Janice Evans-Davis

How a Small Non-Profit Used the PESO Model for Success

By: Janice Evans-Davis | January 30, 2018 | 
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peso modelAfter more than a decade of secure employment, I was tossed into the job market and found major changes.

Gone are the days of separate PR and marketing departments within an organization.

Today, the trend is toward hiring unicorns—those who can do it all.

This new integrated approach makes sense because it helps eliminate the possibility of one hand not knowing what the other is doing.

With everything from paid advertising to earned media and social media being coordinated under one management umbrella, you should be able to achieve better results.

Cue the PESO model.

In reality, I have been using a combination of paid, earned, shared, and owned media for years, but I recently had the opportunity to employ it in a new setting as a consultant at a small, non-profit organization.

And like most non-profits, there are struggles with limited finances, inadequate technology, and an overextended staff.

This organization offers superb events, educational programs, and art exhibitions, but it seems few people know this.

With an almost non-existent marketing budget, the plan created for them had to rely heavily on the earned, shared, and owned media portions of the PESO model approach.

Let’s work in reverse order because I strongly believe you have to start with strong owned media.

This provides a solid base from which all other efforts will follow.

Owned Media (aka O) in the PESO Model

The first task at hand is reviewing the organization’s social media, newsletter, and website. Then, develop a plan for improvement. The goals:

  • Enhance brand awareness
  • Increase audience engagement
  • Work to increase attendance
  • Drive increased website traffic
  • Steady growth in followers

We call it social media because it should be engaging, but in this case, it was a one-way conversation. Recommendations include:

  • Creation of a social media ambassador program
  • Increased use of video and photos
  • A new campaign to encourage visitors to take selfies and tag the venue in their posts
  • Live tweeting and increased retweeting, sharing, and quoting of posts by others
  • More use of hashtags
  • Better cross-promotion among the organization’s various social media accounts
  • Creation of a LinkedIn profile

If a big chunk of annual revenue comes from facility rental for corporate and social events, then a presence on LinkedIn is a must.

This also provides the potential for increasing brand awareness among likely corporate sponsors with deep pockets.

As for the newsletter, the open/click rates are good, but the distribution list needs major maintenance.

And though somewhat cluttered, the website is easy to navigate and only needs a few minor tweaks.

Shared Media (aka S) in the PESO Model

You can have all the wonderful owned media in the world, but if people do not share it, then you are wasting your time.

Sharing is caring, and caring requires establishing a good relationship with your audience.

You must engage with your followers.

When appropriate, like and share their content or spark a conversation and in return, they’ll be more likely to share your content.

It’s also wise to employ influencers you can call on to help with the sharing.

In this instance, the influencers were easy to find.

They are the corporate sponsors, board members, patrons, employees, and community leaders who support the organization.

Earned Media (aka E) in the PESO Model

My arrival happened when they were already three months into a six-month art exhibition.

Attendance was lagging behind projections.

My job was to find ways to entice more foot traffic through the door.

A tall order considering the exhibition subject matter does not create a stampede of people wanting tickets.

Nonetheless, the exhibit is beautiful and happening in a diverse, metropolitan city capable of generating interest among a large segment of the population.

In addition to major daily newspaper coverage, in-house media is specifically tailored to Houston’s various ethnic media outlets.

This includes a piece written for the Pakistani/Indian newspapers and a community newsletter, one for Chinese outlets, and yet another for the leading local African American media.

Each had a different headline, different photos from the exhibit, and slightly rearranged content.

Do not forget these media organizations when putting together your plan.

They may be small, but they can be a direct link to the audience you are targeting.

And because they have small staffs, they welcome content which is ready to print.

Whether the goal is to increase attendance at an art exhibition, get more foot traffic in the door, or increase sales of paid memberships, a strategic approach can yield the positive results you seek.

Paid Media (aka P) in the PESO Model

Previously, there was no plan to guide advertising decisions.

Now there is a detailed budget for each event identifying how much money is available and where they can spend it.

This is so important, especially when dealing with a limited budget.

I had about $38K of the $55K annual advertising budget to use for the event.

This is not a lot of money, especially considering there are more than 30 events to promote between now and June.

It is understandable that every program director views their event as deserving of promotion.

And almost every event was given an allocation for paid social media ads and boosts.

A large part of the budget is for advertising on the local National Public Radio affiliate and targeted media advertising focusing on family, the arts, lifestyle, and ethnic populations.

This project took place over five weeks starting in mid-November 2017.

By the time it was complete, there were small signs it was beginning to generate results.

There is an advertising budget in place, attendance is on the rise, and social media following and engagement is growing.

The PESO Model Achieves a Coordinated Approach

I had the role of a consultant, making assessments, offering recommendations, and moving on.

It is now up to the organization’s employees to maintain forward momentum.

Marketing will never replace public relations and vice versa.

They both must continue to occupy a place in today’s plans for communicating with customers and stakeholders.

The PESO model provides the perfect framework for achieving a coordinated approach.

It allows PR and marketing to complement one another and achieve measurable results that clients desire and deserve.

About Janice Evans-Davis


Janice Evans-Davis is a public affairs/public relations/marketing strategist who is actively seeking a new opportunity. Her most recent position was as chief policy officer/director of communications for the mayor’s office in Houston, Texas. You can find out more about her at http://www.jevansdavis.com.

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