Media Planning 101: Goals, Channels, KPIs, and More

Deciding how to spend your marketing budget can place you in a paradox of choice. Do you lean into traditional or digital channels? Should you choose the better ad space at a higher price point for a shorter time? Or run a longer campaign for less upfront costs? Effective media planning can point you in the right direction.

It’s not just about purchasing ad space. Media planning is a holistic strategy in which you choose, implement, and monitor your marketing campaigns. In general, there’s a three-step process:

  1. Thoroughly research your target audience’s relationship with media and your brand
  2. With these insights, your media team creates specific and trackable goals for the marketing campaign. 
  3. Then, the creatives take the lead and develop your marketing assets. 

However, the messaging and design for the campaign must be consistent across channels to reach the target audience. It’s a delicate balance, keeping brand messaging consistent while capturing the nuance to perform well in each media channel. It’s also about speaking to the end-user’s pain point and providing a solution. 

Good media planning will connect your brand to your audience. When done well, it’s a powerful way to achieve an objective. It’s also a lesson on how to use your marketing budget efficiently. When you spend money intentionally, you see a better return on investment (ROI).

Consider this your guide to the media planning process. With more details for each step and an overview of the different types of media channels you might consider. So you can confidently build a media strategy for your marketing plan.

What Is Media Planning?

Media planning is the process of creating and implementing a media strategy for your business. In short, you identify your audiences and conduct research, identify the most relevant media channels and outlets, and develop a plan aligned with your business goals.

In media planning, marketers identify the how, what, who, and why of every decision. It’s the strategy the media team uses to select what channels are best to communicate with the audience and how best to use those channels.

A successful media plan boosts your ROI, increases brand awareness and brand loyalty, and supports your general brand strategy. It also serves as a road map that guides your marketing activities and maximizes the impact of your campaigns.

Media Planning vs Media Buying

Media planning and media buying are both part of a marketing campaign. However, media buying should be treated as a step in the larger media planning process.

Media buying refers to the action of purchasing ad space. In contrast, media planning includes all the steps for developing a strategy and implementing media use for a specific campaign. If your marketing team buys media space without detailed media planning, you’re likely leaving leads and conversions on the table and sacrificing your ROI.

The two go hand in hand. Detailed media planning leads to effective media buying. You’ll get the most out of your media purchasing power with a robust plan. That’s why organizations often work with a media team to craft an intentional plan for their media spaces.

Types of Media Planning Channels

When working within finite funds or resources, you’ve got to be picky about which media channels you invest your time and money into. From paid media to more organic marketing tactics, your chosen channels can make or break your marketing campaign.

The number of media channels available can be overwhelming. In general, channels fall into two categories: paid media and organic media. Here’s a list of the various types of channels to consider in your media planning, as well as the benefits we’ve found with each one:

Paid Media

Paid media often constitutes the bulk of your media plan due to the additional financial investment involved. A well-researched and strategic approach is crucial to ensure your resources are allocated efficiently and effectively.

  • Programmatic advertising uses algorithms to target specific audiences across various digital platforms. For instance, Airbnb leverages user behaviour and search history to display tailored advertisements. As a result, people who are more likely to book a stay see ads for the places they’re already researching. This method can be costly, but it provides a streamlined path to reach the individuals most likely to convert, maximizing your ROI. 
  • Pay-per-click advertising allows you to pay only when users click on your search ads and social ads, providing cost-effective targeting and measurable results. This is what happens when you click on a sponsored result on a search engine.
  • Television advertising, including ads on streaming services, remains a prominent paid media channel. It offers wide reach and the opportunity to captivate audiences through audiovisual storytelling. What’s more, streaming services provide more targeted options, so you can reach specific segments of your audience.
  • Radio advertising is another effective paid media channel, often complementing other forms of media to enhance campaign effectiveness. It offers a lower cost than television and can be strategically paired with other channels to reinforce your messaging and increase brand visibility.
  • Print advertising, while less popular than it once was, presents a unique advantage. Ads within publications often encounter less resistance from the audience, given the targeted nature of the readership
  • Out-of-home (OOH) channels such as billboards and posters, offer opportunities for high-impact, creative visual advertising in physical spaces.
  • Digital Out-of-home (DOOH) channels such as retail locations, buses, transit hubs, airports, elevators, and mall directories, opens up a plethora of digital placements.

Organic Media

Unpaid media channels, also known as owned or earned media, offer organic marketing opportunities with relatively lower costs than paid advertising. The two main types of owned media channels are social media and digital publications.

  • Social media platforms allow you to run your own accounts and target specific audiences with comparatively low startup costs.
  • Digital publications, such as blogs and email newsletters, provide direct tracking of conversion rates.
  • Earned media is the attention your business gets from reviews or media coverage. This type of media builds trust with your audience. You can reuse content from this category to inspire other paid or organic marketing campaigns.

Leveraging these channels in your media planning can enhance your brand’s visibility, engagement, and measurement of campaign success.

Steps in the Media Planning Process

No matter what type of media you choose, the goal remains the same: to optimize your company’s messaging across various channels. The media planning process encompasses a series of strategic steps aimed at achieving this objective:

  • Researching your target audience and conducting market analysis
  • Setting goals and choosing key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Selecting the right outlets
  • Allocating your budget effectively
  • Developing impactful messaging and creative
  • Strategically scheduling your plan
  • Continuously evaluating the campaign’s performance

In this section, we’ll provide insights into our process, starting with research and strategy formulation. We’ll also walk through goal setting, media plan implementation, and the ongoing process of analysis and refinement.

Conduct Audience Research

Conducting thorough target audience research is an essential step in the media planning process. From a brand development perspective, you should already have clear buyer personas that represent your target audience. However, understanding their demographics alone isn’t always enough.

To effectively plan your approach, you need to gain intimate knowledge of how your audience engages with various media channels. This requires studying existing data on your target audience’s media habits.

At Alphabet® Creative, our research includes examining which media outlets align with both the client’s goals and their audiences’ behaviours. We gather media kits and rate cards from each outlet and carefully analyze their suitability. Considering these specifics is vital in shaping a successful media strategy.

Formulate the Media Strategy

Developing a well-crafted media strategy is crucial for achieving optimal results in your marketing efforts. One of the key aspects of this strategy is selecting harmonious channels that work in synergy rather than duplicating efforts.

Instead of aiming for the same goal with multiple channels, it’s more effective to choose complementary channels that cater to different segments of your audience. For instance, if your product appeals to both casual and professional audiences, consider utilizing platforms like TikTok for a more casual approach and LinkedIn for a professional one.

It’s also beneficial to combine different types of media to create a cohesive experience. For example, pairing short-form videos with in-depth blog content allows for cross-referencing and engagement between the two mediums.

Crafting a media strategy typically involves three steps:

1. Consider Your Timeline

Determining the timeline for your media strategy depends on several factors, such as the nature of your offering, specific messaging goals, target audience behaviour, and budget constraints.

Consider the times of day when your audience is most active on each platform and schedule your posts accordingly to maximize visibility and engagement. Taking a broader perspective, start with the end goal in mind and work backward, identifying major touchpoints along the way that need to be addressed.

2. Understand Budget Limitations

Consulting with your leadership is essential to establish a realistic budget for your media plan. By involving decision-makers early on, you can ensure your plan aligns with available resources and avoids overambitious or inadequate planning.

3. Create a Media Plan Brief

Create a media plan brief to provide clear guidance and align all members of the marketing and media teams. This document should outline an overview of your media strategy, targeting criteria, chosen channels, communication tactics for each channel, and a timeline for implementing and reporting on your plan.

There’s no need to have every word of content pre-written, but the brief should establish the desired tone and arc of your content plan. By doing so, you can ensure every action you take executing your media plan is directionally cohesive, resulting in a more memorable, impactful campaign.

Determining Goals and KPIs

Outlining clear goals and KPIs is a vital step in developing a successful media strategy. KPIs are measurable metrics that help assess the effectiveness and performance of your media campaigns. They play a crucial role in media planning as they provide valuable insights and help fine-tune various aspects of your campaign – even down to the colour palette. Common KPIs include:


Your media campaign’s reach measures the number of people who see your marketing message as a percentage of the intended audience. This helps gauge the overall exposure of your campaign and its potential impact.

Frequency is another KPI that indicates how many times each individual will be exposed to your campaign. It helps determine the level of repetition needed to achieve your desired outcomes.


Continuity, or scheduling frequency, is another factor to consider when setting goals. It refers to whether your advertising will be continuous, pulsing, or flighting.

Continuous frequency is suitable for products or services that require ongoing reinforcement, while flighting involves running a campaign, pausing, and then resuming it after a hiatus. This approach is beneficial for limited budgets or seasonal offerings. Pulsing combines elements of both approaches.


Engagement KPIs are metrics used to measure audience interaction and involvement with media campaigns. These metrics provide insights into how effective your content is at driving meaningful engagement, brand affinity, and desired actions.

By monitoring engagement KPIs, marketers can optimize campaigns for higher interaction, audience satisfaction, and overall campaign performance. Examples of engagement KPIs include:

  • Cost per acquisition (CPA)
  • Conversion rate
  • Click-through rate (CTR)
  • Engagement rate (likes, comments, shares)
  • Average engagement time and bounce rate
  • Customer feedback


Cost-related KPIs are also essential considerations. When establishing your budget, you can track two KPIs: Cost Per 1,000 Impressions (CPM) and Cost Per Click (CPC). These metrics help you evaluate the cost-effectiveness of your media campaigns and optimize your resource allocation.


It’s crucial to be specific with each goal and KPI. Instead of a vague objective like “achieving a positive ROI,” you could set a certain percentage goal. For example, you might aim for an ROI of 800% with a $5,000 budget, which translates to creating $40,000 worth of sales. Our approach typically uses SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound).

Time Frame

In addition to defining goals and KPIs, it’s important to set a specific time frame for your campaign. This allows you to track progress and determine when to make adjustments or revamp your approach. Regular check-ins on each KPI during the campaign provide insights into whether you’re falling behind or exceeding expectations. Based on these assessments, you can consider tweaking your strategy to ensure optimal results.

By setting clear goals and identifying relevant KPIs, you can measure the effectiveness of your media campaigns, make data-driven decisions, and continuously optimize your approach for maximum impact and ROI.

Media Plan Implementation

When it comes to implementing your media plan, don’t just set it and forget it. You must also negotiate and buy ad space, create compelling content and design, and continuously monitor performance. This last step is especially critical.

At Alphabet®, implementation won’t start until everyone is on board. It’s essential to obtain client approval for the media strategy plan, ensuring universal buy-in. Once the green light is given, it’s time to set the wheels in motion. This includes:

  • Starting media buys
  • Aligning your omnichannel approach
  • Keeping a transparent budget
  • Preparing logistics for your creative team
  • Responding to the ups and down along the way

Media Buying and Negotiating

Buying media space is like a strategic dance, where you search for the perfect media outlets that resonate with your target audience and campaign goals. Negotiations come into play as you aim to secure favourable rates and placements that fit within your budget. It’s all about finding that sweet spot where your message reaches the right people at the right time.

Building strong relationships with media vendors is key, as it can open doors to better rates and prime ad placements. With effective media buying, you can increase the chances of your messaging having a lasting impact on your audience.

Strengthen Your Organic Media Presence

In addition to buying ad space, your team needs to have a comprehensive understanding of self-serve platforms for your owned media content. This knowledge empowers your team to effectively manage and optimize the performance of your owned media channels – social media accounts, email newsletter, blog, etc.

Budget Transparency

Creating a detailed budget breakdown is another crucial step in implementing a media plan. It allows you to track and account for every penny of your media budget, including data overlay, platform fees, ad serving, ad verification, optimization, creativity, and agency compensation.

Maintaining transparency in your budget also ensures clear visibility into expenditures and enables better tracking of success metrics and analytics.

Prepare Logistics for Your Creative Team

Paying attention to ad specifications is important as well. While detailed specifications may not be needed in the initial planning stage, having this information on hand will help you avoid playing catch-up when it’s time to post an ad or content.

Proper planning of ad specifications, including size, file formats, and other technical details supports the creative team and minimizes inefficiencies.

Be Adaptable

While media planning sets the foundation for success, it’s also important to monitor KPIs along the way and be willing to make strategic adjustments if necessary. Remaining flexible and adaptable allows for course corrections that can significantly impact your campaign’s outcomes.

By being proactive, monitoring KPIs, and embracing flexibility, your campaign stands a better chance of maximizing ROI, achieving goals, and running smoothly. What’s more, continuous optimization and adjustment ensure your media strategy remains effective in a rapidly evolving marketing landscape.

Measuring Success and Reporting

Measuring the success of your media campaigns is essential for evaluating their effectiveness and making informed decisions for future campaigns. Continuously tracking KPIs provides valuable insights into your achievements and helps identify areas for improvement in future media planning.

Whether it’s daily, weekly, or monthly, regularly reviewing these numbers allows you to gauge campaign performance and understand the factors contributing to success or challenges. However, analyzing media data goes beyond just examining numbers; it involves extracting meaningful insights and using them to optimize future campaigns.

By identifying patterns, trends, and correlations in the data, you can gain valuable knowledge about audience behaviour, preferences, and the performance of different media channels. This information enables you to make data-driven decisions, refine targeting strategies, and allocate resources more effectively.

When reporting media performance to stakeholders, present the data clearly and concisely. Focus on key metrics that align with the campaign objectives and provide meaningful insights. Visual aids like graphs, charts, and infographics can enhance understanding and facilitate communication. In addition, provide actionable recommendations based on the data analysis, highlighting areas for improvement and strategies for future success.

Remember, analyzing media data is an ongoing process, helping you adapt your strategies, experiment with new approaches, and drive better results.

Nail Your Media Planning Strategy With Alphabet

When you realize the potential of media planning, you get better at generating leads, improving your brand image, and building lasting relationships with your audiences. By knowing what strategies to use and when to use them, an impactful marketing campaign is the result.

At Alphabet Creative, we understand the ingredients that make each brand stand out. We’re ready to put our brand development expertise to work for your organization. Contact us today to uncover the truth of your brand, so you can then integrate, execute, and live that truth throughout your entire organization.