One of the consistent arguments I have with people about the PESO Model™ is that a communications program never starts with paid.

I agree! 

The argument goes something like this. Some “expert” posts on social media, “It’s time for the PESO Model to die. Today it’s all about OSEP!”


It’s always been OSEP (or OESP, depending on your goals), but when you create a brand, what’s the number one rule? Make it memorable. Is it easy to remember OSEP or OESP? No. Of course not. Is it easy to remember PESO? Why, yes, it is!

That, my friends, is the only reason the acronym starts with paid. But in practice, you almost always begin with owned. Because, without owned media (or content), you have nothing to share on social media. There is nothing for journalists to review before they interview you or your experts for an earned story. And there is certainly nothing to amplify through your paid efforts.

In my mind, owned media is king when it comes to your communications program. There are a few exceptions, of course, but without content, you are building a program without a foundation.

That’s why I’m always interested in surveys about the strengths and weaknesses and the challenges and opportunities of content marketing. This year’s Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs’ Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends has lots of great data to help you plan for next year.

Content Marketing Changes to Make

Last year’s survey showed that content marketing was a sleeping giant rearing its head—and the same holds today. In fact, 71% of respondents said content marketing has become more important to their organization in the last year.

Because, you know, foundation and all.

It’s not just the foundation of your comms program, either. In his newly released book Trust Signals, Scott Baradell talks about the importance of rebuilding trust via the work that we do, and that starts with owned media.

You can talk about the marketing funnel or a bow tie program or however you want to describe how a prospect makes the decision to buy, but every one of those programs starts with owned media. And yet, the resources needed to support this growing prominence haven’t fully materialized. 

The survey asked, “If you could change one thing about content marketing in your organization, what would that be?” Among the common responses content marketers say they’re fighting for:

  • Executive-level awareness and support
  • A content marketing strategy
  • More budget and additional staff
  • More access to subject matter experts
  • Better technology
  • Better measurement
  • Greater alignment between marketing and sales

Oh, man! Each of these speaks to me differently. Having done this work with clients in the past several years, I know these are all pain points… especially the greater alignment between marketing and sales.

The Sales and Marketing Fight

How often have you had to fight with sales about where a prospect came from? This happens A TON in B2B comms and it drives me bonkers. But it’s not just a greater alignment between marketing and sales that is needed. Executives also have to understand that the work we do affects every stage of the customer journey, and that begins with better measurement. 

I have been in conversation after conversation after conversation where we show that, based on first touch attribution, the work that we’ve done has affected a certain percentage of pipeline. But that almost never goes over well because a sales person will say, “Well, of course they came to the website because we just got back from a huge trade show.”

So then we show that, based on last touch attribution, the work that we’ve done has affected a certain percentage of revenue. And sales will say, “Of course they converted because we did a demo with them and then followed up multiple times.” 

Insert eye roll.

Measurement Continues to Be a Problem

This massive gap between marketing and sales also affects the way executives see the work that we do as unnecessary. You know, until it’s gone and their pipeline dries up. What good are the trade shows then?

I jest! I jest!

But the point is that measurement continues to be a problem. Execs don’t truly understand the value of the work we do. And marketing and sales have to do a better job of working together—and giving credit where credit is due.

Now that I’ve finished lamenting with you, let’s get down to the cold, hard truth.

Whose Fault Is It?

If execs don’t understand the value of the work you’re doing with content marketing, it’s your fault. I know that’s harsh, but it’s true. I’ve lived it and, let me tell you, most executives understand the value of sales because almost all of them came up through the ranks via that path.

Content marketing is generally new and most of the execs you work with don’t understand it, have never done it, and don’t know how to control it. So you’re behind already, just because of those factors.

Add in the fact that there isn’t a great way to measure effectiveness—attribution models, regression models, and metrics galore—and suddenly everyone is overwhelmed. 

We once had an experience where the client didn’t believe the data. Hard facts right in front of him and he didn’t believe it. He kept telling us that the numbers were inflated or that we were “stealing” prospects and customers from sales. Literally, those words were used. And it didn’t matter how many data scientists told him he was wrong and showed him how the numbers correlated to the marketing and communications programs, which included hefty content marketing.

He just didn’t believe it. It was incredibly frustrating. After licking my wounds a few times, I went back to my team for ideas on how we could get him to relate to the work we were doing, see the value, and understand that the data was real.

Add Stories to Your Reports

We started telling stories. In our weekly report that showed the data, we attached a story to it. A video testimonial we had created, a win the team had had, a new relationship formed because of content (such as an interesting podcast guest or a journalist who had reached out to us because of something we’d produced), even fun conversations being had on social media.

At first, he hated those, too. But we kept at it. I knew we had won when we were in a meeting with a larger group of executives and he relayed one of the stories we had included in a weekly report a few weeks before. 

It takes a lot more work—and a certain amount of creativity, but it works. And that client? We’re on year three with them and the budget continues to grow and they’re such big believers now that they have four writers, an editor, and a video producer in house. 

Not everyone will give you the time or the runway to get the CEO to the point of believing the data and understanding the value (we actually had a pretty big proponent in their COO, who kept telling him to hold off on firing us—thankfully). If you don’t have the advantage of time to figure out what speaks to the exec who isn’t your biggest fan, start your results reporting combined with stories.

Just like in all of the other work you do, storytelling is the most effective way to communicate—with everyone.

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Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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