A Simplified, Accountable Approach to Developing Media Strategy

Recently, I was having a discussion with a business associate, Jim Harvison. He’s a licensed consultant of the One Page Business Plan Company. The One Page Business Plan was founded on the belief the traditional business planning process is expensive and time-consuming and often yields poor results because the business plan isn’t used to make the company’s daily management decisions. As Harvison described the methodology behind the One Page Business Plan system, I began to think it could be analogous to developing a media strategy, too.

Seemingly simple and perhaps obvious, testing this approach is probably a good exercise for any strategist to try. I interviewed Harvison to learn more.

Hollis Thomases: I write about online agency media buying strategies. How are the principals of the One Page Business Plan appropriate to this topic?

Jim Harvison: Any project starts by figuring out how to measure its success and how to go about doing it. For example, if you’re considering purchasing particular ad placements, why and by what standards would you measure their success?

HT: How is this different from the kind of approach we already employ?

JH: One-page planning uses a simple framework approach to organize and focus the why, how, and expected results.

HT: What is that framework?


  1. Vision: What should the outcome look like when the strategy has been executed?
  2. Mission: What’s the purpose, such as of spending the ad dollars?
  3. Objectives: How to measure success? How to collect info? Which ads are most responsive? Etc.
  4. Strategy: How to accomplish objectives? What are factors of strategy, such as types of sites, types of ad placements, types of offers, messages, etc.?
  5. Action plans: What are the steps needed to be put in place in order to make the overall campaign successful?

For each objective, the strategist needs to create a scorecard to rate how each is met; for each action plan, there’s a report card to measure progress so unsuccessful campaigns can be corrected or improved next time. Eliminate what didn’t work, emphasize what did. The real benefit of this plan is performance management, particularly on an ongoing basis.

HT: How can this process be used to improve upon a current media strategy process?

JH: This approach is a closed loop to make sure that nothing gets left out. By committing it to paper, nothing can get lost from brain to execution. Also, by [forcing you] to make accountable commitments on paper, this method helps eliminate considerations that probably will not work once the numbers are run.

HT: This sounds rather elementary and obvious. So why isn’t it done?

JH: The trick is to keep the plan to only one page, to succinctly capture and articulate what’s needed to be said to define the plan, measure it, and commit to follow through so you can manage the project rather than simply letting it run its course.

HT: What happens if the plan is more than one page?

JH: The limitation is to one page, only one line per action item. This system forces the strategist to distill the plan to its most key elements.

HT: So is this process ultimately more time consuming than writing a longer plan?

JH: Outlining a one-page plan should take only 90 minutes, and filling it out only another 90 minutes, tops.

HT: In this system, who’s responsible for the plan?

JH: The most senior person on the project, whoever’s typically in charge. But this approach gives everyone responsibility and accountability. It focuses the team on what’s working and what’s not, so they can take corrective action.

HT: What’s the most common time interval for reviewing performance of a plan?

JH: It depends upon the duration of… the campaign. The shorter the campaign, the more often the plan should be reviewed. Decisions should be made as soon as you have quantifiable data.

HT: How is this kind of approach nurtured within an organization?

JH: It takes a person at the top of the organization to see the value in adopting this approach, and then about six to eight months of following this methodology to turn it into a habit in the organization.

HT: What’s the most common way people fail when trying to use this approach, and why?

JH: A lack of commitment to follow through, like not tracking their metrics of success with a scorecard. The plan, executed correctly, should guarantee success, because it allows for an ongoing series of midcourse corrections.

Meet Hollis at Search Engine Strategies in New York City, February 27-March 2.

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