Why the Time is Now to Create Your 2018 Media Plan
We've been starting to plot out 2018 projects and it's got us thinking ahead to the new year: setting new resolutions, goals, and objectives both for business and personally. It's set to be an exciting year, with a girl's trip, family travels, a new build and a wedding on the Not Your Standard horizon – and that's just Q1. And while the new year is a great time to make New Year's resolutions – and then break them and promise you'll keep them again next year – when it comes to your business, setting objectives [or resolutions by another name] every year, and sticking to them, is key to your success.
Using those objectives to create a robust media plan, that maps out your marketing initiatives across the entire year, is a great way to stay on top of your business goals. Not only will it help you to stay consistent in your efforts [what gets written down generally gets done], it will also ensure you never run out of timely campaign ideas that reflect what people are interested in or are talking about at any given time; it will help to decide how to develop said campaigns; what the target for each campaign should be; and how to use different media types most effectively to spread the intended campaign message.
Here are a few ways to plan your year ahead, starting from now:
1. Define Your Objectives + Budget
The first step is deciding what your main marketing objectives and goals are for the year – as well as how many marketing dollars you can allocate towards achieving these. A good way to figure this out is to ask yourself what is the most important result you want to get out of your marketing? Do you want more sales? Better brand awareness? This will help you to figure out where you are most likely to reach your customers so you don't waste valuable resources on ads that won't do well because they weren't placed on the right channel, at the right time. Talking of resources – there are, of course, different ways to determine an advertising budget, from a percentage of net or forecasted sales to simply how much you can afford. Either way, your budget should take in to account the actual media spend as well as the cost to produce your advertising material.
2. Research Your Target Audience
Understanding the consumer behaviour of those that you are targeting will help you to map out media placements that will be most effective in helping you to achieve your identified objectives. Research your audiences' current awareness, knowledge and attitude towards your company, what your competitors are doing and where they are going to reach the audience you are also trying to target, as well as where and when your target audience is consuming their news. This data will serve as a benchmark to determine the value and effectiveness of your earned media placements. For example, a television segment airing when your target audience is at work won't do much to achieve your objectives. A print piece in the local newspaper may never be seen by a younger demographic unless that story is also posted online – and shared on social media.
3. Create a Calendar
Creating an annual calendar that charts the selling cycle or seasonality of the products or services that you offer will help to build the foundation of your media plan, ensuring that you are creating messaging that speaks to your target market and promoting your campaigns during the key times that prospective customers are looking for what you offer. Plot in publication deadlines and community activities that you can use to develop campaigns across the year. Not only will this save you time [no more scrambling at the last minute to meet a print deadline or trawling the web for inspiration for social media updates or blog posts], it will also make it easier for you to produce content in batches and repurpose that content. From the obvious stuff – like Christmas, New Year, Easter and Halloween – to local happenings, global events, awareness days and even your own company milestones, this will ensure that you have a complete at-a-glance look at all your marketing efforts and opportunities.
4. Choose Your Tactics + Channels
There are so many options today – how do you decide the best outlets to effectively reach your target market? Refer back to your audience research to determine which channels they use the most; these are very likely the right ones for the basis of your marketing campaigns. Combine paid, owned and earned media [or 'POEM'] for biggest impact – your paid media campaigns should run as a compliment to and in conjunction with owned and earned media strategies.
5. Define What Success Looks Like
Success can be defined by both the quantity and quality of media coverage. Quality can be judged by whether your key messages are conveyed, the location and timing of a placement, or the accuracy of what's reported. As your media plan is executed, be sure to keep track of the results and evaluate how your strategy and media placements are working for you. If you find that you are not meeting your objectives, don't be afraid to adjust your plan as necessary.