In 2014, the PESO Model© officially launched via a little book called Spin Sucks. I had no idea it would take the industry by storm like it has, nor did I expect it to be one of the cornerstones of my own business as we’ve adapted to an ever-changing communications industry. 

During the last decade, we have evolved the model, its framework, and its graphic, along with all of the changes we’ve seen from the death of certain tools, such as Google+ and Vine, to the consolidation of media outlets and the rise of trends such as the TikTok news anchor.

Last week, I hinted that more is to come regarding the PESO Model, and as we celebrate its 10-year anniversary this year, many goodies will be forthcoming. 

Today, I’d like to focus on the PESO Model graphic because we have a new one for you to use! Yippee! We’ll discuss its evolution, what has changed in 2024, and what you can expect in the future.

The Evolution of the PESO Model™

The PESO Model has changed significantly in the past decade and has undergone several iterations since its origin. 

Initially conceived to encapsulate the integrated approach of paid, earned, shared, and owned media, the graphic was created when I was writing Spin Sucks (the book). As I described in the book, my publisher thought it would be interesting to have a graphic representing how it all worked together.

My team and I hurriedly assembled a tactical visual because I was less than 18 hours from the deadline. The result was a simple yet effective diagram illustrating the interconnectivity of the four media types.

The original graphic featured four bubbles representing each media type, focusing on tactics within each category—and the various actions one could take within each media type to achieve communications goals.

In 2020, just a few weeks before the world shut down, we launched a new version of the framework and graphic that was more strategic, but still outlined the tactics. We eliminated things such as Google+ and Vine and added improved search engine optimization, domain authority, and the building of expertise, authority, and trust.

And now we’re ready for an updated version! 

Drumroll, please!

The Updated PESO Model

PESO Model™ Full Graphic 4C

One of the big changes I wanted to make this year was to reflect a more strategic viewpoint. We still have a version that lists the tactics (with updates to remove the things that have moved on to greener pastures), but the main version shows only what you can expect to achieve with each media type and what to expect when they’re used together.

It emphasizes the outcomes of using these media types in unison, such as credibility, distribution, storytelling, reach, community building, SEO, lead generation, navigating the pay-to-play landscape of earned media, and more.

It also incorporates advancements such as artificial intelligence and the growing significance of platforms like TikTok when used for more than social media. This evolution reflects the model’s responsiveness to new challenges and opportunities in media strategy, emphasizing the importance of credibility, storytelling, and targeted reach.

The biggest shift is in what happens when you use all four media types together, in a cohesive and integrated program: experience, expertise, authority, and trust, or E-E-A-T

Because of that, the most important thing to remember is that the PESO Model is like a table with four legs. You must build each leg solidly, or the whole thing will collapse. Just like you can’t build a home without a foundation, you can’t have a fully functioning PESO Model program if you only use one or two media types.

And that is the biggest thing most communicators get wrong: they use only one or two media types and then wonder why it doesn’t work. The program will collapse. You won’t be able to measure your work to the organization’s goals. And you won’t have built authority and trust demonstrated by your experience and expertise. 

That’s not the fault of the process—or model. It’s because a house was built with only half a foundation. 

Let’s go through the updated model now, starting with paid media.

The Paid Media Changes

We’ve added a lot to the paid element of the model—we’ve learned A LOT about this media type in the past decade.

I’ve also learned I could make a living doing social media ads. I freaking love it! You get minute-by-minute data and can make smart decisions about what and how to adjust on the fly. It’s my favorite! Alas, I have to run a business instead of playing in the tactics.

At its core, paid media is still about paying for traffic, leads, fans, and sponsorships.

It also includes paying for software, so you’ll see things like email marketing intersecting between owned and paid—you have to pay for the software to distribute your owned media. 

We’ve expanded it to include marketing communications (such as influencer and event marketing) as it intersects with earned media, and we broke out lead generation into its own subcategory that intersects with owned media.

While all those changes were being made, we closely monitored the changes at the media outlets and how pay-to-play comes into our earned media efforts. Then, in January, when there were mass layoffs in journalism, it became more clear that most of our earned media efforts needed to include a budget to pay for coverage and backlinks. 

And though communicators aren’t typically responsible for lead generation and sales, research repeatedly shows that CEOs expect our work to be directly correlated to sales.

We’ve found that in our work, as well. Our clients don’t just want us to tie our work directly to sales; they require it. Therefore, we evolved the PESO Model graphic and process to include lead generation and sales.

At the intersection of paid and earned media, you have media relations, influencer relations, event marketing, influencer marketing, experiential marketing, and marketing communications. 

You’re using all this to build brand awareness, credibility, and reputation, but now you can tie those efforts directly to sales. And, with a budget, you’ll be even more responsible for showing a return on that investment. 

The Earned Media Changes

The biggest change in the earned media category is that earning stories from journalists and bloggers is only one aspect. We’ve added the TikTok news anchor, influencer relations (which can also be covered under paid media), engaging with journalists on X and Reddit, and review sites. The category includes referrals, word-of-mouth, blogger, investor, and influencer relations, review sites, and the comeback of comments

We’ve also amplified the importance of SEO, which can be built via an earned backlink to your website. As part of that category, we’ve added search engine optimization. 

We’ve also increased our community use, which has become even more important, the more vocal an organization is about its values. We’ve talked about the importance of community many times over the years, not just because we have the best one for communicators on the entire web (ahem). A strong engaged community takes time to build. You can’t buy one—you can’t magic one up by wishing for it. When you earn it by integrating it with shared media, it supercharges everything else you do.

And, at the intersection of earned and shared media, you have reviews, co-branding, partnerships, charity tie-ins, community service, community building, brand ambassadors, community engagement, user-generated content, and corporate social responsibility,

The Shared Media Changes

After earned media comes shared media, which has evolved from straight social media to include reviews, forums, mentions, content curation, private social media (such as WhatsApp, Slack, and Discord), video creation for YouTube Shorts, Instagram, and TikTok, social media monitoring. and organic engagement. 

We’ve also added distribution and promotion—how you take the content you’ve created and produced and disseminate it through shared media. It was important to add that distinction because, as I’m sure you have experienced, organic reach alone can no longer reach your fans and followers.

While we used to be able to create community by drumming up conversation, today, we need to use owned and paid media. So distribution and promotion were included with this refresh. 

We’ve also added partnerships, voice search, content curation, publishing platforms, and SEO at the intersection of shared and earned.

We know that Gen Z and older are more interested in working with organizations that share their values. Using shared media to communicate these effectively is the name of the game in 2024. 

The Owned Media Changes

Last but most certainly not least, it is my favorite—owned media. This is the content you produce for something you own—it has to live on your website or blog (or both).

While we have many options today for content creation on other parts of the web, such as LinkedIn Creator Studio, Substack, and Medium, those are not considered owned because, if those sites go away, so does your content. To fall into the owned media category, it must live on something you own. That’s not to say you can’t “rent” it out, so to speak, to the sites I mentioned, YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and more. But that’s what you’re doing—renting it to those sites instead of giving it to them wholly. 

Our content options have evolved during the past decade. Ten years ago, pretty much everyone wrote content. Today, we have multimedia, such as podcasts and videos. 

This helps because most human beings are visual learners, meaning they prefer video.

But there are also auditory learners and people like me who have to read to learn. You can now create content for every learning style.

The category includes blogs, websites, podcasts, videos, livestreaming, storytelling, brand journalism, internal communications, search generative experience, and generative AI.

And, at the intersection of owned and paid, you have email marketing, lead generation, inbound marketing, affiliates, brand ambassadors, sponsored content, and native advertising.

The Addition of E-E-A-T at the Center

I mentioned at the start that the biggest shift in the updated model is in what happens when you use all four media types together, in a cohesive and integrated program: experience, expertise, authority, and trust, or E-E-A-T

As AI begins to take over, Google is rushing to remain the leader in search. Recently, they have been on a tear, de-indexing web pages, articles, blog posts, and more all over the web. This is because much of the content on the internet is low-quality, keyword-stuffed, and soulless. All of that content is being moved farrrrr down in search results to make room for content that has a soul. 

When you use an integrated PESO Model program, you build credibility, reputation, and authority, increase your website’s authority, and improve search rankings. It helps you demonstrate experience and expertise while you build authority and trust. 

This allows you to demonstrate how your work correlates to sales. If you need help with metrics, what to measure, and how to report on them, check out the Fundamentals of Media Measurement free course I offer with Muck Rack.

The Future of the PESO Model

As you look to the future, the PESO Model will continue to evolve in response to changes in the media landscape, technological advancements, and shifts in consumer behavior. If I were to look into my crystal ball, this is what you can expect:

  • Greater integration of AI. Duh. Of course. AI will continue to play a role in our jobs, from content creation and audience targeting to personalization and SEO. Therefore, it will continue to be essential for you to understand and leverage these tools within the PESO framework.
  • Increased importance of authenticity. As consumers become more discerning, the authenticity and quality of content will become crucial. This trend underscores the importance of owned media as the foundation of the PESO Model.
  • Rise of new media platforms. As TikTok emerges as a powerful platform, future media types and platforms will arise. You must remain agile, adapting your strategies to include these new channels within the PESO Model, which is built to be nimble in how you use it.
  • Measurement and analytics. With the proliferation of data and analytics tools, you will continue to have access to more sophisticated measurement capabilities. This advancement will allow precise targeting, optimization, and ROI demonstration across all media types.
  • Blurring lines between media types. The distinction between paid, earned, shared, and owned media will continue to blur, with integrated campaigns becoming the norm. This convergence will require you to think holistically about your strategies, ensuring a seamless blend of all media types.

We know for sure that the future iterations of the PESO Model will continue to focus on strategic execution, making your work measurable to the organization’s goals while using the tools available to us at the time. 

Where to Download

There are three graphics for you to use this year: one with just the media types that shows the framework at its most simple, one with the strategic outcomes of each media type and where they intersect, and one with all of the tactics listed. 

Please be mindful of your use of the PESO Model, both in mentioning its use and in using the graphic. Because they are both trademarked by Spin Sucks, you must credit us and link to Spin Sucks when you mention it.

When you use the graphic, you are not allowed to change it—not to include your brand colors, to change the strategic outcomes, or to add tactics. If you’d like changes made to it, please contact us, and we will consider them in the future.

This refresh takes into account what we can do tactically, for sure. Still, the biggest change is how we approach a communications program strategically that will allow us to answer the CEO when they ask us to directly correlate our work and sales. 

And that, my friends, is what you need to be able to do effectively by year’s end and beyond.

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