PESO: Drive Success Across the Entire Content Value Chain

PESO: Drive Success Across the Entire Content Value Chain
5. December 2018 Falk Rehkopf

PESO: Drive Success Across the Entire Content Value Chain

PESO model

Here’s what most people get wrong about public relations: PR isn’t restricted to media relations. If you’re unsure of what else PR may entail, consider the PESO model which looks to orchestrate all externally facing communication efforts under one umbrella: paid, earned, shared and owned media. In this article, we do a deep-dive into the PESO model and discuss why a concerted approach across all channels may serve as an effective model to drive communication outcomes and achieving business goals.

What is the PESO model?

PESO refers to paid, earned, shared and owned media – read on to learn more about each type of media:

  • Paid: paid media refers to Pay Per Click ads on Google and Facebook as well as promoted posts on Facebook or Twitter. If your clients are utilising syndication platforms such as Outbrain or Taboola to promote their content, this falls under the category of paid media as well.
  • Earned: earned media is what most people traditionally associate with PR. With earned media, you’re essentially building relationships with reporters, bloggers and other multipliers or influencers to for example generate visibility and awareness for your client’s brand.
  • Shared: shared media refers to media that’s shared on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. These days, pretty much every company understands the importance of engaging and interacting with target stakeholder groups on social media.
  • Owned: owned media refers to media that an organisation creates and owns. This includes blog content, whitepapers, infographics, webinars and more.

Pros and cons of PESO channels

Each PESO channel has its pros and cons but the good news is that the various channels work like pieces of a puzzle to complement each other. “Where we really see the PESO model shine is in its ability to integrate the four types of media,” says Ann Pedersen, Strategic Communications Director for OBI Creative. “Things like influencer engagement, partnerships, loyalty programs and more all have a place in the PESO model, which makes it incredibly inclusive, relevant and effective for plotting out an integrated marketing and PR campaign.”  First up, paid media is one of the easiest ways to guarantee short-term results. That said, it’s expensive to scale and it might not be seen as a trustworthy format by the general public. In contrast, earned media is well-respected and it can bring you plenty of long-term benefits. However, PR pros find that earned media gives them unpredictable results; there’s no guarantee that a reporter will accept your pitch, regardless of how good your relationship or content is. Moving on to shared media – this is a low-cost distribution channel and it gives you the potential to reach a massive audience. On the flip side, Facebook and other social channels are tweaking their algorithms to reduce publishers’ organic reach hoping that these publishers will spend more on paid ads. Last but not least, owned media is easy to produce (you can either produce it in-house or outsource it) and assuming you’ve chosen the right topic, you can milk your content for years to come. One negative aspect of owned media, though, is that it takes a great deal of effort to build up and maintain an engaged subscriber base whom you can distribute your content to and interact with.


PR experts are now pointing out that owned media is one of the most important components of PR; as such, some contend that PESO would be better named OESP, also because some believe that, prioritising paid media, there is a violation of the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) code of ethics. In some ways, we agree. Producing high quality, compelling content is one of the building blocks of any successful PR campaign; after all, if you don’t produce your own content, you won’t have anything to share on your social media channels, pitch to journalists or promote via paid ads. That said, it’s important not to put owned media on a pedestal and diminish the importance of the other forms of media. If you want to generate the best results for your clients’ brands, you’ll have to get each of the elements (paid, earned, shared and owned) to work hand in hand.

PESO helps communicators build ‘authority’ – a prerequisite to business results

Growing a brand and a business is all about building authority. The goal is to become a reputable, trusted brand that consumers know and love and to do that, you need to convince said consumers that you’re credible and you know what you’re talking about. That’s where the PESO model comes in. The first step is to create owned media; in doing that, you’re already building authority for your client’s brand. With paid media and shared media, you’re amplifying the reach of your own or your client’s content and authority and with earned media, you’re tapping on the influence of other experts to increase your credibility. If you play your cards right, you’ll be able to position your client as a thought leader and trusted authority in their industry. This explains why PESO is so important for communicators and PR pros: PESO enables communicators to build their clients’ brands effectively using a multi-pronged approach. By tackling several different channels all at once, through an orchestrated approach, communicators can increase the reach and overall effectiveness of their campaigns which may translate into a growth in customers’ brand loyalty and revenue

Examples of brands using PESO successfully

One brand which has experienced a great deal of success with the PESO model is Whole30, a company that promotes a proprietary 30-day diet program. When it comes to owned media, Whole30 has a blog, an email newsletter and several program guides. On top of that, they’ve also written and published six physical books, several of which have hit the New York Times Bestsellers list. Next up, earned media. Whole30 is also doing well in this respect; they’ve been featured in reputable publications such as Forbes, Fortune, Huffpost, Women’s Health and Greatist. Then there’s shared media: Here, Whole30 devotes plenty of time and resources into engaging its audiences on its Facebook page, Twitter and four Instagram accounts. Finally, we have paid media. Initially, Whole30 steered clear of paid ads, saying that they wanted to focus on growing their followers organically. That said, Melissa Hartwig, co-founder of Whole30 mentioned in an interview with Digiday that the company did start experimenting with paid ads from 2016 onwards.

How to get started with PESO

For those keen on exploring PESO, the first step is to come up with a content calendar and start creating owned media. Once that’s done, use shared media to distribute your content, use paid media to amplify it and used earned media to give it an extra dose of credibility. To use PESO to drive your communication and business objectives, be sure to always start with your end goal in mind. Say you want to get 1,000 downloads of a certain asset so that you can pass these on as leads to your sales team. Now, identify the pain points of your audience and think about what format and type of content you can craft to address those needs. Then take it from there!

PESO: Best practices

1. Focus on owned media first and earned media last

We’ve talked about why owned media comes first but why does earned media finish in last place? Think about it: every reporter or person in the media gets potentially thousands of pitches every single month and if your pitch doesn’t stand out in any way, you’ve got a close to zero chance of generating earned media. So focus on nailing your owned, shared and paid media and building up your client’s brand name. The goal is to build a sufficiently large following and to get your client to be known as a thought leader. Once you do that, it’s easier to get a foot in the door with journalists and snag that earned media.

2. Analyse your numbers

The PESO model has got plenty of moving parts and in order to figure out how to best optimise each of these parts, you’ll have to look at the numbers. For example, don’t assume that posting on your social media on weekdays is more effective than posting on weekends – test it out and let the numbers speak for itself. Also, don’t assume that your blog readers wouldn’t be interested in long-form content – again, experiment and look at what the numbers tell you.

3. Nominate a PESO go-to person

Assuming you have a social team, a PR team and an advertising/marketing team, all of whom are in-house, who should own PESO? Seeing as different teams will be responsible for the different components of PESO, it makes sense to put a person in charge of coordinating overall efforts, but have all the different teams work closely together to come up with a tightly-knitted PESO strategy.

Metrics to measure the success of PESO

The PESO model seemed a huge step forward in terms of PR measurement: last year the industry was so fed up with AVEs that the U.K.’s CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations) threatened to discipline all members who were still using this obsolete metric. When it comes to PESO, there are several metrics that you’ll want to keep track of – these will help you optimise your various marketing efforts and increase the success of your PESO campaign.

  • Paid media: Costs Per Click, Costs Per Action, Click Through Rate, conversion rate
  • Earned media: Number of backlinks, web traffic
  • Shared media: Engagement rate (likes, shares, comments, retweets), increase in followers
  • Owned media: Page traffic (for each specific piece/asset that you publish), time spent on site, bounce rate

Outlook of PESO

Two decades back, there was no arguing that marketing and public relations were two distinct domains; but today, all that has changed. As publishers are increasingly trying to monetise their media properties, we’re seeing more and more “sponsored” advertorials popping up blurring the lines between earned and paid media. In addition, now that everyone has the power to publish their own content, business owners are also looking at owned media as an invaluable asset. As a consequence, we believe that only an integrated approach to communications will allow maximising the value that communication can provide – and PESO provides a very good base for integration. Gini Dietrich of SpinSucks says that if you aren’t using the PESO model for your communications work, and measuring the meaningful metrics that help an organization grow, you will not have a job in 10 years.” There is some truth to this statement but Iliyana Stareva, Global Partner Program Manager at Hubspot put it best by saying “PR people are the best content creators and storytellers and have the unique opportunity to embrace the entire PESO model (Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned Media) for clients. To achieve this, PR needs to get confident with numbers, data, software and truly showing ROI across the entire PESO. Moving to such an inbound world is inevitable in our digital reality.” In keeping up with the times, PR pros will have to place an equal emphasis on all components of PESO; we don’t have the luxury of solely focusing on earned media anymore.

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