A couple of weeks ago, an industry friend who retired to ride his bike full-time (still mad about that!) sent me an article. His email said, “Gini! You’ll enjoy this Substack post about the changing role of racing in the bike industry market, right up until the halfway point, when I predict you will not enjoy it at all.”

Because it came from him and because it’s about bike racing, I dug right in. And he was right. I loved it until about the halfway point when the author said, “Most marketing organizations operate off some version of a “PESO” media model.” (Not credited, for those of you paying attention at home.) He goes on to say, “The PESO model is a great framework, provided you have a large audience. But what happens to the value of this model when a large input (live racing) goes down? The entire model softens up, and now something that was providing great value to a brand needs to be reevaluated.”

Putting aside the fact that the author used to work for Red Bull, where he learned the PESO Model framework—and I’ve never seen any credit from them on it, methinks he doesn’t understand the model at all. 

It’s not meant to be used only in large organizations with large audiences, nor is it designed to work only when a large input works. On the contrary. It was designed to work for every sized organization, with audiences as small as just your mom all the way up to Swiftie level.

The PESO Model™ Isn’t Soft

I’d like to focus for a second on the article about bike racing and how live racing has declined, which from the author’s point of view, means the PESO Model has softened. 

This isn’t unlike what the rest of us are facing with earned media. In January alone, there were hundreds of layoffs at publications across the country; getting a journalist’s attention was hard enough before that happened, and now we have to contend with even less attention from the people who hold the cards at the business and consumer pubs. 

Earned media, in the traditional sense, is becoming almost impossible. But that doesn’t mean the PESO Model is soft. By its very nature, it can be used to evolve with the times—and find new ways to earn the credibility every organization respects. 

In the case of cycling, live bike racing coverage may be down because traditional media aren’t covering it anymore, but there are still lots of opportunities for earned media. For instance, the Substack author is an influencer who can be pitched stories and help prop up the cycling industry. He’s clearly passionate about it. And, because I am also passionate about cycling, I know many more people like him are out there. We don’t have to rely on traditional methods.  

Think about things like trade publications, Substack authors, LinkedIn newsletter authors (cough, cough), podcasters, LinkedIn Live hosts, review sites, bloggers, YouTubers, social media stars, micro-influencers, and more. These are all earned media opportunities. Yes, there may be some you have to pay—just like you do with some publications, but the majority want to bring great content to their audiences, just like journalists do.

Earned Media of 2024

There also is an opportunity for some (not all, but some) of your execs to do some cool and new things with the big publications.

Take what Dan Pink is launching with The Washington Post as an example. During the next year, in a column titled “Why Not?”, he is going to spend time imagining what’s possible. It’s a wonderful idea for both owned and earned media, and I’m excited to see where he takes it.

Now I know not everyone is Dan Pink, and you can’t just pick up the phone and call the Post and pitch your subject matter expert of CEO for something like this. BUT! If you put that aside and think, “How can I use our organization’s expertise to provide a monthly column to one of our trade publications?” Now you’re looking at completely new earned media opportunities that not everyone is doing.

AND! While lots and lots of you are adamantly opposed, there is a rise of a new type of journalist—the TikTok news anchor. Don’t get me wrong. I agree this is risky because they aren’t bound by the same standards as the traditional journalist, but this is where we are right now. And it’s not going to change. For many years now, people have gotten their news from social media. It might be from an old high school friend, a parent friend, or some random person on social media, and now regular people are staking their claim as social media news anchors, just as TMZ did back in the day.

So no. The PESO Model isn’t soft. We just have to reimagine how to use the earned media leg of the model differently. 

Let’s talk about what else to consider in the PESO Model in 2024, shall we?

What Is the PESO Model™?

For those of you brand new to the model, it takes the four media types—paid, earned, shared, and owned—and merges them together.

  • Paid Media. In this case, paid media doesn’t refer to big, fancy commercials and highly creative print ads. On the contrary, paid media for a communications program is social media advertising, sponsored content, and email marketing. It’s having budget for those times that you HAVE to pay for awareness, such as on CNBC or with some influencers. It’s boosting content and native advertising. In some cases, your marketing department will work with you on this. In others, it’s entirely up to you. The point is to be sure it’s included in your plans, programs, and campaigns. 
  • Earned Media. We’ve already spent a good amount of time talking about the earned media piece of this, but it’s what PR is known for: media relations. As we’ve discussed, it has evolved and now includes more than journalists. But the point is to earn the story, the link, the SEO juice, the credibility, and the brand awareness. Do this through anyone who serves an audience you need to reach.
  • Shared Media. Shared media is also known as social media—both public and private. It includes social networking, community, partnerships, distribution, and promotion. It’s on Discord and Slack, on Reddit and TikTok, and on Instagram and LinkedIn.
  • Owned Media. Owned media is otherwise known as content. It is something you own and lives on your website or blog. You control the messaging and tell the story in a way you want it told. It is not content you create solely for another site, such as a LinkedIn or Substack newsletter, a monthly Forbes column, or Reels or Stories on social media. You may rent your content to those spots, but for it to fall under “owned” media, it has to live on something you (or the organization) own. 

When you integrate the four media types, you may find you also have influencer marketing, lead generation, inbound marketing, charity tie-ins, CSR, user-generated content, AI search, publishing platforms, and SEO.

When the PESO Model is working at its best, it creates the Golden Ticket: E-E-A-T. Expertise, experience, authority, and trust.

But how do you win that Golden Ticket?

Where Do I Start?

First thing, first. People always ask what to start with a PESO Model program. My answer, of course, is it depends, but I can say that generally, you’ll start with owned. This is because, without content, you have nothing to share on social media, nothing to prove your expertise for earned media, and nothing to boost for paid media.

You’d start with a different type of media in some instances, but the vast majority will start with owned.

With that in mind, let’s start with owned.

Owned Media

Owned media, as we discussed, is content you own. I don’t consider content that’s created specifically for social or places such as LinkedIn or Medium owned content. While you own the content because you created it, you have leased it to those sites, and if they go away, so does your content. 

If you want to truly own it—and never lose it—always publish on your site first and then use those outposts for distribution and promotion.

Owned media in 2024 doesn’t look much different than content in 2023 or previous to that. The goal remains to create the best content on the internet for your topic. If you do that, it won’t matter what artificial intelligence brings to your workday, what changes Google makes, if a social media network dies (please let it be Twitter), or if your subject matter expert leaves the company. 

Create the best content on the internet for your topic. Demonstrate the expertise and experience of your SMEs, and in turn, that will build authority and trust. The Golden Ticket! Don’t forget…that’s what you are after. 

Shared Media

Shared media definitely is not one size fits all, and how you use it depends on your objectives. For instance, I’d have difficulty making the case to use TikTok in a manufacturing plant, but a consumer business that sells anti-aging moisturizers would definitely want to use it. We’re all curious about Threads, but it hasn’t yet proven to be something to use in business and (unfortunately) is not a Twitter killer. There might be reason for you to use Discord over Slack but not Reddit over LinkedIn.

Pay attention to everything you can use, but be strategic about where you spend your time. That said, video should be top of your list. 

A few things for you to think about as you consider how to use video in your PESO Model program:

  1. While a good majority of Gen Z uses TikTok and Instagram (66% and 62%, respectively), Pew Research reports that 95% of teens use YouTube. That’s more than any other social media platform. Keeping that in mind, YouTube Shorts is a place to put some emphasis.
  2. According to internal research from Google, roughly 40% of Gen Z also uses TikTok and Instagram for search. This makes video doubly important, of course, but also social media optimization. Captions, inclusive of keywords and descriptive data, can help improve discoverability. 
  3. Your videos should be short (hence, YouTube Shorts) although Instagram is increasing the length of video you can upload. According to TikTok data, nearly half of users say videos longer than 60 seconds are “stressful.” Most brands using this trend on social media effectively today post content that’s 15-20 seconds. 

And for B2B organizations, think about how to use LinkedIn to deeply personalize content using your subject matter experts.

LinkedIn has already rolled out some algorithm changes that prioritize professionalism, including one that focuses on “knowledge and advice,” especially among subject matter experts and people within a user’s network.

LinkedIn says its users find content the most valuable when it’s rooted in knowledge, especially if it was posted by someone they know.

So if you want your organization’s posts to gain momentum in 2024, you must work even harder to build your personal network and followers.

Just like you’ve always done, figure out where your audience already is—and where your future audience is—and commit to those social networks. You don’t have to be everywhere, but you do have to be smart about where you are and use each effectively. 

Earned Media

We’ve already talked about earned media quite a bit, so I won’t belabor the point. But consider how you will use earned media in new ways that help you continue building credibility and brand awareness without the traditional journalist. Or perhaps better stated, by not solely relying on the traditional journalist. 

Paid Media

Paid media is going to be even more important for communicators than in years past. That’s because Google has phased out third-party cookies, which means it’s become increasingly more challenging for marketers and advertisers to reach audiences through their behavior.

This is important for communicators because paid media is all about personalization and customization for audiences. Paid media in 2024 will focus on first-party data (such as email addresses), contextual targeting, cohort modeling, location targeting, and predictive audiences.

In combination with the things you already know about paid media—content boosting, native content, strategic partnerships, or sponsored content—there will also be a move toward working with podcasters for untraditional opportunities, such as sponsorships and host-read scripts (in related news: we will open up sponsorship opportunities this year so let me know if that’s something that interests you!). 

If you do your job well, you’ll combine earned, paid, and shared here by working with podcasters to create strategic partnerships.

PESO Model™ Measurement

Now that you have a PESO Model working well for your content, you have to measure the work that you’ve done. The best way to learn how to do that is to take the free Fundamentals of Media Measurement course I just launched with Muck Rack. 

Once you’ve earned your certificate from going through the lessons, you’ll have a good foundation for enhancing your measurement efforts.

And, if you want to go more in-depth into each media type, how they all work together, how to set goals, and how to sell it to your executive team or clients, check out The Ultimate Guide to the PESO Model.

Where to Learn More

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.

Learn More Here

If you would like to use the PESO Model graphic, you may download it here under Creative Commons.

This means—just like with a big company’s brand, logo, or tagline—you are not allowed to change it to match your brand’s colors or to represent the work you do. You must credit Spin Sucks (or Gini Dietrich) when referencing it and link to Spin Sucks when using it online.

It’s a copyrighted image and model and must be presented as is.

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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