Communication vs. Media Planning

In the mid-1990’s the world of advertising, public relations, and communication began to see a shift in the way communication and media planning were developed.  Advertising agencies and PR firms that had always been considered full-service started to split into two distinct groups: Communication (Creative) and Media (Functional), creating more specialized, and independent, media buyers. The book, Brand Media Strategy, by Anthony Young, defines the two: “Media planning is focused on reaching as many of the right audience in the right place at the right time and at the right cost, if possible, whereas communications planning is less about reaching people than influencing people.”

This shift was necessitated in order to change the focus more on communications planning. In Brand Media Strategy, communications starting point is with the consumer, planning everything around their wants and needs. It is the creative that forms the strategy; media planning is then incorporated into the overall plan. Interestingly enough, the change to be more customer-focused occurred before the prevalence of social media marketing.

According to Wiki, communication planning is concerned with deciding who to target, when, with what message and how. This strategy guides the entire project, which is flexible and changing to adjust to the needs of the target audience. Wiki, goes on to say, “it addresses the six basic elements of communications: communicator, message, communication channel, feedback mechanism, receiver/audience, and time frame.” Young explains that in the past, a mass media approach was used, where creative strategy came first, then media was charged with placing the ads in the best, most appropriate places.  Now, you must consider brand strategy along with the creative, those messages, together, along with media channels, work together to form Brand Media Strategy.  Young defines strategy as to “create a unique and valuable position, involving a different set of activities.”  Creating and maintaining a brand is central to all aspects of the process.

I agree with the idea that we must include, even focus on the consumer to survive in the digital age that we created.  It is necessary to be equipped with digital knowledge and know how to give these “empowered buyers” want they want.  There are many similar and interchangeable terms and concepts at play.  Brand Media Strategy, Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC), multimedia communication, all are concepts that focus on including all relevant media to deliver your brand message to the consumer, in the RIGHT place, and at the RIGHT time to maximize the benefits of the channel.

In today’s world of social media, consumers are now in control. Brands must connect and communicate with consumers differently to be effectively in this new age. According to, Use Social Media to Partner with Customers and Improve Service,” social media platforms allow customer networks to be bigger, faster and better organized. This is good news for good service and bad news for bad service. Engaging customers on these platforms means that you can measure, surface and fix service breaks with unprecedented speed and accuracy.” It gives brands opportunity. Marketers have so many ways to influence and engage with customers. With social media channels, mobile apps, review forums, blogs, it is easier for marketers to reach consumers and for consumers to reach marketers.


The only question, have we given consumers too much power, creating social monsters with unachievable expectations? There are trolls out in the world, giving bad reviews just for the fun of it.  There are people that, when the slightest mistake occurs, rush to social outlets to bash and degrade a company.  The age of the consumer has companies across the globe jumping through hoops and dancing for pennies.  Shouldn’t there be a way to balance this?

Carolyn Ray, in Integrated Brand Communications: A powerful new paradigm, explains another way.  Highlighting some flaws with IMC, Ray suggests we shift focus more on the brand, with IBC, integrated brand communications, to optimize value.  Here is a brief overview. “The starting place for Integrated Brand Communications is the business, not marketing communications. Integrated Brand Communications begins with understanding the role of brand within the business model and determining how that brand can help grow and sustain the business.”

I personally think that both, the brand, and the consumer, should be equally important.  If we achieve balance between the two, true synergy is possible. It is important to remember that the end goal besides branding and strengthening consumer loyalty is, in fact, to sell a product.  Steve Blacker highlights from Young’s book, “people don’t want more products, they want more experiences.” With that statement being true, selling product, today, requires companies to improve the customer experience, through transparency, communication, and engagement, which will in turn “convert intent into action at the point of sale”. If you focus on the customer and uniformly market your brand, these media experiences will, hopefully, influence brand image, and drive behavior.

In Blacker’s article, 20 Reasons Why Antony Young’s Book, Brand Media Strategy Is a Must Read, Steve Blacker highlights the key points to Brand Media Strategy. Some of those are, that digital expertise has moved to the center of planning, the importance of micro-targeting, earning media as well as paying for it, and the importance of developing a strategic plan that drives brand marketing across all platforms.   Social media has made all of these key points a reality. It is no longer optional.  For brands to maintain a positive public image, as well as experience growth, companies must convert to and include this way of communication into their marketing objectives.  As Young states, communication planners can now be considered super planners.

This digital age that we live in has presented marketers with some challenges.   We have had to adapt and adjust to new technologies and ways of communicating, reaching, and engaging, with consumers.  There are multiple media channels available, all with different reach and function. With those challenges, an opportunity is also presented, giving us new freedoms, allowing individuality and creativity to shine through. As seen in the video, having a brand media strategy is as important as brand image.  A blueprint is needed to organize how to present and project the brand. What the goals are of the brand, and what channels will help us meet those objectives, are critical questions that need to be answered before a strategy if formed. We must still remember our primary focus.  How we reach our end goal depends on how well we plan, how prepared we are for changes, and how well we apply our strategy.

http://” target=”_blank”>Watch: Brand Media Strategy

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