clear media planning can happen without media buying. However, media buying requires media planning.
This is because media planning sets the tone and direction for the buying that needs to occur. Once ad space is purchased or content distribution plans have been negotiated, there needs to be a strategy (or media plan) for getting that media to your audience and customers.
Now let’s review the steps in the media planning process so you can begin developing your business’s strategy.
Media Planning Process
As you work through the following process, keep in mind that the way your business chooses to apply the results and conclusions derived from each step will be unique based on your needs.
1. Conduct market research.
The first thing you’ll want to do when developing your media planning process is conduct market research. Market research will allow you to tailor the content you create and the media plan you implement to your target audience and customers.
This entails creating (if you haven’t already) and studying your buyer personas as well as developing an understanding of who your target audience and current customers are.
This way, you can determine what media will be most successful in reaching, resonating with, and converting the greatest number of audience members possible. Additionally, it’ll help you decide which platforms and channels you’ll share your media on and through.
2. State your media planning objective.
As with anything in marketing, it’s crucial to maintain an objective — so, when developing your media plan, keep a goal (or a few) in mind to help you effectively navigate the process.
Here are some examples of media planning objectives you might have:
- Strengthen cross-team collaboration (e.g. content, graphic design, animation, video, blog, social media) while creating and sharing your media
- Enhance and streamline the publication and distribution processes for all media
- Improve your media distribution timeline to ensure your content is shared efficiently and in a timely manner so it’s relevant to your target audience
- Amplify the success of all of your media content by allowing for ample time to analyze its impact and reach on your audience
For instance, say you’re looking to create a media plan for your Facebook and Instagram social content. Your objective may be to streamline the content creation process in a timely fashion and then schedule posts on both platforms in advance. This way, you ensure your posts are relevant to your audience — who you learned about in the above step — so you can boost engagement and stay top of mind.
3. Determine which media planning templates you’ll use.
There are a number of easy-to-use templates available to help you with your media planning strategy, such as editorial calendar templates and social media strategy templates — we’ll cover these options, and several others, in detail below.
Media planning templates exist to support you by ensuring you stay as efficient and effective as possible while working on all aspects of your media content. They allow you to keep your media content organized all while streamlining the processes of publishing and sharing that media content among your audience members.
Keep in mind that, due to the variety of templates that are available for different types and parts of the media planning process, the templates you incorporate will be unique to your business — so don’t be afraid to experiment with or combine different templates.
For example, if your business is looking to create that media plan for your Facebook and Instagram social media, you might choose to implement a social media calendar template.
This type of template will help you coordinate your content across both channels, boost engagement, and improve productivity among your team members — and therefore, achieve the objective you set in step two.
4. Implement your media plan.
Now it’s time to implement your media plan. Ensure all parties who need to be aware of the plan have the necessary details to help you execute it accordingly.
Additionally, it may be beneficial to share the contact details of the media-planning point person at your company in case anyone has questions or comments.
To get a better understanding of what I mean, let’s refer back to our example in the above step about your social media plan for Facebook and Instagram.
If you implement a social media calendar template as part of your media plan, ensure everyone who will be working on as well as creating the content and publication schedule for both platforms has access to it.
And above all, make sure those involved have a clear understanding of who makes up your target audience (as identified in step one) as well as what your main objective is for your media plan (as you did in step two). This way, everyone is aligned and focused.
5. Evaluate your success.
Whether your media plan revolves around individual posts on Instagram or a month-long, company-wide campaign, be sure to measure the success of your plan.
Ask yourself and your team questions like, “Did this media plan help us achieve our specific goals?” and “Did the media planning templates and tools we used add value to our media creation and publication processes?”
The way you evaluate your media plan’s success should be directly tied to your business’s specific goals regarding your media and content, the teams who create the media, and the value you hope to derive from the media (e.g. boost conversions, engagements, revenue, etc.).
Let’s look back at our example from above one last time. Think about whether or not your social media content plan and the calendar template you implemented have helped you reach your target audience and achieve the objective you set.
Ask yourself whether or not your media plan helped you boost engagement on the social platforms you focused on as well as collaborate and coordinate more effectively to increase team-wide productivity.
Next, let’s review some resources available to make your media planning process simpler.
Media Planning Templates
There are a plethora of media planning templates available online that you can purchase or download for free. The great part about using media planning templates is that you can customize and tailor them to your business’s specific needs and goals.
Depending on the media software your business uses, such as HubSpot’s (free) CRM, Marketing Hub, or SproutSocial, there may be customizable planning templates included (similar to this menu of options HubSpot offers).
You may also elect to create templates on your own with the help of Google Sheets or a similar program.
Either way, how you choose to implement and use media planning templates will be unique to your business and needs — so don’t be afraid to modify your templates over time as your goals evolve or business and audience grow.
Types of Media Planning Templates
To help get you started, here’s a list of common types of media creation and planning templates. (Click the links to be directed to an associated template resource.)
You might use one or several media templates based on your needs. Remember, there’s no right or wrong answer to which template you should use — it’s about preference and what works best for your business.
- Use a media planning template to organize your paid media efforts and expenses in one visual location.
- Use a social media strategy template to align your media content with your audience in a way that provides value for your business.
- Use a social media calendar template to customize a timeline for when you’ll share your social media posts in a simple, organized, manageable, and effective format.
- Use an editorial calendar template to plan and optimize all of the marketing content you’ll publish and share including blogs, social media, and campaigns.
- Use a blog post template to simply fill-in-the-blanks and begin writing engaging, relevant, and well-optimized blog content for your audience (all while avoiding writer’s block!).
- Use an ebook design template to take the guesswork out of how to make your ebook professional, eye-catching, and beautiful all while saving yourself valuable time.
- Use an infographic template in Powerpoint or Illustrator to quickly customize the way you present data, share insights, and promote offers in a way that looks and feels professional.
- Use an analytics and reporting template for Excel, PowerPoint, and Google Drive to make the processes of pulling, organizing, and sharing data simple no matter which metrics you track.
- Use a budget template to manage and review your spending and budget with Excel or Google Sheets.
- Use an advertising template to help you plan and manage advertising campaigns in a way that’s sure to convert audience members into leads and customers.
Begin Your Media Planning Process
Media planning is an integral part of your business’s ability to successfully create, publish, and share media content. It’s how you streamline cross-team communication and collaboration around your media as well as ensure it’s shared with your audience in a timely fashion.
So, work through the media planning process steps above and choose which templates you’ll use to begin reaching and converting more audience members.