In the ever-evolving landscape of media and communication, the PESO Model™ stands out as a beacon for professionals seeking to harness the power of integrated communications. Created about a decade ago by yours truly, the PESO Model is an acronym for paid, earned, shared, and owned media. If you’ve been around these parts for a while, it’s not new to you, yet it’s constantly evolving (which is why I won’t shut up about it). 

It empowers a communicator to use more than media relations—or earned media—to showcase experience and build expertise, authority, and trust—the all-important E-E-A-T. And, importantly, it provides the opportunity to have measurable results. 

Let’s dive into the essence of the PESO Model, its application across various industries, and the transformative effect it can create for businesses and communicators alike.

This is for those of you new to the PESO Model. And I have some goodies for those who already know it, too!

Understanding the PESO Model™

At its core, the PESO Model is a strategic framework that integrates the four media types: paid, earned, shared, and owned. The goal is to use these media types together to build brand awareness, authority, and trust while providing a tangible way to measure the effectiveness of communications efforts. In other words, using one or two media types without the others will not be nearly as effective as using all four together. 

This integrated approach is crucial in today’s digital age, where traditional success metrics—media impressions, number of stories, follower numbers, and advertising equivalencies—fall short of capturing the true value and reach of communications activities.

While the acronym for the PESO Model begins with paid media, I’d like to start today’s analysis with owned media, which, in my opinion, is where 99.9% of you will start.

Owned Media

Owned media refers to any content or platform the brand controls, such as the website or blog. It’s content you’ve created and lives on something you own, not LinkedIn, Medium, or TikTok. 

It is critical for establishing a brand’s voice, demonstrating expertise, and providing value to audiences without the reliance on external media entities. It achieves several key objectives, including building a loyal audience, enhancing search engine optimization, and serving as the content hub from which shared, earned, and paid media can draw. 

It might include:

  • Blog posts
  • Podcasts
  • Videos
  • Articles
  • White papers
  • Webinars
  • eBooks
  • Case studies
  • Infographics
  • Online magazines
  • Research
  • Surveys
  • Testimonials
  • Content hubs

By prioritizing owned media in a PESO Model program, you can ensure you have a solid foundation to build your broader communications strategies.

Shared Media

Shared media plays a pivotal role by leveraging the power of social media platforms and networks to amplify a brand’s message and engage directly with its audience. 

The importance of shared media lies in its ability to foster community, increase brand visibility, and encourage user-generated content, which can significantly boost trust and credibility. Shared media achieves heightened brand awareness and engagement, acting as a catalyst for real-time communication with followers. 

Effective tactics for using shared media include engaging with followers through comments and direct messages, creating shareable content such as infographics and videos, encouraging user-generated content through contests or hashtags, and strategically timing posts to maximize reach and engagement. 

It might include:

  • Social media
  • Community
  • Private social media, such as Slack or Discord
  • User-generated content
  • Off-site newsletters, such as Substack, Medium, or LinkedIn
  • Word-of-mouth
  • Customer reviews
  • Employee reviews
  • Social media monitoring

By integrating shared media into the PESO Model, you can effectively extend your reach, engage in meaningful conversations with your audience, and harness the collaborative power of online communities to further your objectives.

Earned Media

Earned media is invaluable for garnering credibility and trust through third-party validation. 

Unlike paid and owned media, earned media is the recognition and exposure a brand receives through external channels without direct payment, such as media coverage, mentions, reviews, and endorsements from influencers or customers. 

Earned media is important because of its authenticity and the trust it can build with audiences. It often has a higher effect on consumer decision-making than traditional advertising. Earned media increases brand awareness, improves reputation, and significantly amplifies a brand’s reach beyond its existing audience. 

To effectively harness earned media, tactics include:

  • Create compelling and newsworthy content that encourages sharing
  • Actively engage with journalists and influencers to foster relationships
  • Monitor for brand mentions to leverage and amplify positive feedback
  • Employ a robust digital PR strategy that aligns with overall brand objectives 

Using earned media in a PESO Model not only enhances a brand’s visibility but also solidifies its authority and trustworthiness in the market.

And if you’re looking for tips on how to evolve your earned media efforts in an age of increasingly consolidated media, check out Frank Strong’s article on the topic. He has ten tips to help you think beyond pitching the media.

Paid Media

Last but certainly not least is paid media. Communicators tend to skip this media type because the budgets belong to marketing. But in 2024, it’s incredibly important for you to have some budget, too.

Paid media is essential for directly targeting and reaching specific audiences to supplement organic efforts and ensure visibility in a crowded digital landscape. Its importance stems from its ability to quickly drive traffic, enhance exposure, and support specific marketing goals, such as lead generation, sales conversions, and brand awareness campaigns. 

It achieves immediate visibility, precise audience targeting, and measurable results, making it a valuable component of an integrated communications strategy. Effective tactics for leveraging paid media include:

  • Using search engine marketing to appear in front of users actively searching for related products or services
  • Engaging in social media advertising to tap into highly segmented audiences based on detailed demographic and psychographic data
  • Employing retargeting campaigns to re-engage visitors who have previously interacted with the brand but have not converted. 

By strategically incorporating paid media into a PESO Model program, you can amplify your reach, target your communications more effectively, and achieve a faster return on investment, all while building upon the foundation laid by owned, earned, and shared media.

And, in a world where pay-to-play is becoming more prevalent, paid media has become even more important.

Implementing the PESO Model

I talked earlier about how the model should really be named OSEP, given that owned media typically precedes all others in the strategic lineup. This foundational step underpins the framework by providing the essential content that fuels shared, earned, and paid media efforts. 

Without the cornerstone of owned media, there would be nothing to share across platforms, nothing to underscore a brand’s expertise or thought leadership for journalists and influencers, and no content to amplify through paid media to expand reach.

This progression not only ensures a methodical enhancement of visibility and engagement but also secures a base of substantial content and credibility. Such a solid foundation is crucial before engaging in paid media strategies, which are employed to further magnify reach and effectiveness. 

This deliberate, phased approach within the PESO Model facilitates a structured and effective integration of all media types, ensuring that investments in paid media are both strategic and fruitful, built upon the established strengths of owned, shared, and earned media contributions.

A Strategic, Long-Term Approach

Implementing a PESO Model program requires a strategic, long-term approach. Initial efforts to establish a strong owned media foundation gradually evolved into a sophisticated interplay among all four media types. As you plan for the future, envisioning the program’s trajectory over three to five years allows you to anticipate market changes, technological advancements, and shifts in consumer behavior. 

Let’s walk through how you might approach its implementation and scaling from just starting out to five years from now.

Year One to Three: Establishing Foundations and Building Momentum

Year 1: In the first year, the focus should be on creating a robust owned media presence with high-quality content that showcases the brand’s expertise, voice, and value proposition. You can also experiment with shared media to build a community and engage with the existing audience, using insights to refine your content strategy.

Year 2: With a solid owned media foundation, begin seeding earned media relationships by engaging with journalists, bloggers, and influencers in your industry. Include non-traditional media opportunities such as working with TikTok news anchors, adding a campaign to increase reviews, and commenting on journalists’ content.

Expand your shared media strategy to include more interactive and engaging content formats, such as live videos or Q&A sessions, to deepen audience engagement. Add paid media to promote high-performing owned content and support specific marketing objectives.

Year 3: Start optimizing the integration of all four media types, using data and analytics to refine strategies and improve return on investment. To enhance reach and conversion rates, experiment with advanced paid media tactics, such as lookalike audiences or retargeting. Focus on creating more personalized content experiences across owned and shared media to increase relevance and engagement. 

Years Four and Five: Scaling and Innovating

Year 4: By now, the PESO Model program should be well-integrated and data-driven. Focus on scaling successful tactics while continuously seeking innovative approaches to each media type. This might involve exploring new platforms for shared media, leveraging cutting-edge technologies, such as AI, for content personalization, or adopting new formats for paid media to stay ahead of competition and consumer trends. 

This is the year you’ll pay attention to trends and what’s hot for communicators and marketers. By now, you’ll have gotten good at implementation, so it’ll be time to start experimenting with what’s new.

Year 5: And, in year five, you can look to solidify your brand’s position as an industry leader by leveraging the full power of the PESO Model. Focus on strategic partnerships for earned media to expand your reach further and gain authoritative backlinks. Invest in advanced analytics and AI to predict trends and automate personalized content creation. Explore immersive and interactive content formats to keep your audience engaged and ensure your owned media remains a cornerstone of value.

Continuous Evolution and Adaptation

Throughout this process, you must stay agile, adapting to new developments in media consumption, technology, and audience preferences. Regularly revisiting and revising the strategy will ensure that the PESO Model remains effective and relevant—and, of course, we’ll always be here to help you along the way. 

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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