How to Use Paid Media In a PESO Model ProgramPaid media tends to be a dirty word for communicators who tend to think of fancy Super Bowl ads (you know, back when we used to have a Super Bowl) or jingles everyone remembers (two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun) or a funny mascot that resonates (the Geico gecko, anyone?).

And those things are incredibly important, but they’re not part of a PESO Model program driven by communications or marketing.

Rather, paid media in the PESO Model speaks to social media and search engine ads. 

There is a pretty easy process you can use that allows you to take traffic from a visitor to a customer or client. 

Paid Media Is a Quarter of the PESO Model Foundation

For most of you, paid media is going to be brand new and you’re going to learn how to use all sorts of methods that will allow you to generate leads, nurture them, and then—depending on how your organization works—work with sales to close or convert them.

This is where the rubber meets the road.

You’ll begin to see how all of the work you’ve done to this point starts to come together so you can measure your efforts to cold, hard cash. 

What did you do to amplify a juicy media placement the last time you had one? Did you send it to the entire company? Share it on your social channels?

Hopefully, you at least did those two things, but there’s a lot more you can do to increase the reach of your media placements and your owned content with paid media—the final component of the PESO Model foundation.

Paid media is what it sounds like: you pay to reach new audiences. 

This is important because you need to reach new audiences to keep your funnel full and meet your business goals.

Despite its importance—it is an entire fourth of this model, after all—it’s often an overlooked area when it comes to communications.

This is due to the perception you need a large budget for it to be effective, or that it’s something you can only undertake with the support of an advertising agency and a media buyer.

Thankfully, neither of these misconceptions are true!

In the PESO model, paid media includes paid social media content, content syndication and distribution, and lead generation email campaigns.

CAB Method

For this purpose, we are going to focus on paid social media content.

For as little as $5 a day on each platform, you can test Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and/or Twitter.

They each have their native advertising options, and they usually offer coupons for first-timers.

You have no excuse not to try it!

You don’t want to put money behind every single piece of content you produce.

Instead look at the most popular piece of the month and amplify or sponsor that.

Test it once a month on each platform and see what happens.

It’s an inexpensive test, and once you show results you will quickly get additional budget to do more.

I like the approach Chris Smith takes in The Conversion Code.

He calls it the CAB method: create, advertise, blast.

You’ve already created, and now you’re in the advertising phase.

Social media ads work for this purpose. Facebook and Instagram (unless you are boycotting them for July) are the most effective.

Not only are they the least expensive, they also work.

If your ads don’t work for you, one of two things is wrong: your pixel isn’t tracking correctly (or you forgot to add it to the page; been there, done that) or the creative is wrong.

First, check the pixel. If it’s working correctly, it’s time to tweak your creative.

If you have a lead magnet or a media placement you’d like to see get in front of your prospects—for the same price as a fancy coffee from Starbucks—you can do social media advertising.

The very best way to test it out is just to do it.

The C3 Method

Speaking of The Conversion Code, I love the way it lays out how to do social media ads.

(If you haven’t read the book, I cannot recommend it more.)

Chris Smith calls it the C3 Method: content marketing, conversion marketing, closing marketing.

In the simplest of terms, the idea is that you boost your content (content marketing), then you create ads to drive to something people will download—such as a white paper, eBook, video series, or podcast (conversion marketing), and then you do ads that the drive to a sale (closing marketing).

The goal for your content marketing ads is to build trust and authority among those who click and go to your website.

It’s brand awareness at its finest, which is something communicators are extraordinarily good at doing.

You’re not capturing leads at this stage, nor are you collecting email addresses.

This is merely to get your organization in front of prospective customers.

Provide value, give them something to think about, and encourage dialogue.

If your content does that, they’ll be back.

Growing Your Prospect List

To get ads during the content marketing phase in front of prospective customers, you can do three things: 

  1. Upload your existing email list into the social network and create an audience from that. 
  2. Create a second audience that has similarities to those already on your email list. This is called a lookalike audience. 
  3. And then create a general audience, based on your industry.

For instance, we have a general PR audience made up of people who follow the industry trade publications and other industry blogs.

You tell the social network who you want to reach and they make it possible.

You can get as granular as “A business leader in Fargo who owns a home and has three dogs and a swimming pool.”

Conversion marketing is where the magic begins to happen.

You know how you visit a site or, if you have Alexa at home, speak about something and suddenly you see ads everywhere for it?

It’s not as magical as it seems.

It’s because they have a pixel installed that allows them to “follow” you anywhere you go.

And you can do it, too!

Creating the Conversion Marketing Ads

Now that you’ve had success with your content marketing ads, it’s time to retarget the people who visited your site with your lead magnets.

Now, I know all of the experts say that your conversion marketing ads should lead to a landing page that requires an email address to download the content.

This is a tried and true and very effective way to do your conversion marketing ads.


We’ve had more success just giving that content away for “free” (not requiring an email address).

Just like the content marketing ads, we drive people to our lead magnet, but we have it on a downloadable page.

Then, anyone who visits that page continues to get conversion marketing ads (until they download).

Those who download then go into the closing marketing funnel.

It seems like the goal should be to collect an email address, but if you can sell to someone without requiring them to give that to you, why not try it?

The conversion rate has been significantly higher when we continue to give our content away for free.

But, I would A/B test it to see which approach is more effective.

It’s not something the digital marketing industry typically does because the goal has already been to get that email address.

But it works for us.

You can do one set of ads to a landing page that requires an email address to download and then do a second set of ads that allow for download without an email address.

Pay attention to the conversion rates.

I’m willing to bet your second set of ads will perform better.

Creating the Closing Marketing Ads

Now it’s time to, in the words of Jerry Maguire, “show me the money!”


Anyone who has both clicked on your content marketing ads and downloaded your lead magnet are now warm leads.

They are ready to give you their money—and are waiting for you to tell them what they can buy.

This was a tough lesson for me to learn.

I figured if people wanted to buy, they’d visit the site and find something suited for them.

That’s just not the case.

Not only do they have to be told, but you also have to make it extremely easy for them.

For instance, I had no idea I needed an ab workout station that lets me play video games while I do planks and work on my six pack.

Guess what?

Because of a Facebook ad (and most likely a lookalike audience on their part), I am now a raving fan.

They made it ridiculously easy for me to give them all of my money…and you should see my abs!

Targeting Cold, Warm, and Hot Traffic

It’s OK for your closing marketing ads to sell.

By this point, you’ve built trust and authority, and people are ready to give you all of their money.

These ads can be anything that helps a person make a decision, and certainly depends on what you sell.

If you have a long sales cycle, you may have to lead with customer testimonials, then a demo, then a call with sales, and then a call-to-action ad.

If you sell software, you may have to lead with a demo, then a call with sales, and then a call-to-action ad.

It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, but it’s effortless to test and figure out what works best for your industry and your organization.

Let’s split your prospects into three: cold, warm, and hot.

With your paid media effort, you’ll focus first on cold traffic.

Create social media ads that will promote free content—such as blog posts, videos, podcast episodes, and/or livestreams. 

From there, you want the cold traffic to become warm and, as we discussed earlier, one of the best ways to determine this is if they give you their email address to download some content or attend a webinar.

Your next set of social media ads will be to promote the free “gated” content.

Now you want your traffic to go from warm to hot.

This is where email marketing and nurturing comes in.

Because you have their email address, you can now put them into a nurturing campaign.

If you do an A/B test like I suggested earlier, the prospects who keep moving through your content but haven’t given you an email address, will begin to receive retargeting ads.

These will be similar to the email nurturing content, but in ad form.

From here, you can go into a sales pitch, which may include a demo, testimonials, or case studies.

The ads those prospects receive should see content that matches that place in the buying journey.

Not so hard, right? And, with just $5 a day, it becomes a very effective way to generate and convert online leads.

Getting Started

If you want to get started right now and test some different things, I have some recommendations.

First, define your monthly advertising budget for the next quarter and how you plan to allocate it across your top three social media channels.

For instance, if you do $5 a day, your budget for three months is $420 for each social channel or $1,260 for all three. 

Next, go into your Google analytics and look to see which content was the top-performing for the past 30 days.

Using that information, you’ll boost one piece of content every week for a month.

At the end of 30 days, look at the results and then tweak for the next 30 days.

Ideally, the ads will have generated more leads and more conversions.

If you don’t already have the pixel embedded on your site for the social media networks you want to use, that’s next.

Copy the code and embed it on your site.

If you are on WordPress, you can install a plugin called “Insert Headers and Footers.”

Or ask your web or IT person to help you.

Next, you want to create some landing pages.

Because I’m the reason the entrepreneur stereotype exists, it drives me crazy to have to wait for other people before I can do my job.

That’s why I love LeadPages.

But you don’t have to use LeadPages.

Many of the marketing automation tools, such as SharpSpring will allow you to create them without an additional piece of software.

Then get to work!

If you want to do some A/B testing like I’ve suggested, make sure you split the audiences and the content into gated versus not.

And then you’re ready to go.

Now that you have a suitable process flowing for amplifying your content, create a budget and process for advertising anything new that you create.

Once it’s published, post it as a status update and then boost that puppy! 

PESO Model Certification

That’s it for the paid media portion of our PESO Model series.

If you missed the others, you can find the overview, owned, earned, and shared by clicking each of those links.

I’ll be back in a week with bringing it all together for reputation—online and off.

If you want to learn how to implement this for your clients or for the organization for which you work—and become certified, which tells everyone you know what you’re doing and have done the deep work to put theory into practice, click that beautiful button below.

And, as always, the comments are yours.


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.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich