Why Communicators Must (Finally) Embrace the PESO Model

Why Communicators Must (Finally) Embrace the PESO Model

Why Communicators Must (Finally) Embrace the PESO Model

By: Gini Dietrich | January 5, 2021 |



Welcome back, everyone…and welcome to 2021! While I don’t have high expectations of the first six months of this year, there IS a light at the end of the tunnel. A big, bright, yellow light in the form of a vaccine that will allow us to eventually go places without masks, see our friends and family again, and, most importantly, hug all the people!

I, for one, cannot wait!

As I am wont to do at the start of each year, we have a PESO Model primer: why you need it, why your communications program should evolve, how to measure it, and why executives love it. I mean, love. It’s something they can wrap their arms around and they appreciate knowing what we do isn’t some dark arts magic. They understand how what we do affects their business goals—and how we can measure it, too.

So let’s start this year off with some thoughts on how we might do more with the talents and skills we have in 2021.

In the last decade or so, the business world has been upended with the introduction of social media and owned media and access to better data.

This is good, but it also means change…and change is hard.

Human beings don’t always like change.

Sure, we want the latest and greatest gadgets and love to try new restaurants (especially, you know, when we can go back out to restaurants), but when it comes to our daily routines and how we’re accustomed to doing things, it’s not quite as exciting as a new flavor of potato chips or the new Brookie-O Oreos.

That’s why the PR industry, in particular, has stayed somewhat stagnant.

There are industry voices who will say any PR professional who says they can tie their efforts back to your business results is a snake-oil salesman. I’ll raise my hand to that one—I’ve been called much worse because I’m an advocate of tying results back to business goals. I’ve even had clients who’ve kind of rolled their eyes at me when we start to demonstrate results. As if, gasp!, PR could actually take credit for those results. 

And, on the other side, there are industry voices such as Tina McCorkindale, the president and CEO of the Institute of Public Relations, who told PRWeek, “We absolutely can achieve the results that C-suite execs truly care about.”

Those results are, of course, cold, hard cash. Some executives are a bit more willing to admit that sales have a big hand in this and will accept communications can drive marketing leads and marketing qualified leads before they become sales qualified. Either way, the work we do 100% affects whether or not someone buys or gives or volunteers or stays loyal.

PR is marketing and sales and customer service. PR can generate leads, nurture them, and help convert them to sales. It can attract new donors. And help raise money. And PR absolutely can provide value to an organization’s stakeholders.

Your PR team can do these things better if it uses an integrated PESO Model and stops thinking of itself only as a brand enhancer and not a business driver.

What Is an Integrated PESO Model?

The PESO Model takes the four media types—paid, earned, shared, and owned—and merges them together.

  • Paid Media. Paid media, in this case, 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.
  • Earned Media. 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. Appearing on podcasts. It’s what the PR industry is typically known for because it’s one of the few tangible things done. Until now!
  • Shared Media. 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. It includes not just social networking, but community, partnerships, distribution, and promotion. 
  • Owned Media. 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. 

When you integrate the four media types, you may find you also have influencer engagement, partnerships, and incentive programs that extend beyond your internal walls.

And when the PESO Model is working at its best, it can help you establish authority. Authority means you’re a thought leader. Others see you as an expert … even your competitors. And Google links to you on the first page of results because it also sees you as an expert.

This is the golden ticket. But how do you achieve it?

Where to Start

The easiest place to start—because you can control the messaging, the anchor text, and the links—is owned media.

There is a four-step process to content creation, which includes the other three media types. I could do an entire series on content creation and how to get your subject matter experts to participate in the process. But for today’s purpose, let’s start with an editorial calendar. 

This will help keep you and your team of content producers on track and help your subject matter experts determine if the topics continue to work or need to be tweaked or completely abandoned. It’s a great way to both generate ideas and hold people accountable.

It is simply a schedule of content topics that helps ensure you always have a supply of written, visual, and auditory content. There are lots of ways you can create your editorial calendar—use a tool such as CoSchedule, use a content map, or even just a spreadsheet. 

How you do it is entirely up to you. The point is to use a system that will actually work and allow you to continue to create or repurpose content sufficiently.

How Do I Use the PESO Model In My Comms Plan?

Now it’s time to use the PESO Model.

You have the content and you’ll use shared media to distribute it, paid media to amplify it, and earned media to rubber-stamp it.

Shared Media

Shared media definitely is not one size fits all, but there are some good rules of thumb to start with … and then test for your own audiences.

  • Twitter. On the day your content is published, tweet the link four times (three hours apart). On day two, tweet it twice, and once on day three. We like to use CoSchedule because you can create a template that will share your content up to a year. After the first week of publication we can share some of our content on Twitter once a week for a year.
  • Facebook. While the algorithm at Facebook keeps changing so only those who pay get their content to show up in the news feeds of their followers, you don’t want to ignore your page. Post your content there once a day, and then consider sponsored content as part of your paid media campaign.
  • Instagram. Keep in mind that, while you CAN post to both Instagram and Facebook at the same time, it doesn’t mean you SHOULD. There are lots of things you can do on instagram that aren’t as effective on Facebook. Things such as Collections and Stories. We have a PESO Model Collection on Instagram, which allows people to get bite-sized tips on how to use it. Think about how you can do something similar.
  • LinkedIn. Post once a day to your personal account, your company page, your showcase page, and to the groups you belong to.
  • The Others. It’s important not to ignore Reddit, Pinterest, TikTok, and some of the others. Test post in those spots just once a day and see what happens. For instance, if you have a nice image on a piece of content and you pin it to a board on Pinterest, it could help drive a good amount of new readers.

Paid Media

Paid media may be in the form of paid amplification (such as Outbrain or Sprinklr), sponsored content, native advertising, or sponsorships of influential blogs.

It also could take the form of sponsored content on Facebook or LinkedIn or sponsored tweets on Twitter.

You can start with a budget of as little as $5 a day.

LinkedIn also often offers free advertising coupons to those who use the social network often. Take advantage of those! While you don’t want to spend money to sponsor all your content, it’s a good idea to test it with one piece each month.

I go into greater detail on how to do this in The Communicator’s Playbook.

Earned Media

Now it’s time to build relationships with industry bloggers, journalists, and other influencers who may share your content—after they learn who you are and what value you might bring to their readers or followers.

  • On Twitter, create a list of bloggers and journalists you want to collaborate with. This will make it easy to follow them, share their work, and start conversations with them.
  • Create a list of books and podcasts you want to review. Every author and podcaster needs reviews and ratings to gain more traction. They may be appreciative of the work you do there and may be willing to do something for you in return.
  • On LinkedIn, create tags—such as “influencer,” “blogger,” “journalist” or “super cool kid”—so you can easily follow what they post and then share, share, share! This may lead to new relationships where you can ask them to share your content later.
  • On Pocket, create a list of bloggers to watch. Then any time they publish new content, share it with your own networks.

Eventually, these influencers may share your content, include it in their own content or interview you for a piece they’re producing.

Owned Media

Owned media is, of course, content that you own. 

I don’t consider content that’s created specifically for social or places such as LinkedIn Pulse or Medium owned content. While you own the content, if any of those sites go away, you’ll lose that 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.

Answer questions customers, clients, prospects, loyalists, stakeholders, your family, and even the trolls ask. Build your content so one big piece can be repurposed into several smaller pieces. If you do that, you’ll make it seem like you are everywhere, all at once.

What Should I Measure In the PESO Model?

Now that you have a PESO Model working well for your content, it’s time to determine the PR metrics and be certain it’s working.

For each media type, there are different metrics to track.

Paid Media. It depends on the tactics you use under this umbrella, but could include the following:

  • Social media marketing, such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Twitter ads and boosted content.
  • Landing pages and how many people download your content and go into your email marketing database.
  • Increases in the qualified leads in your email marketing database.
  • New fans or followers who come from reading your sponsored content.
  • Leads and conversions.

Earned Media. Earned media got its name because you garner results from the relationships you earn—with influencers, journalists and bloggers.

To measure the effectiveness, consider the following metrics:

  • Influencer scoring: does an influencer with 10,000 followers have the same score as someone with 1,000 followers? It could very well be that the person with 1,000 followers can incentivize purchase with 10 percent of his followers, while the person with 10,000 followers can incentivize purchase with only one percent.
  • How much Web traffic comes from a story about your organization? See if those news outlets and blogs are sending visitors to your site.
  • An increase in new audiences.
  • If you have access to the CRM, the number of new email subscribers that resulted from the story.
  • An increase in domain authority, particularly if the story is on a high authority site.
  • An increase in search rankings for the topic for which the story is about

Shared Media. You have to track the number of fans and followers because sharp declines—or a trend of decreasing followers—will tell you something is wrong.

But an increase, week after week, do not results make.

The following do:

  • Are you using brand ambassadors to help spread the word about your product or service? If you are, track their effectiveness.
  • Assign points to things such as likes, retweets, shares, and comments. This gives you numerical data on whether something works.
  • Use unique URLs, coupons, discount codes, or even telephone numbers only in your social media efforts. This will tell you whether you’re getting results from these efforts.

Owned Media. The beauty of owned media is it completely integrates with the other three media types.

Think about the following:

  • Pay attention to unique visitors, time spent on the site, and bounce rate. Those things, such as an increase (or decrease) in social media followers, can indicate success or failure.
  • If you have an organized owned media program, you’re likely distributing through email marketing. When you integrate your content with this paid media tactic, you can track things such as downloads and shares. Do people download the content? Do they read or watch or listen to it once it’s been downloaded? Is it so good they can’t help but share it with their communities?
  • Are people sharing your content? This is important to know because it provides proof to a new reader that you know what you’re doing.
  • Track the effectiveness of a community (people who comment on and share your content) by whether they’re referring business to you.
  • Is it driving sales?

If you start with the content you’ve created and use the PESO Model to distribute it, it can help you find the success you can build on.

Start with just one piece and move from there.

Walk, then jog, then run—and then you can fly.

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