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How to buy media: 5 essential tips

how to buy media

by Dane Prickett, Media Director

When people first learn what my job involves, their initial reaction tends to be something like this: “That sounds very interesting. If someone asked me how to buy media, I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”

In the past, I just smiled at that comment. How could I venture to explain something so intricate in a friendly conversation?

This blog post is designed to help alleviate some of the initial confusion when it comes to buying media. Mind you, these are simply 5 top-level tips. But they do provide a basic framework when you first consider how to buy media.

Trust the experts – or, become one yourself

Before you begin, acknowledge what you know and don’t know about how to place a buy. Determine what you need to accomplish, and if you have the time and resources to build an efficient and effective buy. If you’re up to the challenge, here are some more key tips. how to buy media

Set your target audience

Determine who you want to talk to and what you want them to do. This is the core of the media buy. The more detailed you can be about your ideal audience, the more detailed and targeted you can be with your media buy, which will inform the most appropriate vehicles to support the campaign.

One caveat: Just because you know your business inside and out doesn’t mean your favorite print, digital, or broadcast outlets are the best way to reach your target audience. Keep your eye on the target audience, and beware of making media decisions based on personal preference.

Utilize insider knowledge

Just as you need to be the expert on your business, the media rep should know everything about their business. Be clear about your goals and objectives, and focus on the vehicles that will reach the largest groups of your target audience.

Leverage the reps’ industry knowledge to learn what sets them apart from your other media options; they can also devise creative options for reaching your target that may be unique to them. Utilize their expertise, and outside-the-box capabilities, to help you create a successful program.

Be clear about your media goals, and focus on the vehicles that are most efficient at reaching your target. Establish a rapport with your vendors because negotiations begin with your first conversation. What you say, how you say it, and the information you provide (or imply) will set the tone for your ongoing relationship.

Compare, contrast, and negotiate

Throughout your rate negotiations, always be mindful of the overall goal. Each buy is unique and, sometimes the “best” program/magazine/site isn’t the best for you. Shows with the highest ratings, publications with the highest circulation, and sites with the highest traffic counts can look great on paper, with a large cumulative audience size, but stay focused on your target.

Factoring reach as a cost per thousand (CPM) is a good way to find the most options that reach the largest audience at the lowest relative cost. However, comparing Target Audience CPMs is even more helpful, and will show you the most efficient options. Don’t be afraid to go back to your media reps for another round of negotiations or different options altogether.

Always consider the big picture

When scheduling your buys, be sure to factor how each piece fits together, and the role each element plays in helping you reach your goals. Depending on the medium, you may also have Gross Rating Point or Target Rating Point goals to factor as well. Your schedule should optimize your reach to your target audience with as much frequency as possible, while staying within your budget parameters.

Here’s one final piece of advice: Remember that an efficient media buy balances reach and frequency with an appropriate Target CPM to accomplish the goals of the campaign. From there, effective campaigns can be replicated, and opportunities to provide greater savings through negotiated discounts and added-value items can be realized.

I hope this blog post gave you some good basics on how to buy media. Next time someone asks me what I do, I think I will send them a link to it.