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Media Planning: The Ultimate Guide

Today’s digital landscape is a competitive one. For any business to find success today, it must create and share media content (such as images, videos, written content, and podcasts) with its audience.

Publishing new media is how you boost brand awareness, engagements, conversions, and revenue for your business. Not to mention, media content helps you stand out from competitors.

Over time, though, it can become confusing to keep track of, plan, organize, distribute, and analyze all that media content.

The best way to combat these issues is through media planning.

Media planning has many moving parts, and the process can be difficult to get right.

By working through the media planning steps as well as implementing media planning templates, you’ll keep any media-related challenges at bay.

Benefits of Media Planning

Media planning aids with parts of content creation and distribution, including:

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 on which you’ll share your content
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

Now that we’ve discussed the benefits of media planning, let’s review the steps in the media planning process so you can begin developing your business’s strategy.

As you work through the following media planning steps, keep in mind that how your business applies the results and conclusions derived from each step will be unique based on your audience and 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.

Start by 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.

With this information, you can determine what media will reach, resonate with, and convert your audience. Additionally, it’ll help you decide what platforms and channels through which to share your content.

Featured Resource: HubSpot’s Market Research Kit + Templates

Download the Kit

2. State your media planning objective.

When developing your media plan, keep a goal (or a few) in mind to help you effectively navigate the process. Moreover, goals can help you know what content types and platforms you can say “no” to.

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 media.
Enhance and streamline the publication and distribution processes for all media.
Improve media distribution timeline to ensure our content is shared efficiently so it’s relevant to our target audience.
Amplify the success of our media content by allowing for ample time to analyze its impact and reach our 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 so you can boost engagement and stay top of mind.

3. Create your media plan using a template.

Now it’s time to make your media plan, but before jumping into templates, let’s go over what exactly a media plan is.

It’s not enough to simply do the planning and then assume everyone else is on the right page. You need to outline your strategy into a media plan document, you’ll be able to ensure alignment on your team and keep all parties accountable.

Other media plans are standalone strategies that detail how organizations plan to leverage media (written, video, audio, etc.) to connect with followers and customers.

Media planning templates ensure you stay efficient and effective while working on all aspects of your media content. They keep your media content organized while publishing and sharing it among your audience members.

Due to the variety of templates available for different types and parts of the media planning process, the templates you incorporate will be unique to your business. Don’t be afraid to experiment with or combine different templates.

For example, if your business is looking to create a 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.

Ensure all parties who should be aware of the plan have the necessary details to help you execute accordingly.

Additionally, 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 or creating the content and publication schedule for both platforms has access to it.

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.

What to Consider for Your Media Planning Strategy

There are a few additional things to consider when crafting your media planning strategy.

First, what’s your media planning budget?

Media Planning Budget

If you’re aiming for free media, you can disregard this question. But if part of your media planning involves media buying (as we discussed above), you’ll need to sit down with your marketing leadership to understand what funds you have to work with.

Set this budget before you start researching platforms and creating content. You don’t want to start formulating a campaign that you can’t afford down the road.

Second, consider the key messaging points you want your media to communicate.

Media Planning Messaging

You don’t have to pre-write all your media content, per se, but you should establish the main themes at the beginning so all media is consistent and on theme.

These messaging points will come from your audience research and may also influence what content types and platforms you pursue, so be sure to establish these early on.

With these points in mind, let’s walk through how to create a media plan of your own.

How to Create a Media Plan

1. Target your buyer personas.

As a marketer, you don’t want to advertise to just anyone. You want to attract the type of buyer that has interest in the media you’re creating — otherwise known as your buyer personas.

A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.

When you know exactly the type of buyer you need to target with your media plan, you’ll be able to attract the most valuable customers to your business.

When making your buyer personas, center them around these important attributes:

Demographics: Age, income, location, or identity
Background: Job, career path, and lifestyle
Identifiers: Communication preferences and social media platforms
Goals: Primary, secondary, personal and professional
Challenges: Their roadblocks preventing them from achieving their goals

2. Define your SMART goals.

You want to write out SMART goals for your media plan. The SMART acronym (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound) is a framework that will enable you to better track and drive greater impact from your proposed plan.

It’s important to determine these goals before jumping into your work so you have a media plan that sets a clear direction for you and your team members, and ensures you’re able to celebrate the wins when they occur.

Some examples of SMART goal-setting in media planning could look like:

Specific: “We want to generate a greater number of qualified leads for my business.”

Measurable: “We want our media plan to gain my business 2,000 followers across Twitter, Metaverse, and Instagram.”

Attainable: “We previously reached 70% in customer engagement online over the past quarter, so we’re aiming for 75% in the next.”

Relevant: “We want to achieve more positive customer engagement to better the brand’s reputation and gain more fans.”
Time-Bound: “We want our media plan to gain my business 2,000 followers in the next three months across Twitter, Metaverse, and Instagram.”

Once you’ve determined your goals, you can begin looking at resources to assist you in reaching them.

3. Find the media planning tools best suited for you.

We talk in further detail later in this post about some amazing media planning templates your business can use, but there are software tools that can do some of the heavy lifting for you.

To draft, plan, schedule, and collect conversion analytics, your business could benefit from the HubSpot Marketing Hub.

Or if you still want to explore more options, we have a list of 12 essential media planning tools for you to use.

4. Analyze historical data.

You have to know where you began before you can start going forward, look back at your previous media planning strategy and analyze its impact and reach.

For example, if your business was already on Instagram, check your business page insights to see just how far you got on your old posting schedule and content. Look at the posts that got the most engagement, the time period you had the most traffic, and what content helped to turn prospects into customers.

Make note of the effective elements of your previous strategy and let that drive some of your brainstorming for your new media plan.

5. Choose your media mix.

It’s important that you are up to snuff on the most popular marketing channels, along with your buyer personas preferred ones.

According to the 2021 State of Marketing Report, 1,000 global marketing professionals believe that the top marketing channels are:

Social Media

Websites/Blogs

Email Marketing
Video Marketing

You want an omni-channel media plan to reach your target audience where they are, and by researching your buyer personas most frequented channels, and exploring new channels, you can decide upon the right mix for you.

6. Put your media plan into action.

As you conduct your media plan, track your insights and see how you’re doing in comparison to your SMART goals.

Also, understand that you can adjust your plan as necessary over time. Marketing is a rather volatile industry and knowing when to change your approach is key.

Now that you know what it takes to create a plan, let’s review some resources available to simplify the media planning process.

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 Sprout Social, there may be customizable planning templates included (similar to this menu of options from HubSpot).

You may also elect to create templates on your own with the help of Google Sheets.

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 audience grows.

Free Media Planning Template [Download Now]

Download this Template

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.

We’ve spent a lot of time discussing the ins and outs of media planning, there’s another side that can help marketers on the job — media buying. Let’s get into it.

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, media planning focuses 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 always 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 and successfully reach your audience for free, media planning can happen without media buying.

However, media buying requires media planning. (It’s like that “a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not a square” lesson that baffled us all in elementary school.)

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.

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.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in February 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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