Behind every successful media plan is a meticulously crafted strategy. And before moving forward with selecting the channels or tactics to execute, a media strategist must nail down the campaign’s objectives, goals, and target audiences.
Having a concrete media strategy in place will help to achieve more measurable results and gather deeper insights (leading to a stronger performing campaign overall). Here are the essential components to get you started:
1. Setting measurable goals
This is the first and most important step that should be taken while developing a media strategy: determining exactly what you want your media plan to achieve. Maybe you’re looking to increase awareness in a certain market or determine the most influential tactics for your campaign goals at large. We recommend following the “SMART” method of goal definition: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based. Whether or not your goals are SMART is the difference between aiming to “generate more money” and “increase profits by 17% in Q2.” Can you tell which one sets a clearer trajectory for success?
Getting deep into the nitty gritty will influence the messaging points and creative executions that will motivate your audience to take the desired actions. Plus, by setting clear KPIs (target number of impressions, shares, opens, email sign-ups, leads, etc.) for these goals, you’ll maintain a stronger understanding of what’s working and what’s not so that you can protect your dollars and execute your campaign at the lowest possible risk. A few things to consider while setting SMART goals are:
- Don’t discount qualitative data. Measurements can (and should) be considered both quantitatively and qualitatively—valuable data doesn’t always have to take the form of hard numbers.
- Adopt a marathoner’s mindset. Time-based means ditching that “set it and forget it” approach to your media strategy. Instead, view your plan as a long game, iterating and pivoting based on results as they come.
- Harness ambitious realism. Goals should lead to growth—they’re supposed to push you outside your comfort zone enough to accomplish something new. Just because the “A” in SMART stands for achievable, doesn’t mean you should play it safe. Stay ambitious, and keep your eye on the prize!
2. Identifying & researching your target audience
Identifying your target audience is essential in developing an effective media strategy. In addition to understanding yIdentifying your target audience is essential in developing an effective media strategy. In addition to understanding your audience’s key demographic traits, really dive deep to try to get to know and understand your target audience. Ask yourself these questions:
- Where and how do they spend most of their time?
- What does a typical day look like for them?
- What are their fears?
- What are their interests?
- What media channels do they use?
Create custom personas of your target audience so that you can better understand who they are, what their wants are, and what motivates them. This will humanize your audience and remind you that there’s a real person on the other end of your messages (we’re talking super specific…think: 28-year-old newlywed Millennial named Holly living in the suburbs and passionate about climate change. Feel like you know her yet?).
Nailing your audience personas will help you determine the best channels/tactics to use in your media plan to hit your target audience at various stages throughout the funnel, keeping them top-of-mind in every decision you make.
“It’s hard to target a message to a generic 35-year-old middle-class working mother of two. It’s much easier to target a message to Jennifer, who has two children under four, works as a paralegal, and is always looking for quick but healthy dinners and ways to spend more time with her kids and less time on housework.” – Elizabeth Gardner
3. Determining your media budget
Having a calculated media budget to check back to will help you set clear expectations for the media plan as a whole. Go back to those SMART goals and lay them out next to your ideal budget and the number of hours you’re able to allocate to the project—can your goals be realistically achieved with the dollar spend you have in mind? If the objectives seem a bit out of reach, you may need to scale back or revisit the goal-setting stage to set yourself up for success.
Staying nimble and strategic with your spend is crucial, as your budget will determine the tactics used to take your campaign over the finish line. This means leaving room for experimentation along the way (how else will you know if you need to make an adjustment to your channels/tactics?). We recommend setting 5-10% of your budget aside from the get-go with the sole purpose of trying out new ideas along the way. Yes, some of the ideas may fail…but some of them may lead you somewhere amazing.
4. Establishing your key messaging points
Diving deep into the key messages you want to convey to your audience will inform your tactic selection—and then have a huge impact on its success once launched (kind of a double whammy). For example, if you are hoping to drive conversions among a specific target audience, you may not want to reach your audience on a platform that is better suited for broad awareness campaigns.
You will most likely need to craft several messages either tailored to each target audience or to various stages of the funnel. Make sure your messaging contains a direct call to action that is clearly communicated throughout your media campaign—when a user comes across your ad, they should instantly know the direct action you are encouraging them to take, whether that be to download a report or buy your product.
Once you’ve addressed these four key fundamental components, you will be well on your way to developing a winning media strategy (woohoo!). Always remember: building an intentional strategy is essential to developing a successful media campaign. Once your media plan has launched, tracking and capturing your data will help you check back to #1 to ensure you are achieving your goals.