The PESO Model Collapsed the Communications Silo (For the Best)

Fun fact: I work in PR and content, but I have an identical twin sister that works in marketing and sales.

Another fun fact: Twins are prone to comparison. People always look for ways to differentiate between two people with the same face. Due to this phenomenon, my sister and I fall into the “ultra-competitive” twin stereotype – always trying to one-up each other in these comparisons. I boast that I have straighter teeth – but she’ll retort that she has 20/20 vision and has never had to wear glasses. We both competed in clarinet competitions in high school, working to play faster, sharper, and cleaner to outscore each other. I was better at musicality, but she was better at technique. If you really want to tell us apart, give us a math equation. She’ll solve it in 10 seconds, and I’ll fumble with a calculator for twenty minutes. Just don’t ask her to proofread anything important – I’m the twin to ask for that.

We went to the same university. Leaning into our different strengths, she used her analytical brain to study marketing while I employed my interest in rhetoric to study public relations, communication, and writing. Funnily, our chosen fields of study – PR and marketing – are kind of like twins: Unless you know them well, they might seem like the same thing. During college, we worked endlessly to teach our family and friends the distinctions between our degrees, and we squabbled constantly over which field of study is better. The verbal smackdowns that went down at family dinners were riveting.

Fast forward four years, and we’ve matured (you’re welcome, Mom and Dad). We have a much better understanding of how our chosen fields support business strategy. Much to my chagrin, I’ve learned that marketing delivers some serious impact, and even crosses into my daily tasks as a PR pro. But, my twin learned that PR also holds its own in the sales funnel – and is essential to establishing trust, reputation and brand awareness that drive conversations.

Here’s the big takeaway: My sister and I spent years competing to prove the same value without realizing it. Marketing, PR, advertising, content, and relationship development cannot operate in a silo and succeed. With the rise of social media and content digitization, integrated communication tactics have become the gold standard, and departments must work together to drive media and sales objectives forward with unified messages and a multi-faceted approach. The different media and communication tactics need to work together to deliver results – like a family but with fewer spats.

That narrative justifies the value of the PESO Model™: an integrated communications model used by PR pros, marketers, advertisers, and business professionals globally. Coined in 2014 by Gini Dietrich, author of Spin Sucks, the model converges the four key media types – paid, earned, shared and owned – into a multifaceted strategy that works towards communication objectives.

The media types each serve a different function, but build towards the same goal:

Paid Media:

This is the media you pay to deliver to specific audiences. Many people think of paid media as a job for advertising and marketing teams, but the channel also encompasses social media advertising, sponsored content placements and boosts, hosted webinar, research, email marketing, lead generation placements, and more. Paid media is not just advertising at a Superbowl scale or placing banner ads on high-traffic websites. It’s strategic and scalable across a variety of content and budget requirements.

The benefit of paid media is that it’s easy to target audiences precisely; many paid media tactics enable demographic, geographic and professional pinpointing, and the promise of ROI is strong. However, paid media channels can be costly and do not always prioritize relationships, so they’re typically not as useful for fostering brand loyalty and trust.

Earned Media:

Earned media most often falls into what we think of as publicity and media relations. It’s the function that lands your brand in the news, gets the word out on a broadcast, employs thought leadership for contributed articles and quotes, and uses the unique story of a brand, individual, product or service to secure media coverage. It’s what people say about you, rather than what you tell them about you. As the name suggests, earned media is recognition secured with time and nurtured trust rather than paid placements.

Earned media is a valuable piece of the media puzzle because it’s highly credible; it allows other people to make your brand look good instead of them taking your word for it. However, earned media placements are not always guaranteed, and unlike paid placements, are not 100% in control of the brand being mentioned. Its impact is also a bit harder to measure than direct lead generation tactics.

Shared Media:

Shared media is the newest addition to the media mix, getting its claim to fame with the debut of popular social media sites and the rise of blogs, influencers and user-generated content. The “shared” piece comes from engagement and two-way communication: When a brand shares social media content, folks can comment, like, subscribe, and contribute to the conversation.

Shared media strategy helps brands grow their reach organically, highlight positive sentiment straight from customers, and secure a following. Like earned media, however, it can be difficult to control messages within a social conversation, and growth is often a trial-and-error project rather than an immediate payoff.

Owned Media:

This is otherwise known as content that you create yourself internally, or that a client would create for themselves. It often appears on a brand website as native content, including corporate blogs, internal newsletters, informational pages like “about us” and FAQ roundups. Emails and direct marketing via mail also fall into this category – the source is the company itself, and it’s distributed to owned platforms.

Owned media is valuable because it gives companies full control of the narrative and enables brands to build comprehensive, targeted messages for easy-to-reach stakeholders. It also serves as a great landing place for lead-generation efforts. However, its reach is limited on its own, as it’s confined to internal communication efforts and reliant on “contact us” forms.

As you can see, each of the four media types in the PESO model has its own drawbacks and benefits, but together, they share a core function: connecting with the right audience and stimulating brand awareness. When employed as a model instead of in silos, pros can take advantage of the benefits across all four media types and supplement any limitations or risks without leaving a gap.

Over the past few decades, the convergence of marketing, PR, content, social and advertising has allowed businesses like Caster to expand their offerings and integrate our content strategies across all four segments of the PESO model. Much of what Caster is known for (media relations, social media, and content development) falls into the earned and shared media category. Still, we also support most of our client’s internal marketing teams with additional owned and paid media activities. This is valuable to our clients for several reasons.

For one thing, we can consult with clients about their internal communications and marketing content plans and ensure that their branding, messaging and measurements are aligned across the board.  PESO also allows us to evaluate our KPIs closely across different media; for example, we can rely on Google Analytics and website SEO, media coverage and mentions, social engagement and sharing, and native content lead generation to thoroughly measure business objectives and customer response. This enables us to understand how customers like to engage and how we can best adjust client programs to maximize ROI.

Using the PESO model also enables us to proactively embrace new media tactics and remain competitive with the most current strategies — even with the fast-changing media landscape under our feet. Without considering how each piece of the marketing, advertising and PR initiatives work together, a brand will certainly miss something.

The rivalry between my twin and I never fruited much value by itself, but it did make us really good at working towards being well-rounded and honing our crafts. The success of the PESO model teaches us the same lesson: The different media types outlined in PESO do not compete for value, but rather complement each other to create the best possible strategy to drive results. Paid, earned, shared and owned media must work together – in alignment – to optimize opportunity and reach. Once communications pros get the balance right, success is imminent.

PR pros and marketers should work together to ensure that their traditional approaches to communications are complemented by the opportunities of modern media. If you’re looking to balance your strategy with a team that stands at the core of PESO, we’d love to connect! Follow us on X @CasterComm and contact us here to explore how we can bolster your program’s communication strategy.

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