The role of the communicator is a tough one. Because of politics and Hollywood, most people have an inaccurate perception of what we do. In some cases, we’re seen as party planners with a large network; in others, we’re seen as liars or spin doctors (hence, spin sucks). 

The other night, my husband asked our small one what I do for a living, and she said, “She works really hard.” He asked her to explain that, and she said, “She does a lot of work on her computer and talks to a lot of people on Zoom.” She couldn’t grasp what I do even when he explained it.

This is the reaction of pretty much everyone. When they can’t put us in a box of liars, party planners, or someone who gets you in the news every day, they don’t understand it. Even executives who hire communicators often can’t tell you exactly what we do. I’ve heard everything from “it’s some sort of voodoo magic” to “they get journalists to pay attention to you” to “whatever I need them to do.”


As much as I would really love to have a voodoo doll that I speak to and have it do my bidding, it’s not any of these things. Getting journalists to pay attention to you is somewhat close, but that’s a fraction of what we do.

The good news is that I’m here to help you understand what a communicator does, how they can best help you, and how you can hold them accountable for results. 

The Annual Contract Myth

A few weeks ago, I was on LinkedIn and saw a post from a second connection that said, “Why do PR firms ask for a one-year contract? They lack confidence in their ability to demonstrate value each month?”

Yes, that’s it. We lack confidence in our ability to demonstrate value every month. That’s what it is. I’ve been lying to myself all these years.

Good Lord!

I was pretty fired up about this. I’ve calmed down A LOT since I first read it. We won’t discuss the one-year contract in this article because almost no PR firm has one. They might ask you to sign an annual contract that automatically renews after 12 months, but it’s not truly a one-year contract because it has a termination clause—most often 30 or 60 days. So technically, the contract is a 30- or 60-day one.

I will say this: many communicators don’t fully understand how to communicate (ironically) expectations. They may say it’s an annual contract without realizing it’s really not. So, let’s set aside the idea that a PR firm is asking you to sign a one-year contract. Read the thing and understand that it’s (typically) not the case at all.

Combined with Arrogance

I’m more upset about the sheer arrogance and ignorance of this entrepreneur’s post. It could be that I’m triggered from working with more tech bros than I like to admit, but the whole thing stinks like someone who will never be happy, even if their communications team exceeds all of their goals. 

We’re not chickens who dance every month for our paycheck. Rather, we’re thoughtful and strategic business partners who understand how the work we do not only brings awareness of the business and its products or services, but also participates in generating revenue. 

For those of us with more, ahem, experience, we often have the ear of the chief executive and are part of the decision-making around some of the organization’s most important initiatives. 

We get there because we understand the stakeholders in the business better than almost anyone, and we know how to communicate with them to build trust and authority—and exceed expectations.

Enter the PESO Model™

But what does that look like inside an organization? How do you set goals that are relevant to the work we do? And how do you know if your communications team or consultant exceeds expectations? 

Questions like these and “How do I measure the work you’re doing against revenue?” caused me to create the PESO Model™. I didn’t love having conversations with clients six months into a working relationship that started with, “I don’t know what you all have done for the past six months.” I knew something had to change if we were going to keep clients around for years—and not because of an annual contract, but because we could demonstrate our value every single day…and we had the confidence to demonstrate value every month.

If done well, communications can be a major influencer of revenue, but it’s challenging to demonstrate that kind of result. We are typically known for building brand awareness, creating trust, connecting leadership with customers, and establishing authority. These are all important things when it comes to a purchase decision, but they are challenging to measure. 

Enter the PESO Model and the very reason for its existence. It allows us to do of all that and demonstrate that our work influences sales—or whatever it is the organization is trying to achieve. 

What Is the PESO Model?

For those readers who don’t know, the PESO Model stands for paid, earned, shared, and owned media. It’s an integrated communications model that, when implemented correctly, builds authority, credibility, and trust…while driving organizational goals. In the case of our clients, that is revenue, which is why you often hear me put it in that perspective. But it doesn’t have to be sales—it could also be donations, volunteers, quality candidates, and more.

Most often, a PESO Model campaign will start with owned media. This is because, without owned media, you don’t have anything to share on social media (shared media), prove your expertise with journalists (earned media), or boost on social media and Google (paid media).

Let me give you an example. 

A B2B Example

We have a B2B client that has built a $20MM business without marketing of any kind. As they looked to scale their growth, one of the investors suggested they begin to market themselves, both online and off. Because they didn’t have a single marketing colleague on their team, they were a great prospect for us—we do really well when we can go into a company and build their marketing team with them while building their processes and getting results, too.

They hired us to do exactly that nine months ago.

We started off with owned and shared media. We started to blog for them, and we launched a podcast. Then we used social media—mainly LinkedIn and Instagram, though we’re on the others, too—to build their brand presence and increase their fans, followers, and subscribers.

After everyone got the hang of working with us to develop content and engage on social media, we added paid media via Google ads. And then, we added lead nurturing, where paid and owned media intersect. We are nine months into the program and have yet to add earned media.

Why OSPE Instead of PESO?

You read that right. The one thing that most executives relate to public relations hasn’t been included yet.

This is for a few reasons: 

  1. Earned media in this industry isn’t as effective as it would be for a consumer packaged goods company or travel and hospitality, for instance.
  2. We have no need for influencers (neither paid nor earned) because we are gaining access to the industry’s experts via the podcast we host.
  3. The pool of journalists covering this industry is very small.
  4. We’ve built enough top-of-the-funnel brand awareness without it.

That’s not to say we won’t add it in. We will in the next few months, but I like to illustrate this so you can see how effective a communications program can be without earned media.

We still have three months to go for a full year of results, but I can tell you this: this program has influenced more than $1.1MM in revenue, and we’ve increased the marketing lead to customer conversion from 25% to 86%.

It’s All Results-Driven

These are the kinds of results you want your communications team, agency, or expert to demonstrate. It’s not voodoo magic, and it’s pretty easy to understand. If your comms team is focused solely on earned media, which is what people think of when they say “public relations,”—and, truthfully, why most hire PR—you can’t expect these kinds of results. 

But if they implement a PESO Model program, even if adding in each media type is slower than you would have thought, they can absolutely demonstrate these kinds of results.

If you’re a B2B organization that wants to implement this type of program, you know where to find me (hint, it’s at this email address).

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