PESO Model Convergence of PR and Marketing In April, I got on a plane and flew to Phoenix to see my friends, catch up with colleagues, and keynote the PRSA Western District conference.

My edict from Abbie Fink and Michelle Olson, the event’s hosts, was to talk about how PR and marketing are converging—and what (if anything) we need to do about it.

To do that, I pulled a bunch of research and dug into my own inbox to provide examples of what is happening to my beloved PR industry.

Last week, I wrote an article about the PESO model and why it’s important for communicators to step up and take ownership of it.

That is because research shows the PR industry won’t exist by 2025…and that was the main point of my keynote.

The Lines Between PR and Marketing Continue to Blur

In 2017, the Global Communications Report out of the USC Center for Public Relations showed:

Almost half of PR pros and more than 60% of marketing executives believe that their two disciplines will become more closely aligned in the next five years. Some think PR will dominate. Others think it will be dominated. Perhaps the reality is somewhere in between.

That’s no surprise.

I think we can all agree we HAVE become more closely aligned and will continue to see that trend increase into next year.

This is the most critical issue facing our industry.

That report was from two years ago—and the 2019 report unfortunately doesn’t shine a better light on our industry.

Today, 78% of marketers think we’ll be absorbed by them—and 76% of us agree.

At this rate, it’ll happen before 2022, as predicted.

While it makes a lot of sense for us to be more closely aligned—silos are bad, measurement is good—the fact remains that we are getting swallowed by our marketing brethren.

We are on the verge of being relegated to a tactic and will no longer have control of anything strategic.

Marketing Is Beginning to Own the PESO Model

Here’s the thing: marketers are beginning to own owned and paid media, though PR still owns earned media.

The same USC report shows, in the next five years, marketing will completely own the PESO model, but we’ll still be known for earned media—and nothing more.

But we should own the PESO model, as we discussed here last week.

In the comments of that article, Danny Brown pointed out that, as an example, influencer marketing has always been prevalent and communications has never “owned” it.

He illustrated how ad agencies have always worked with celebrities (the influencers of old) to hawk their client’s products.

And he’s right.

It makes sense that there is a turf war, but unless you are going to pay gobs of money for celebrities to appear in your ads, influencer marketing falls under earned media.

After all, the relationship is built and the coverage is earned.

While SEO Specialists Are Doing Earned Media

To boot, SEO specialists are doing earned media (and not well).

Search Engine Journal, the premier publication for the search industry, continues to promote shoddy (at best) “PR” work through its content, events, and professional development.

One of the tactics they recommend is SEO specialists email journalists, bloggers, and influencers with this sort of template:

Hi, my name is XXX. I work for COMPANY. I saw you wrote about TOPIC. We have a guide on the same topic and would like you to link to it. 

If you have a blog, you know what I’m talking about. You likely have received emails of the same ilk.

It’s a quantity over quality game and Search Engine Journal continues to provide instruction on how to do it…calling it digital PR or earned links.

This is not digital PR. It’s not earned links. It’s spaghetti SEO—they’re emailing as many website owners as they can to see what sticks.

“Earned” links means actually earning them…and there’s a right way and wrong way to do it.

But the PESO Model Begins With Relationships

When you execute a PESO model program, it begins with relationships.

Relationships with journalists, customers, community, influencers, employees, and stakeholders.

This is what WE do!

It’s not paying for the relationship. Or sending as many emails as possible to see if you can get results.

It’s building relationships and it doesn’t matter if it starts with paid, owned, earned, or shared.

Each media type begins with relationships.

That’s not to say there isn’t a place for paying for endorsements or, I guess, quantity over quality (though I’m hard pressed to find the advantage to that one), but in the PESO model, authority and credibility are what happens when it’s executed well.

And those two things are earned.

The Earned Media Paradox

Meanwhile, we’re faced with a paradox.

Cision asked 1,500 senior marketers to rate earned media versus paid media.

Eighty-one percent said it’s far more valuable.

But the 2019 Global Communications Report shows CEOs want earned media to sell—and they want communicators to be able to prove that’s what we’re doing.

To be able to do that, we have to measure attribution. In other words, where did the lead, prospect, or customer come from?

Can we attribute it to the PESO model, to PR, or even to earned media?

The answer is yes, but not without some elbow grease or software, such as TrendKite (now Cision) or AirPR.

You can also measure it with Google analytics and a CRM if you’re willing to build your dashboard in Google Data Studio.

(It’s not hard, but it does take some left-brained thinking.)

Ted Kitterman at PR Daily just penned a piece on how to get specific with measurement that I recommend you read.

How to Maintain Your Relevance

It is possible.

And, if we want to maintain our independence from marketing, it’s no longer a nice-to-have.

We must learn the skills necessary to execute a PESO model program.

And we must measure our work, starting with attribution and following a lead or prospect all the way through their journey.

If we do those two things, our biggest threat will no longer be being absorbed by marketing.

It will be artificial intelligence taking over our creativity.

But that’s a different story for another time.

For now, learn what you need to know about the PESO model (I created an online course with PRSA to teach you how to implement and measure it).

Learn everything you can about attribution, which means you’ll earn links like the SEO specialists are trying very poorly to do.

And measure your work as it relates directly to sales.

If you can do those three things, you will maintain your seat at the table and be part of the overall business strategic discussions.

And, if you’d like to see the slides that accompanied my PRSA Western District conference keynote, they are embedded below.


Do you want to learn how to build and scale an integrated communications program? One which drives real business results and shows the PR value clients care about?  Become PESO Model Certified today.

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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.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich