The Simple (but Effective) Handbook for Media Planning

Today’s media landscape is more complex than ever before. This means that talented media planners can play a vital role in the growth of many businesses. These savvy and well-organized professionals use their understanding of print and digital media to target the right audiences and to drum up interest in a product or service. For these reasons, media planners are also in high demand.

Can you deliver in this dynamic and challenging area?

In this handbook we’re going to give you a simple overview of everything you need to know to become a master of media planning.

What Is Media Planning?

Media planning is the process of choosing where, when, and how a business will advertise to its target customers, in order to secure their engagement and to boost ROI.

Media planners are the professionals, who are responsible for putting a media plan together. This is a data-backed document that outlines who will be targeted, across which channels, when, and with which advertisements.

A media plan also provides clear goals and sets strict budgetary constraints.

The media landscape may be constantly shifting, but here are some of the key channels that media planners can use to reach their target audience:

  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Billboards
  • Radio
  • PPC
  • Social Media
  • Programmatic advertising

Media Planning Process: How to Create a Media Plan

Now that we’ve got a better idea of what we mean by media planning – and what a media plan contains – let’s look at the step-by-step process to putting one together.

1. Set your goals

The foundation of any great media plan is to have clear goals and objectives.

Defining unambiguous goals and objectives will help you to answer important questions along the way and to make strategic choices that will move you closer to your goals. It’s important that those objectives are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.

Your goals should answer high-level strategic questions such as:

  • Do you want to boost brand awareness and/or secure more conversions?
  • Which buyer personas will you target with your campaign?
  • Will you focus predominantly on print or digital channels?
  • How will you measure the success of your campaign?

2. Define your audience

Now that you’ve outlined the clear goals of your media plan, you’ll also need to define your target audience carefully . A clear description of your target audience will help you to understand their motivations and how you can reach them.

Here’s a checklist to identify the target audience for your campaign.

  • Intent to purchase:
    • High
    • Low
  • Demographics:
    • Age
    • Gender
    • Income
    • Occupation
    • Location
  • Type of campaign:
    • B2B
    • B2C
  • Media habits:
    • Newspapers
    • Magazines
    • Mobile
    • Desktop

Use the answers to those questions to create the ideal target audience with whom you’ll communicate.

You might find “buyer personas” helpful here.. Here’s a great graphic from Antevenio that gives a deeper dive into the types of questions that you’ll want to answer about your buyer.

buyer persona questions about target market

The more accurately you define your audience, the easier you’ll find it to make the right decisions along the way.

Be sure to download our comprehensive buyer persona template.

3. Plan your content

Now that you have a clear idea of what you hope to achieve, and whom you’re going to target, it’s time to plan the content that you’ll have to create.

You’ll need to make strategic and data-backed decisions, to create marketing collateral that will catch the eye of your target audience, resonate deeply with them, and inspire them to act.

To make sure that you achieve this, you should use detailed creative briefs, which should describe the following critical information:

  • The purpose of the marketing collateral
  • The tone and messaging that should be used
  • Important background information

It’s useful to collate your content plans in one place, using a content planning tool such as Google Sheets. Here’s a quick example of how such a document might look:

media planning google spreadsheet

4. Create your content

Once your great content plan is in place, you’ll be able to share your creative briefs, activate your creative professionals, and produce high-quality marketing collaterals.

It’s important that you follow project management best-practice while creating your content. This means creating a clear project timeline, assigning tasks in a logical order, and revealing any dependencies.

The exact content creation workflow will vary depending on a host of factors, such as the file type you’re producing and the team members that you have available.

For all the latest insight into the creative workflow, be sure to follow the Filestage blog.

5. Review and approve your content

Once the content has been created, it’s critical that you secure final approval from all of the necessary internal and external stakeholders. 

Here are the typical groups that you’ll need to approach for approval, and why.

  • Senior management: Strategic approval
  • Marketing managers: Brand consistency and messaging
  • Compliance: Adherence to rules and regulations
  • External decision makers: Final approval

Given that there are so many distinct groups – each with different personal opinions and preferences – it’s critical that you focus the review and approval feedback processes in one place.

If not, you may struggle. Imagine, for instance, that your senior manager offers feedback that conflicts with compliance. You’ll then find yourself in a complex situation that affects the overall quality of your project and takes a long time to resolve.

This is why you should use a tool, such as Filestage, to harmonize the review and approval processes of your marketing collateral.

filestage video collaboration tool for teams

Whatever the format, Filestage lets your stakeholders collaborate in one place and they can also leave valuable, in-context feedback.

6. Select media outlets

Now that you’ve got those precious marketing collaterals in your hands, it’s time to put them to good use.

The next step is to select the various media outlets to target, depending on the strategic choices you made, while creating your media plan. For example, you might decide to show your latest print ad in a local magazine, as opposed to a local newspaper, given that magazines enjoy longer shelf lives.

During this part of the media planning process, your media planners need to call upon their media experience and analytical mindsets, to ask the right questions and to collect reasonable quotes. They will need to collect all of the necessary technical and pricing information, from the best providers, to relay to you and your team, so you can select the best provider for your plan.

7. Execute

Once you have assessed your options and made your decisions, it’s time for you to execute your plan and make your purchase.

It’s a thrilling feeling moving a marketing collateral all the way through the process; so congratulations! Don’t forget to save a copy of all your various media appearances, to include within the press section of your website (they’re also great for personal portfolios).

However, the process isn’t over yet.

8. Measure your results

Once your campaign is live, you’ll need to monitor its efficacy and ROI. THis is where accurate data collection and analysis can inform your future media planning strategy and reveal what does and doesn’t work for your business.

The exact measurement technique you use will vary, depending on the format that you chose. Here are some examples of how you might measure the impact of key strategies.

  • Print: Sharing and tracking discount/QR codes
  • PPC: Using Google Analytics to measure traffic
  • TV spots: Control/test scenarios across different markets

Equipped with new data (and hopefully some great results) it’s time to start the media planning process again – stronger than ever!

How to Craft the Perfect Media Planning Strategy: 7 Actionable Best Practices

Now that we have outlined the media planning process, let’s take a look at seven actionable tips and tricks that you can use along the way to get the best possible results..

1. Develop a strong measurement strategy

You’ll need to put a strong focus on measurement, if you want to get the maximum value from your media planning activities. With accurate measurements, you’ll be able to unlock new insights and gain a deeper understanding of what works for your business.

This presentation from Dow Jones Insight shows you how to measure the effectiveness of your media strategy.

linkedin slideshare effective media strategy

The presentation provides lots of interesting food for thought concerning which media you need to track and how.

2. Ensure cross-channel consistency

Statistics from Demand Metric suggest that consistent brands are 3.5 times more likely to enjoy better brand visibility than other more inconsistent brands.

This is why it’s critical that you review and approve your collaterals meticulously. By doing so, you’ll be better able to ensure consistency wherever your brand appears. This is particularly important if you operate cross-channel campaigns in different formats.

3. Polish your core materials

Media planning is carried out to attract new audiences to your business. Therefore, it’s important that, if you successfully attract a new visitor to your website or business, you’re able to offer a consistent and satisfactory experience.

Before you launch a significant media push, audit your existing core materials to make sure that they’re up to scratch. For instance, this might mean checking that your website is working flawlessly, so that it can handle a surge in demand.

4. Create dedicated landing pages

Landing pages are a great way to drive conversions and capitalize on the new traffic that you generate from your media planning activities.

Using landing pages, means you can create cohesive campaigns and customer journeys. Imagine that you create a TV spot, in celebration of the Christmas holidays. You could divert that traffic to a specific landing page that uses the same messaging.

Landing pages are also very easy to monitor in terms of performance and in turn that will give you a full picture of your campaign’s performance.

5. Maintain a swipe file

If your media planning is going to be worth it, you’ll need to create amazing marketing collaterals that leap off the screen or page. There are some really talented creative teams out there, so you’re up against stiff competition.

This is why you should maintain a swipe file – a collection of tested and proven ads. If you’re ever struggling for a new campaign idea or a clever tagline, just call up your swipe file for inspiration.

Check out swipefile.com for some awesome examples that you can quickly filter to get great inspiration.

most popular media adverts

6. Maintain great relationships

Over the course of the media planning process, there’s a good chance that you’ll speak with sellers at different magazines, newspapers, ad networks, and more.

Be sure to maintain good relationships with these people. They can help you to stay on top of industry trends and provide you with advice. Who knows, you might also secure some discounts and favorable terms for your next campaign!

7. Try new things

Given that media planning can be a complex and expensive task, businesses often fall into the trap of playing it safe. This might mean using the same old CTAs and messaging, over and over again.

If you feel that your results are becoming a little flat, you might want to try something new and shake things up. Some businesses set aside a small portion of their advertising budget to try new things and to unlock new avenues. It’s not a bad idea!

5 Media Planning Templates You Can Use to Get Started

Make your media planning process faster and more effective, by using the right media planning template.

Here’s are five great media planning templates that you can use to get started.

1. Media Planning Template: Slidebean

slidebean media planning templates

Slidebean has put together a really stunning media planning template that you can use to stay on top of your media planning. This is an editable template, which you can quickly adjust to meet your needs and to cover all of the key areas within your media plan.

Download the media planning template here.

2. Editorial Calendar Template: New Old Stamp

newoldstamp media plan template for ad campaigns

This editorial calendar template helps you to keep track of the different content that you publish as a business. It’s a simple file that you can use to refer to your previous content quickly and to keep an eye on what’s coming up in the future.

Download the editorial calendar template here.

3. Media Planning Template – adCMO

linkedin slideshare media planning template

This is a simple media planning template that offers you a high-level overview of your project and what you’re hoping to achieve. You’ll find ample space to outline the aims of your campaign and the shape that it will take.

Download the media planning template here.

4. Digital Media Plan Outline – SampleTemplates

SampleTemplates digital media advertising plan templates

This great template, from SampleTemplates, helps you to master your digital media planning. It gives you lots of space to outline your key areas such as the vital messages that you’ll share, the goals you have, and whom you will target.

Download the plan here.

5. Free Paid Media Template – HubSpot

hubspot free media template

This great free paid media template, from HubSpot, helps you track and organize your media planning and media buying in one location. The sophisticated template makes it simple to track your expenses and ROI, for full visibility.

Access the free paid media template here.

Best Media Planning Software to Help with Your Process

By now, we’ve got everything pretty much in place. But which media planning software should you use to help you through the process?

Here’s a look at the best media planning tools on the market.

Content Planning

As we touched on earlier, it’s critical to invest in great content planning tools that help you stay organized. Here are some of the best.

Google Sheets

google spreadsheets gsuite

Google Sheets is a highly versatile tool that’s very popular within businesses that use the G Suite. You can use Google Sheets to spin up content planning documents easily, and then share them widely with your team.

You’ll find all of the key spreadsheet functionality on offer here, and it’s even possible to download your Sheet documents into Excel file formats, if necessary.

Asana

asana manage team work collaboration free

Asana is a work management platform that frees up creative teams to focus on what matters most. This is primarily a project management platform, but there are lots of different project views that you can use to organize and monitor your media planning.

It’s also possible to invite team members from across your organization, and to keep everybody aligned in the creation of your collaterals.

Trello

trello visual team project management

Trello is a project management platform that offers an intuitive series of boards, lists, and cards to help teams manage complex workflows. This is an ideal tool for media planning, given that it’s so easy to adjust and move cards through the process.

Trello also offers a huge number of integrations with leading tools, so that you can incorporate it into your tech stack and work seamlessly.

Content Creation

Content planning is just one part of the puzzle – now you’ve got to think about the actual creation of your content. Here are some tools you’ll want to use.

Canva

canva free graphic design image template software

Canva is a great cloud-based design platform, which can even be accessed on the move. Canva offers a huge range of templates and tools, so that creative professionals can create attractive and effective designs.

It makes it simple for marketers to share and organize their designs, as well, giving them the power to work efficiently.

Venngage

venngage infographic design software

Venngage is a tool that helps creative professionals create engaging and data-rich infographics quickly . It also offers a range of attractive templates that marketers can use to get started right away.

Venngage is loved for its intuitive approach, and it’s really surprising how marketers, with only a basic knowledge of design, can create something truly special.

Adobe Photoshop

photoshop graphic design image manipulation software

Adobe Photoshop is probably the world’s most popular and best-loved image editing tool. Creative professionals around the world use this tool for post-processing and enhancement, as well as graphic design and illustration.

In the hands of a capable professional, Adobe Photoshop helps teams create stunning creative collaterals that get results.

Content Review and Approval

Once you have created your collaterals, it’s critical to secure approval from the key members in your team. Below you’ll find a selection of the best content review and approval tools on the market.

Filestage

filestage team content review project content proofing

Filestage is an immensely powerful content review and approval platform that makes it simple for creative teams to share their work and to collect feedback. The tool places a huge emphasis on usability, taking the stress and complexity out of the otherwise unruly review and approval process.

Comments can be left directly on files, of practically any format, and those comments are then collated into an integrated to-do list, so that you never miss an important comment.

QuickReviewer

quick reviewer file review software video html pdf images

QuickReviewer is another review and approval tool that lets creative teams share their graphic designs and collect feedback. The tool also collects reviews, comments, and instant feedback in one place.

QuickReviewer boasts that, because it helps to achieve quicker project turnaround and speed to market, it contributes positively to the ROI of your projects.

Notism

notism design file sharing team review software

Notism is a tool that helps creative professionals share, review, and sign-off on their design and video work. It makes it easy for them to share fast and precise feedback with one another.

Notism also offers features such as robust version control and live notifications. These features keep everyone in the loop and focused on success.

Closing Thoughts

We hope that our closer look at media planning has been useful for you. As you can see, it’s quite a complex activity and you’ll need to do lots of research – as well as have the right tools – if you’re going to succeed.

If you want to speed up the review and approval of your various marketing collaterals, be sure to start your free Filestage trial today..