Media Planning: What It Is + How to Write a Media Plan

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Discover how media planning benefits businesses and the process of building a media plan.

[Featured Image] Three people sit together at a wood table in an open office space and review chart printouts to assess media plan performance.

What is media planning? 

Media planning is a process that marketers use to determine the best method of communicating a message to an audience. Media planning involves analyzing audiences, channels, platforms, messaging, and advertisements to discover the most effective marketing methods to promote a particular brand or product. With thorough media planning, you can reach potential customers on the right channel with the right message at the right time. 

According to HubSpot’s 2022 State of Media & Content Planning Research Report, 70 percent of media planners say that market research is the most effective part of their planning strategy, while 22 percent of media planners intend to invest more in research [1].  

  

Media planning vs. media buying 

Media planning concerns the strategy behind selecting media platforms, while media buying concerns the actual monetary investment in different platforms. Media planners often work with media buyers to maximize media spend ROI (return-on-investment).  

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Careers in media planning 

The most common job title in media planning is media planner. Media planners leverage their market research and ad reach knowledge to maximize the impact of advertising campaigns. One of their main priorities is determining which media platforms can offer brands the most reach.

As marketing specialists, media planners typically need a bachelor’s degree in communication, marketing, advertising, or business. Zippia reports that 89 percent of media planners hold a bachelor’s degree, while 8 percent have a master’s degree [2]. 

Based on job listings on Glassdoor, Indeed, and LinkedIn, you can find media planning jobs in marketing agencies as well as in industries such as restaurants and nightlife, travel, HR, health and medicine, higher education, technology, software development, and consumer product manufacturing. You may come across related job titles like digital media planner, senior media planner, assistant media planner, brand strategist and planner, paid media strategist, marketing manager, media buyer, and media analyst. 

Company reviews on Glassdoor (as of October 2022) reveal that the top-rated companies hiring media planners include: 

  • Horizon Media, a data-driven media and marketing company

  • CMI Media Group, a health, wellness, and pharmaceutical marketing agency 

  • RPA, an advertising agency

  • Crossmedia, a communications planning, media services, and international account management company

  • 22squared, a strategic marketing and creative services agency    

How much can you make as a media planner? 

The average Glassdoor salary for a media planner in the US is $77,153

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What is a media plan? 

Now that you know the definition of media planning and what the 2022 career landscape looks like for this field, let’s explore how media plans help businesses. A media plan outlines the audiences a marketing message will reach, the channels to be used, and the delivery schedule. 

Your media plan should include the following components: 

  • Goals and KPIs: How will you define advertising campaign success? 

  • Budget: How much media spend is available, and how will you allocate it? 

  • Messaging: What are the media content’s main themes, and how will these themes determine the types of content you create? 

  • Scheduling: Based on audience insights, how frequently will the messaging appear across channels, and at what times of the day? 

  • Media mix: Based on audience insights, what combination of channels will you use to increase advertising reach, including social media platforms, blog content, email marketing, paid ads, earned media (news mentions and backlinks), and traditional media? 

Read more: What Is Omnichannel Marketing? Definition, Examples, and Strategy

Benefits of having a media plan

Developing a media plan can benefit a business in several ways, including:  

  • Getting to know your audience more intimately 

  • Communicating with your audience more effectively 

  • Systematizing your marketing efforts 

  • Monitoring campaign activity

  • Optimizing campaign performance

  • Keeping up with the latest media trends 

  • Driving overall business goals, from growing your customer base to increase revenue 

How to write a media plan 

As you explore media planning, one of the processes you’ll need to master is writing a media plan. Follow the steps below to begin writing a media plan for your next advertising campaign: 

1. Identify your advertising goals.

Get clear on what you want an advertising campaign to achieve. Make sure advertising goals correspond to overall business goals. Draw from these examples to articulate your own: 

  • Increase social media following and engagement 

  • Generate qualified leads

  • Convert more email subscribers into paying customers

2. Conduct market research.  

Understanding your audience is integral to delivering the right message on the schedule that will make the most impact. In addition to gathering the standard information such as demographics (age, location, or income), goals, and challenges, you’ll need to find out what kinds of ads your target audience engages with the most. What messaging and ad creatives get more results? Which channels does your audience prefer?   

3. Refine buyer personas.

Use your findings from market research and information about existing customers to refine buyer personas or create new ones. A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. You can use buyer personas to make empowered marketing decisions.   

4. Select media channels.

Include in your media plan a list of the channels through which you will reach your target audience and a short description of the content that will appear on each channel. Concentrate on the channels that your audience is most likely to use. 

Read more: Display Advertising Guide: Types, Best Practices, and How to Start

5. Select media planning tools. 

An important way to get the most out of your media plan and advertising efforts based on it is to use media planning tools. Media planning tools include software and templates that organize the data you need to launch and manage a successful advertising campaign. You will need to monitor ad spend, how campaigns are performing on each channel, and how much revenue you can attribute to individual marketing efforts. 

When choosing media planning tools, consider the cost, ease of setting each up, what each one tracks, and how it presents data. Here are five tools to investigate: 

6. Create a media plan.

Using all the information and ideas you’ve gathered, write your media plan and distribute it to other marketing team members and stakeholders. Be sure to include: 

  • Goals and KPIs

  • Budget 

  • Timeline

  • Audience targeting 

  • Messaging 

  • Scheduling 

  • Media mix 

7. Implement your media plan and measure results. 

Once you’ve discussed the media plan with team members and stakeholders, implement the advertising campaign across channels. Schedule a time to track performance and measure it against your goals. Adjust the media plan accordingly. 

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Taking online courses can be a great way to learn marketing skills and discover career options. Explore the Professional Certificate programs below, offered by industry leaders, Google and Meta. 

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Article sources

1

HubSpot. “The State of Media & Content Planning 2022 Research Report, https://offers.hubspot.com/hubfs/HubSpot_Media_Content_Planning_Report_2022.pdf.” Accessed October 25, 2022. 

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