2020 PESO Model Graphic

It’s no secret. We talk about the PESO model a lot at Spin Sucks. A. Lot.

It all started, of course, because PR is a dirty word. Well, acronym. You know what I mean. Public relations gets a bad rap.

The challenge?

For the most part, what we do isn’t measurable and it’s hard to scale. Until the PESO model.

As we’ve discussed (at length!), the PESO model takes the four media types—paid, earned, shared and owned—and merges them together.

  • Paid Media, in this case, doesn’t refer to big, fancy commercials and highly creative print ads. On the contrary, paid media for a PR program is social media advertising, sponsored content, and email marketing. Think Facebook ads, LinkedIn video ads (in beta now!), Outbrain for content amplification, and email marketing.
  • Earned Media is what you know as either publicity or media relations. It’s getting your name in print. Having a newspaper or trade publication write about you. Appearing on the noon news to talk about your product. It’s what the PR industry is typically known for because it’s one of the few tangible things we do.
  • Shared Media is also known as social media. It’s evolving as well, and continues to build beyond just marketing or customer service teams using it. Organizations have begun to use it as their main source of communications internally and externally. This is curated content and Facebook Live. It’s putting the social back in social media by creating engagement and community.
  • Owned Media is otherwise known as content. It is something you own, and it lives on your website or blog. You control the messaging and tell the story in a way you want it told. This is not hosting your content on Medium or Facebook Notes. It’s owning your content and the platform it lives on.

Perfect! If you didn’t before, you now know what the PESO model is.

You understand that, when you integrate the four media types, you have influencer engagement, partnerships, and incentive programs that extend beyond your internal walls.

You get that when the PESO model is working at its best, it can help you establish authority.

Nice, right?

So, what’s the problem?

We’re still talking about it.

Sure, the discussion is important. It provides the foundation for much of what the communications industry does.

But while it’s important to discuss the PESO model, you can’t just talk the talk. You have to walk the PESO model walk.

What does that mean? It means that you need to learn how to use the PESO model effectively.


For instance, sure, it’s called the PESO model, but clearly, the “paid” in PESO isn’t where we start.

Why PESO, then?

If I were to order the media types in order of importance, from a communications perspective, it would be OESP—owned, earned, shared, and then paid.

But that’s a lot harder to remember and doesn’t sound as good, right?

Owned Media in Action

In practice (walking), we start with owned media.

Again, talking about owned media as part of the PESO model is important. Knowing that you need content above all else is pivotal.

Without content, you don’t have anything to share on social media.

Journalists no longer believe you’re up-to-snuff (particularly if your competitors have content).

No one knows how you think–or what value you provide. Your website stinks without content.

Without content, you don’t have the search rankings you need.

You know all that by now, right?

Putting owned media into action is a different story.

You need to identify what makes you and the content you want to create amazing. How will it add value and differentiate you and your brand from the others?

You need to create content designed to appeal to your audience, but also the search engines and algorithms crawling for it.

That means keyword research. That means content maps illustrating your main topic, that in turn drills down into related subtopics, drilling down further to additional, supportive material, which can then be syndicated.

That’s walking the walk.

Earned Media

Similarly, earned media isn’t a tough sell. You know it’s important. It’s likely what your clients or executives are clamoring for.

But again, knowing that you need to integrate earned media into your communications strategy is not the same as putting it into play.

Who do you pitch? What do you pitch to them? What’s the formula for an unbeatable media pitch?

We could talk about it, but my guess is you would rather learn how to put it into action, right?

Shared Media

Shared/social media is constantly evolving. Which is why we talk about it so much.

But your communications strategy is less about the latest and greatest social channel, meme, or trending hashtag, and more about where your audience is.

Walking the shared media walk is hard work, but there are foolproof ways of determining which social channels your prospects use.

There are four of them!

  1. Search
  2. Analyze
  3. Survey
  4. Conversation

As you start to dig into the process, you’ll note that shared media isn’t a one-size-fits-all tactic. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Not just with channel choice, but what you can do on each of them.

So, we’ve created some shared media rules of thumb to help you test and navigate the waters.

Time to Get Paid

Up next in the PESO model: paid.

Paid media includes paid social media advertising, content syndication and distribution, and lead generation email campaigns.

The lowest hanging fruit for this discussion is paid social media content.

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

They each have their native advertising options, and they usually offer coupons for first-timers. You have no excuse not to try it!

The key here is you’ve already created the content. So, what’s next?

You need to 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).

Then, you run ads that drive to a sale (closing marketing).

Facebook ads work for this purpose. Not only are they the least expensive out of the other three (Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter), but they also work.

Having trouble with Facebook ads? 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.

See? Walking the walk.

Another good example? Don’t put money behind every 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, we promise.

The PESO Model: Let’s Go

This has not been just another discussion about the PESO model. It isn’t (just) about talking about how great it is, why it works, and how it will propel your business to the next level.

This is about learning to use the PESO model effectively. No tips and tricks. No hacks and shortcuts. Actually digging in and walking the PESO model walk.

It’s not enough to read about it. Or talk about it. We need more communications professionals putting it into action. Effectively. Ready?

You may also want to check out the workshop on the PESO model, I’m offering through PRSA.

And you should also watch our FREE masterclass to learn how to implement the PESO model and achieve unparalleled communications results. 

Watch PESO 2.0 Masterclass NOW

A version of this first appeared on Content Connection by PRSA.

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