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Why is media planning so important? We’re glad you asked.

In today’s competitive global media landscape, effective media planning is vital to saving time while driving greater brand awareness, engagement, conversions, and revenue. The magic words every marketer wants to hear.

Choosing the right marketing channels to share high-performing content is key to media planning success, but that’s often tricky to pin down. And it’s even harder to make a splash in the sea of content out there right now.

Not 100% sure how to approach media planning? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Grab a cup of joe and settle in with our ultimate media planning guide.

What is media planning?

Media planning is how you choose to share media content with your target audience and why. In other words:

It’s about creating content audiences crave, on the channels and platforms they can’t get enough of.

On any given week, a media planner could be scheduling a healthy media mix of images, video content, print advertising, and even audio formats like podcasts as part of a company-wide marketing campaign. The “why” can be whatever end goal you want to achieve. 

Perhaps you want to increase the reach of your social posts on Facebook to raise brand awareness, or boost sales of a new product by creating an engaging new YouTube video. And you’d definitely use it to launch an epic out of home advertising campaign (OOH) that gets people talking about your biz. Media planning is the perfect way to organize and nail it.

Media planning vs media buying

For the record, there’s a big difference between media planning and media buying. Many people confuse the two terms or use them interchangeably, but they’re two entirely separate things:

Media planning is about deciding the best platform and strategic approach for a campaign, while media buying drives that campaign forward and keeps it on track.

The titles are the big giveaway here – planning versus buying. Media planners and buyers work together toward the same goal, but their roles and responsibilities differ. While a media planner would be involved in planning a paid media campaign, they wouldn’t spend time negotiating rates for ad space or purchasing media. That all sits with the media buyer.

But that said, it’s not uncommon for some smaller firms and agencies to combine both responsibilities into one role, performed by a media-managing mastermind. It all depends on the organization.

So now you know what media planning is, how do you get started? Again, the clue’s in the name. You need a solid media plan

Types of media planning

Within marketing, there are several types of media plan you could create, such as:

  • Social media plan
  • Paid media plan
  • Public relations (PR) media plan
  • Print media plan
  • OOH media plan

Regardless of which avenue of content marketing you’re creating it for, all plans share the same purpose:

A media plan helps you align teams on strategy, and optimize your company’s messaging for consistent cross-channel campaigns.

Basically, it puts everyone on the same page. That means you can use a media plan to organize both digital advertising and print campaigns with ease. 

An effective media plan should cover:

  • What kind of content you want to create
  • Which media channel(s) you’ll publish it on to best engage your audience
  • How frequently you’ll share content (including times/dates)
  • How much of your budget you’re planning to spend

So much fresh content is being published on the daily, with a new distribution stream or media outlet popping up every other month. That’s why media planning is important. It’s a media planner’s job to keep up with the latest consumer trends and shifts in the global media landscape, so they can stay glued to their audience and strategically target them with engaging content. 

What does the media planning process involve?

The perfect media plan should clearly track your campaign publishing schedule, so you know exactly what you’re sending out when, to whom, where, and why.

For most marketers, the perfect step-by-step media planning process looks a little something like this:

  1. Start with audience research
  2. Set your media objective
  3. Create and roll out a media plan
  4. Measure your success

Now let’s explore each of these steps in a little more detail.

1. Start with audience research

Before you do anything else, start your media planning process with audience and market research. Why? Because it gives you a view of the current media landscape, and how consumer attitudes and behaviors have shifted within your target audience. This happens more often than you’d probably expect. 

Specifically, audience research helps you to dive deeper into your target audience to understand their habits and interests, the platforms they’re using, and any relevant consumer trends worth tapping into. With this level of insight, you know exactly what types of media content will resonate with your audience and where to share it.

For example, a quick dip into the GWI platform reveals 30% of consumers discover new brands and products via TV ads, which creates a serious case for targeting them on the telly. If you wanted to dive even deeper, you could compare against other consumer attributes to help segment your audience, such as:

  • Favorite social media service
  • Paid TV subscriptions
  • Devices used to access the web
  • Daily time spent on media

Combined together, these strategic insights will help you plan a successful cross-channel media campaign. But as the media and ad space is incredibly saturated, we also recommend conducting competitive analysis as part of your wider market research. This shows you what’s currently engaging consumers, and what will help your campaign stand out from the crowd.

2. Set your media objective

Now you know what content will rock your audience’s socks off. What’s next? It’s time to set your media campaign goal. Your “why”. As we mentioned earlier, this can be whatever you want to aim for.

For example, you could aim to build brand awareness on a trendy new social channel with attractive media content that’s tailored to your target market. Or it could be something really simple, like saving time on content creation and scheduling with a more efficient process.

It’s overambitious (and to be honest, unnecessary) to cover every media platform or channel going, so this is where efficient goal setting can help you narrow down your focus areas. If you’re focusing your attention online, these handy digital media planning tips will help you ace it.

The most important thing is to define a clear measure of success. That could mean analyzing KPIs like reach and impressions, engagement rate, conversions, or even ROI. Use data to regularly assess campaign performance and see what is (and isn’t) working, and apply your learnings to future decision-making.

3. Create and roll out a media plan

Calendar template, digital software, or a basic spreadsheet? It’s time to decide. When filling out your media plan, there are loads of aspects to consider in terms of the media you’re publishing.

For instance, you could publish content that aligns with topical issues, news stories, national or global events, or even stuff that supports a larger company campaign or initiative. Keep in mind the end goal you set earlier – what do you want to achieve, and what’s in it for your audience?

Whatever you decide, alignment and consistency are key. That’s why we recommend including some explainer notes on your approach, so you can share your media plan with the wider marketing team and get everyone aligned on strategy – especially those lovely media buyers ready to run with your campaign. Explaining your “why” also ensures any content and imagery that need creating are in keeping with your plan.

Plan perfected? Everyone’s clear on what’s needed? Go on, roll it out.

4. Measure your success

Whether you’re tracking performance daily, weekly, or monthly, it’s always a good time to review and reflect on your campaign by assessing those all-important KPIs. Did you achieve the goal you set prior to creating your media plan? And if not, why not? 

Don’t forget to check in with your audience again. It’s likely that while your campaign was running, things have shifted in the market. Any change in consumer attitudes or behaviors could’ve had a big impact on how your media campaign landed, so it’s worth reviewing with your results in mind.

Remember, there’s no set formula for success in media planning. All you can do is keep testing and learning with data, using fresh insights to inform your media strategy and decision-making. The more often you do it, the more impactful your media content will be. Analyze, then optimize. Just like you would with any good marketing plan.

Media planning tips

What needs to be considered for an effective media planning strategy depends entirely on your goal and your audience. For best results, make audience insights the foundation of every campaign to understand how and where to place content and advertising.

Competitive analysis is incredibly useful and we recommend you do it before creating a media plan. But while it’s great for inspiration and setting the bar for your next campaign, don’t forget what makes your business unique in the first place. What helps you stand out?

As long as you base your media plan around up-to-date audience research, and focus on what you want to get out of your next campaign, it’ll be uniquely targeted to the needs of your specific audience. And no competitor can hold a candle to that.

It’s also a good idea to keep your media plan flexible. This helps with making adjustments or swapping scheduling dates around to fit your marketing strategy, even as consumer behavior and attitudes change. That’s absolutely crucial to reaching your target audience efficiently, every time.

How to boost your media planning strategy with GWI

Why is GWI so great for media planning? It takes the guesswork out of it. With deeper insights into your audience’s lives, you can plan all sorts of media campaigns to engage them more effectively. Here’s an example.

Imagine you’re planning a company-wide promotional campaign to boost sales of a new product. You know from your audience research (the first step of the media planning process, of course) that most of your target audience are coffee drinkers based in New York. In this case, you might consider placing a poster or billboard opposite every Starbucks or Dunkin’ to catch them while they’re sipping their morning matcha. And hey, maybe they’re scrolling through their social media feeds while they’re at it.

To amplify your campaign, you could dip into the latest online media consumption trends to see which social media platforms your audience is using, then target them with timely social posts and paid media ads encouraging them to buy your product. Make sure the campaign messaging and visuals are consistent across owned media, earned media, and paid media for maximum impact.

Short on time? Use our handy integration to define your audience in GWI, then plug them directly into your chosen ad platform (Google Ads, TikTok Ads etc). The perfect way to create ads audiences love and nail your social media marketing strategy. You can also match up your existing target audience segments to make running programmatic advertising in other platforms a breeze. Ideal if you’re an advertising agency.

And if you have any unanswered questions, you can tap into custom research to laser focus your targeting and sync that audience data with your existing insights in-platform. Just like the BBC did.

As these examples prove, GWI helps you reach your audience and other potential customers in multiple ways, backed by reliable insights housed in one easy platform. Pretty neat.

The bottom line is, infusing your media strategy with demographics and psychographics is a powerful way to supercharge success. You know exactly where to find your audience, what interests them, and how to engage with them on their terms. 

By understanding real people on a deeper level, you can cover all the bases you need to maximize campaign impact. And that, simply, is media planning magic.

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