GuidesMarket researchMastering the PESO model: A guide to amplifying your PR and marketing impact

Mastering the PESO model: A guide to amplifying your PR and marketing impact

Last updated

3 April 2024


Hugh Good

In the evolving landscape of digital marketing and public relations, effectively leveraging various media types is essential to maximizing your brand or business’s voice and impact. Enter the PESO model, a strategic framework that categorizes media into four types: Paid, Shared, Earned, and Owned,  supporting your planning and execution for each.

The PESO model offers a helpful structure for thinking about different media channels and tactics to ensure you take a holistic view of your marketing and PR strategy.

It's not just about spreading your marketing message. It's about ensuring that each piece of content—a sponsored post, a tweet that goes viral, a consumer review, or an independent blog article—works together cohesively, supporting your business's goals.

By exploring the PESO model and its components, this guide aims to help you create and execute a PR and marketing approach that moves beyond media silos and considers all opportunities to promote your message to consumers. From setting clear goals to measuring the tangible impact of your efforts, this article explores how to navigate the media landscape and gives you a useful tool (PESO) to shape your strategic thinking and tactical delivery.

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Understanding the PESO model:

Let’s look at the different elements of the PESO model in more detail.

(P) Paid media

The external media channel that you, as a brand owner, will likely have the most control over; paid encompasses everything from pay-per-click (PPC) search advertising to sponsored posts on social media to sponsored articles within mainstream or trade press. 

The beauty of paid media lies in the control and precision it allows; with paid media, you can pinpoint your audience and control the narrative about your brand, delivering relevant content directly to those most likely to engage and act based on this engagement. Whether boosting visibility or driving specific actions, paid media offers a controlled, measurable way to extend the reach of your marketing efforts. 

As the name suggests, the obvious downside to paid media is that it’s paid for, and you, the brand or business owner, will need to foot the bill. With control and precision, there is a price, and if a brand is overly reliant on this as a media channel, it will take up a large proportion of its marketing and media budget. 

(E) Earned media

Earned media represents the credibility and endorsement your brand gains through external recognition. This might come from press coverage, reviews, mentions, and the coveted word-of-mouth recommendation. 

Unlike paid media, earned media is generally considered out of your direct control—it must be…earned! Building relationships with influencers, journalists, and your audience is crucial in generating earned opportunities for your brand. Earned media links offer an authenticity that can't be bought, which is more deeply respected by consumers than paid media and directly affects your brand's reputation and influence.

Similar to paid media, there are pitfalls—while ostensibly free, you don’t have the control, either in the publications that talk about you or the narrative angle they decide to take. Earned media may write wonderful things about your brand or company….then again, they might do the opposite!

(S) Shared media

Shared media relies on your brand or business’s influence over its community and its ability to drive and shape conversations. Shared media essentially refers to social platforms where content isn’t simply posted and linearly replaced by new content. Instead, it is actively engaged with by users who comment on it and contribute to its organic spread within the platform. It isn’t just a one-way flow but a participatory and evolving process.

The key metric to understand the success of shared media is engagement: the number of likes, shares, comments, and reposts all serve as endorsements of your content, amplifying its reach. 

The key to raising Shared media impact is crafting content that resonates, encouraging your audience to consume and participate in and propagate your message. 

However, similar to Earned media, there are challenges. Brands have even less control over what social media users share than they do over official press channels via Earned content. 

While success and positive news stories may be shared, shared media will also share your brand's missteps and controversies or simply be used to make fun of you. For a taste of the double-edged sword that shared media can be, check out these Tesla Cybertruck memes.

(O) Owned media

Owned Media is your brand's home turf—the channels you control outright, such as your website, blog, and email newsletters. This is where your brand's voice is king, giving you the platform to describe what sets your products or services apart. 

Owned media is the cornerstone of your content strategy, allowing for complete creative control and a direct line to your audience. Here, you can nurture leads, build loyalty, and establish a comprehensive archive of your brand's expertise and values.

Perhaps not so much a challenge, but a limitation is that owned media can be more of a priority for your loyal or regular customers. They’re the ones accessing your website, reading about how to operate your product, or signing up for your newsletter. To make the most of owned media, one must design it (channel, tone, content) in a way that talks to both current and potential customers rather than just preaching to the converted.

Implementing the PESO model:

Implementing the PESO model effectively into your marketing and PR strategy will require blending each media type to create a coherent mix of brand messages that resonate across channels. Here’s how to navigate this process:

Set your objectives:

Crafting a PESO strategy begins with setting clear, measurable objectives tailored to your brand or business needs. 

Whether increasing brand awareness, driving website traffic, or boosting sales, your goals dictate where to direct your efforts and focus within the PESO framework. 

For example, do your objectives demand you treat each PESO element equally or focus more on one over the other?

Identify your audience:

Identifying your target audience is crucial, as it informs which platforms and media within the PESO model will most effectively reach them. 

Developing a cohesive strategy focused on your audience ensures that your earned media content, ad spend, and social media tactics ladder up to engage a specific target audience.

For instance, if your audience has a more significant presence on a specific social media platform such as Instagram, you can prioritize it for paid advertising and disseminating information regarding your product and brand. Conversely, you may deprioritize platforms like TikTok or Facebook, where your audience is less active.

Creating a cohesive message:

Creating a cohesive message is paramount. 

Your brand’s voice should echo with consistency whether a customer encounters a (Paid) ad, sees your brand mentioned in the (Earned) news, shares (Shared) a piece of your content, or reads a blog post on your (Owned) website. 

The channels where you have more control (Paid and Owned) make this easier. Still, getting all these consistent is an essential first step that not all, even large brands, consistently manage to do. 

Consistency reinforces brand recognition and loyalty, making it easier for your audience to understand and embrace what you stand for. 

Tailoring this message to fit the nuances of each media type—while keeping the core message intact—is an art. 

There’s balancing creativity—not making everything come across as a scantily disguised ad—with your objectives (content must align with your brand and support commercial goals).

Engaging with each media type involves distinct tactics:

  • Paid media: It’s all about well-designed, targeted communications. Examples include promoted Facebook posts and sponsored content, which resembles regular editorial content but isn't objective journalism because it's purchased and leverages analytics to refine targeting. Netflix, for example, commissioned the New York Times to run a piece on differences between men's and women’s prisons to promote its show ‘Orange is the New Black,’ tracking article clicks and sentiment towards the article as performance metrics.

  • Shared media: Engagement with this type means pushing out content, listening, and responding—turning broadcasts into conversations and customers into communities. Steak Umms’s social media account showed us how this is possible during the recent COVID-19 pandemic, generating thought-provoking, engaging content—arguably something outside a frozen meat product’s lane—while generating goodwill and purchase intent for the brand.

  • Earned media: Requires building and nurturing relationships with the right people, influencers, journalists, and your broader business community to encourage organic advocacy for your brand—any mainstream press pickup counts as earned media. Earnings reporting, such as the frenzy surrounding Nvidia right now, is an example of this type of coverage.

  • Owned media: Focuses on delivering value through high-quality content that educates, entertains, or inspires, turning your owned channels into destinations in their own right—perhaps the most challenging type to do well, especially in categories that may not be conventionally interesting or where corporate culture and brands will go for ‘safe and boring’ over ‘risky and interesting.’ However, simply consistently blogging can significantly impact a brand’s success. A study of HubSpot customers found that businesses with active blogs witnessed their monthly leads rise 126% compared to those without.

Measuring and analyzing your impact:

Measuring and analyzing the impact of your investments across different media types (both effort and money) will help you gauge what's working and what's not, allowing you to adjust your strategy accordingly.

Tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) specific to each area—engagement rates on social media, conversion rates from paid ads or sponsored articles, the sentiment in earned media mentions, or traffic and engagement on owned sites—will provide the data you need to optimize your approach. 

These metrics serve as feedback loops, guiding you to adjust your tactics, refine your messaging, and, where necessary, reallocate resources to maximize the effectiveness of your PESO strategy. 

Best practices and common pitfalls:

To get the most out of the PESO model, knowing the best practices and common pitfalls is essential.

Key best practices

Keep these things front of mind when employing PESO: 

  • Maintaining as consistent a brand message as possible across all platforms: This consistency is the glue that holds your strategy together, ensuring that whether a consumer encounters your brand through a paid ad, a shared social media post, an earned media mention, or on your website, they get as unified an experience as possible.

  • Measuring, reviewing, adjusting, repeating: It's crucial to regularly review and adjust your strategy based on performance data. The landscape is ever-changing, and flexibility allows you to stay ahead of trends and adapt to your audience's evolving preferences.

  • Integrating your channels: Integrating your efforts across the PESO model maximizes your reach and impact, turning each media format into a lever that complements and amplifies the others.

Common pitfalls to avoid when employing PESO include

  • Neglecting one or more components of the PESO model: Focusing heavily on paid media, for instance, while ignoring the power of earned media, can lead to an imbalance that may stifle potential organic growth and brand credibility. For example, consumers will notice that the only people promoting your product or service are getting paid to do so. 

  • Mixing messaging and branding across different PESO elements: Inconsistency in messaging across different platforms can confuse your audience and dilute your brand's impact—for instance, having a quirky, conversational voice on social channels but a very dry and technical website. Again, you can’t always control Earned and Shared channels, but there’s no excuse for inconsistency in Paid and Owned channels.

  • Pay attention to the feedback you are receiving: Another frequent oversight is failing to leverage analytics to inform strategy adjustments. Data provides critical insights into what's working and what's not, and ignoring these insights can result in missed opportunities to optimize your marketing and PR efforts (especially painful if it leads to unnecessary spending).

Bringing it all together

As we wrap up our exploration of the PESO model, it should be clear that it’s a beneficial framework for devising a comprehensive marketing and PR strategy. 

If executed successfully, it can maximize the impact and reach of your brand's message by considering each channel at your disposal and how they all interact. 

Businesses can achieve a synergistic effect that far surpasses the sum of each of PESO’s parts by leveraging the unique strengths of each media type and maintaining a consistent brand narrative.

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