Media Planning & Strategy

In this module, we discuss:

  • The five steps for developing a media plan and strategy


  • Media Planning - a series of decisions involving the most effective method to produce, publish and distribute content to a sizable, relevant audience, at an optimal price, within an optimal channel or platform for each piece of content
  • Brand Identity - the mission, values, purpose, positioning, voice, tone, look and feel of a business
  • Demographics - statistical data, including age, gender, income and education
  • Geographics - physical location
  • Psychographics - beliefs, attitudes, interests, aspirations, problems, challenges, concerns and motivations
  • Customer Equity - the sum of value equity (the objective utility, or performance, of the brand); brand equity (the subjective and intangible assessment of the brand); and relationship equity (customers’ tendency to stick with the brand, or the value of their relationship with the brand)
  • Editorial Mission - the focus of your content, how you differentiate your content from direct and indirect competitors, how you are uniquely qualified to publish your content, and how to attract an audience
  • Customer Experience - a customer’s end-to-end journey with a business, as opposed to the key touch-points or critical moments when customers interact with a business
  • User Experience - the overall experience that people have when they engage with a product, service or piece of content, especially in terms of how easy or satisfying it is to use or consume
  • Content Niche - unique and specialized approach to producing content
  • Content Depth - the extent and detail to which a publisher covers certain topics and subjects
  • Content Breadth - the range of topics and subjects that are covered by a publisher
  • Paid Media - exposure gained through platforms and channels that require payment (e.g. advertising, influencers, PR)

As with any initiative, planning and strategy are imperative for legitimate, lasting success.

In the case of The Business of Media, media planning enables you "to reach the right audience at the right time with the right [content] to generate the desired response and then stay within the designated budget," according to Kantar Media, an international research, data and insights company.

Here are the five steps for developing a formidable media plan and strategy.

Step # 1: Market Research

Start by doing a comprehensive analysis of what other businesses in your industry, including but not limited to your competitors, are doing with regard to content marketing, social media, email marketing and other forms of digital media.

Take note of two particular things:

  1. The styles, angles, topics, stories and subjects of the content they produce and publish, and
  2. The formats, channels and platforms through which they publish this content

Be aware that some of these businesses may publish and house content on third-party websites which they own and operate. For example, General Mills runs the website Tablespoon, which is not necessarily distinguishable at first sight.

It is also important to include traditional media companies in your competitive analysis, not just other businesses in your industry. After all, the last thing you want to do is start publishing the same types and formats of content that another media company has been publishing for some time.

Step # 2: Target Audience Analysis

Within the context of The Business of Media, a target audience analysis combines the day-to-day, multidimensional identities of the people you want to reach (their demographics, geographics, psychographics and behaviors) with your brand identity.

First, let's take a look at the concept of consumer identity.

According to the research paper Identity-Based Consumer Behavior, consumer identity is defined by "any category label to which a consumer self-associates either by choice or endowment ... It is a fundamental human drive to understand who one is, what one believes and what one does. Therefore, pointing out that consumers like products, brands and consumption behaviors that are linked to category labels with which they self-associate is rather uncontroversial."

The authors of this research paper explain that consumer identities can be "anchored" in:

  • Objective membership groups (gender or family)
  • Culturally determined membership groups (ethnicity and religion)
  • Abstracted role ideals (mother, friend, philanthropist)
  • Groups premised on association with a known individual (a graduate advisor), with an individual who is not known personally (Tiger Woods), or with dimensions of self that are indexed by an imagined other

"Although there are many types of identities, it should be noted that a single identity term can bridge various classifications," according to the paper. "As a result, there is no need to create different terms such as 'social' identity versus 'self' identity versus 'personal' identity because each of these is effectively the same concept applied to a slightly different domain."

Now that you understand the premise of consumer identities, the goal is to match those of your target customers with the brand identity of your business.

"The [brand] identity represents the values the brand aspires to stand for, and is therefore a cornerstone in the process of creating and maintaining a relationship with those customers attracted to these values," Karel Jan Alsem and Erik Kostelijk write in the research paper Identity Based Marketing: A Newbalanced Marketing Paradigm.

Step # 3: Content Strategy

Once you have completed your market research and target audience analysis, the next step is to start developing a content strategy.

Rachel Lovinger, author of the book Content Strategy: The Philosophy of Data, says: "A content strategy must achieve a harmonic balance between business goals, editorial mission, user expectations, design vision, the content production process, and technological capabilities."

Let's take a deeper look at each of these components.


The business goals of Content Marketing 3.0 and The Business of Media at large are to:

  • Continuously expose your business to a relevant, ever-growing audience
  • Systematically convert people in this audience to new customers
  • Increase sales and lifetime customer value
  • Maximize customer equity, advocacy and loyalty


An editorial mission — also known as a content narrative, brand story and brand narrative — serves four primary purposes, according to Susan West, a veteran content publishing editor, manager and consultant:

  1. It spells out the content publisher's territory and approach.
  2. It describes the audience.
  3. It tells how the content will satisfy the consumers' needs and wants.
  4. It defines the “lens” through which the publisher looks at its field.

For example, the editorial mission of Sports Illustrated is coverage of "the people, passions and issues of numerous sports with the journalistic integrity that has made it the conscience of all sport. It is surprising, engaging and informative, and always with a point of view that puts its readers 'in the game.'"

Tablespoon, the website owned and operated by General Mills, has a more concise editorial mission: "We believe food isn't just a necessity — it expresses who you are. Our purpose is to fuel the creativity and passion of food."

Michele Linn, the Vice President of Content at the Content Marketing Institute says, "Without an editorial mission, it’s tough to evaluate and prioritize what [content] you should tackle. You find yourself thinking, 'This is a good idea,' without considering if it will help you advance your mission. [An editorial mission] should be the measuring stick by which you evaluate all of your [content]."

However, it is important to understand that an editorial mission is not the mission of your business, and it is not a brand mission.

"These missions may overlap [with your editorial mission] but usually don’t," Linn says. "A company mission is what the company aspires to be, and the [editorial] mission is what the brand thinks is best for the audience."

In the module Developing an Editorial Blueprint, we go into detail about how your business can craft a successful editorial mission.


User expectations are relatively self-explanatory: what people expect from the channels and platforms on which you want to engage with them.

With digital media — much like offline media — people expect (and want) content that is relevant, relatable, interesting, informative and entertaining every time they consume it. In the module The Recipe for Successful Content Experiences, we go into more detail about producing content that fits these molds.


Design involves branding, customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX).

Questions to consider include:

  • What do I want my target customers to think and feel when they interact with my content?
  • What image(s) do I want to create in the minds of my target customers?
  • What distinct visual look and style do I want to employ in my content?


In Section 4, we detail how to systematize and scale the production of content experiences.


Also relatively self-explanatory, technological capabilities are simply the means and resources that a business has at its disposal to produce, publish and distribute content.

Step 4: The Content Tilt

Now that you've done your market research, identified and analyzed your target audience, and understand the crux of a content strategy, the next step is to differentiate your content from what's already out there.

Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute and author of the book Contect Inc, calls this differentiation the content tilt, or "your unique perspective on your content niche, which creates an opportunity for you to attack, lead and, ultimately, own the category. Without 'tilting' your content just enough to tell a truly unique story, you risk blending into the rest of the noise and being forgotten."

In order to avoid this risk, there are four potential ways to successfully tilt your content strategy:

  1. Focus on content that is different styles, angles, topics and subjects
  2. Focus on content that is different in formats, and how it comes to life on various channels and platforms
  3. Focus on content that covers certain topics and subjects to different extents and details (content depth)
  4. Focus on content that covers a different range of topics and subjects (content breadth)

Without significantly differentiating your content one way or another, you will end up publishing duplicate content, which — as we discussed in the module The Emergence of Content Marketing 3.0 — effectively makes it a commodity, resulting in little (if any) value in the Attention Economy.

In the next module, we explore in detail the notion of a content niche, and how it comes to life against the backdrop of The Business of Media.

Step 5: Marketing Strategy

A marketing strategy involves the distribution of content at scale.

First, identify the platforms and channels that are optimal for delivering the types of content experiences you plan to produce for your target customers.

For instance, do you want to launch a third-party website (separate from your existing one) like General Mills did with Tablespoon, which also has separate social media and email marketing channels? Or, do you want to overhaul your current website and turn it into a content destination, like Red Bull and Virgin?

Will you develop a content production network like American Express did with OPEN Forum, using a combination of internal and outside content creators, or do you want to keep the entire content production process in-house?

Furthermore, how are you going to distribute content through paid media? How much will you invest, and on which digital and social media networks will you advertise?

Throughout Section 5, we help you answer these questions and others with regard to content distribution.

The Business of Media is presented by yarn, a collective of talent across media, journalism, marketing and design that helps brands create, distribute and monetize memorable content experiences.

For more insights and observations about the future of marketing, check out our publication and podcast.